Organized by Collection
RatsWhen I was a little girl, I went to church. Our church was an illegal one: the building was unregistered.
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We would sit on the benches made from stolen floorboards and listen to a man dressed in black as he read us tales of angels coming to save righteous men from evil, their swords clean and their trumpets blaring.
The man dressed in black was old. He was sick. His Bible was missing pages.
One day in March, my mother turned to me and said clearly, "Masha, I want you to remember something for when you grow up." Maybe she knew she was dying. "God loves murderers."
I just looked up at her, thumb in my mouth. My mother was still a beautiful woman. She was young when a man at an after-riot party had given her a child inside of her, a bruise on her face, and a few kopeks for her trouble before running away forever.
So I watched the dirty gray sunlight washing through her sickly blonde hair, watched it illuminate the dark hollows of her eyes, watched her face, and asked, "Why, mama?"
All the Things You Never KnewIt was your favorite thing to say. “We know everything about each other. Not just the good things, but even the bad ones. We have no secrets.” And the way your eyes lit up when you said it, how your arm would curl around my shoulders and squeeze me against you… I couldn’t say anything. I promised myself that I would when we were alone, but the moment always seemed wrong and eventually the fact that I still had secrets became a secret itself.
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It turns out I wasn’t the only one.
I never told you about the crying or the cutting or the nights I spent awake staring at the bottle of pills. I was terrified it would be too much for you to handle, so I didn’t mention the time I ran away, or the first time I ended up in the hospital. I locked the memories up in a box inside my head with “For Tom, to open later” written on the outside.
And you, in turn, never told me about the cancer, fearing it would be too much for me to handle. Well, you were ri