I remember the bellow of your voice sending me to my room for remarking to a woman about her weight. Without explanation. I sat there for hours and cried, wondering what I had done wrong.
I remember asking not to be hugged, and my need being ignored. I remember the moment that I learned that my body was not something I owned. Always there to serve a power higher than my own.
I remember finding out you had eaten every last candy that we had collected from Simchas Torah. There must have been hundreds. All gone. The betrayal being unbelievable, until seeing the empty bag myself.
I remember being used as leverage. The house was to be sold were I not to come to your place. No matter how many tears I cried, I was kept locked in an empty room in your house because you needed to prove your strength and might to the woman you once called your wife.
I remember being used as an excuse. One night, we left your house unfed. We’d been by you for hours, but when asked what had happened, you’d made up a story. A fable about my lying to you, so we no longer deserved to go out, no longer deserved to eat. This was the beginning of food being optional.
I remember being used as an object for your affection. Hugs and massages were no longer optional. Scratching your back was a service I was made to provide. It was considered acting out if I were to protest.
I remember being blamed for a failed house inspection. I hadn’t cleaned enough. I hadn’t fixed enough. I hadn’t noticed enough. But I went to school, and you sat home day in and day out. Why was I the one whose job it was to look?
I remember having my friends bring me food to school. Making extra sandwiches for me for lunch or paying for my canteen food. Grocery shopping for you was an optional activity always left to be done tomorrow.
I remember being left waiting to be picked up from school. For hours I stood and waited. You had had a meeting, and I was forgotten. I thought something had happened to you. I don’t know I had felt the accepted emotions at the idea.
I remember you falling asleep at the wheel. Time and time again. Grabbing the wheel was standard practice for my high school self. I didn’t understand at the time what made you so endlessly tired.
I remember having an asthma attack. Desperate to go to the hospital, I was. Pleading with you to take me. For hours I lay on my bed wheezing and clutching at my chest. I lay there for days recovering. Feverish and drowsy from the strong dose of medication I was required to take. But you, a nurse in training, knew best.
I remember being the object of your anger. If ever things were too quiet, too calm, too peaceful, you had an explosion ready to tear its way to the surface. My homework wasn’t good enough. My test results weren’t high enough. My room wasn’t clean enough.
I remember not understanding who had the rights to my body. I had learned from you that “No.” meant “Convince me.” I have since learned that no one has the rights to my body other than myself. Only I choose whose hand I shake, whose hug I receive, whose affection I accept.
I remember being taught to blame others for my shortcomings. I had learned from you that it was more important to get away scot free than to be honest and take responsibility for my actions. I have since learned that being open, honest, self aware, and vulnerable are the most incredible and real aspects of the human experience.
I remember being taught that food was to be ingested only at times where the negative thoughts would begin to swallow. I had learned from you that dinner could be a packet of cookies, as long as it made me feel good inside. I have since learned that I was put on this earth to be luminous and unstoppable, and I need to treat the internals of my body right in order to be able to achieve any sort of light.
I have learned that the love I have inside of me is greater than any lack thereof that I received from you. I have learned that I am in this world to have others receive from me, not take from me. I have learned that the world is forgiving and the universe is affectionate, I only need to open my soul up to the possibilities.
Thank you for being my teacher.