I have never been good at returning gifts.
In year five, mother, you gave me a pink, plastic iron,
for my dolls clothes, you said.
I didn't have the heart to tell you
that my doll had been lying in the shadows of my room
for the last year
and that every time I'd held her, it felt empty.
I smiled, I thanked you.
My doll didn't leave my arms for weeks,
so you would think I had meant it.
Then there were the watches,
you've given me three.
I wore each for years.
Until they inevitably paused, shuddered and died.
There was the too-bright beach towel.
There were the winter pyjamas and the bookmarks.
And to your credit,
you always offer to swap or return or resize
yet every time, I shake my head and swear I adore it
all pearly whites and whiter lies.
I have never wanted to disappoint you.
Mother, you raised a polite daughter, but not a truthful one.
So when you asked,
if I had ever wanted to hurt myself.
I should have told you.
No, I have never wanted to hurt myself,
but when I was twelve I sat in the car on a lonely day and
sliced my hand with your pocket knife
while i waited for you to come out of the furniture shop.
I should have said,
no, I have never wanted to hurt
but sometimes I think there is a vampire living inside my head and he's eternally thirsty.
I should have said to you,
no, I have never wanted to
but sometimes i imagine stabbing myself in the throat with a carving knife
and it calms me down.
I should have said no,
I have never wanted to hurt myself because that would hurt you
but sometimes it feels like I'm craving something
there isn't a fix for.
I never wanted to kill myself
more than a drowning cat would want to be shot.
It was an option.
It was plan B.
It was meant to be release.
But mother, I could not tell you that,
anymore than I could tell you that I didn't like the first watch you gave me.
Because I don't know about God or religion,
but I know that you gave me my perfect arms,
and throat and beating heart.
And I could not bear to say: yes, Mother, I want return the first gift you gave me.