Llaves and Bloody Keys to the Door in Bluebeard’s Castle



You notice how the llaves get longer as I get closer to the thing I was really trying to say. The meaning of the word llaves is also a mix. It is a word that means faucets and keys, like the  keys to rooms in Bluebeard’s castle, the one marked with blood that your expressly forbidden from using, yet it is the one that will save your life if you have the courage to face reality and use the key.You don’t want to hear about Puerto Rican drug addicts from the Bronx and neither do I. You can’t possibly be more exhausted or frustrated or irritated by this story than I am. Than they are.  No one has paid more than they have the sins of our longing to look away and get on with proving how good “we” really are and how bad “they” are. Choices. Personal responsibility. No one to blame but themselves . I’ve been there and felt it. All of it. All the stages of grieving over and over again for all the near death experiences of people living entire lives on the edge. Angry is my favorite one. Denial a close second. I have never been anywhere near acceptance.

I also know its bullshit. I am not some exceptional  exception to the rule of their self-destruction. Un milagrito of good choices and good behavior.  People, the few who I let hear the story in full, ask in awe meant to be a compliment, “wow, but how can you be how you are coming from that?”  First, I say “I don’t know” and then I say but  “I suspect my parents are just like me.”  They look shocked. Buried beneath those ruins are the seeds of who I am. How can it be otherwise?  I look like them, I dance like them, we all three love Orchard Beach and Central Park.  What time bomb went off in them that didn’t go off in me? I don’t know.  Deepest fear: Does it skip a generation and will I be asked to pay again? I quickly shut that shit down and know that is PTSD talking.

No, now The New York Times is running fascinating stories about the Heroine epidemic as a public health crisis and not the problem of poor choices and lack of personal responsibility. We have to find the dealers.  Though the links to heroine epidemics and wars we fight{ Vietnam/Afghanistan} in places with lots of heroine is assiduously ignored. We have to offer treatment.  It is even a topic for the presidential election. No war on drugs this time. Now that Staten Island mothers are wearing pink t-shirts that say Heroine addiction is an Illness Not a Crime  ( my paraphrase but I saw the picture.)  We suddenly have a new direction to begin to explore: healing. Communities of color have spoken out about it. Even The NY Times has self-consciously noted how differently “we” are talking about it now that it is happening in white communities in a smug look how self-aware we are way.  But what does this mean? Where does this leave my parents and me and the ruin of so much a family might be. My father was seventeen when I was born and what he wanted most in the world was to be a dad, having been abandoned by his own father, this became his life theme. Under the circumstances he did an amazing job.  I know how that sounds, but that is the point of this essay. He had four children with three women.  He dropped out of the ninth grade ( though he did fulfill a lifetime dream by getting his high school diploma at 60.)We all have graduated from college or higher and despite baby mama drama, he raised us to be a clan and we have deep love for each other. That is his greatest legacy to us. Not his addictions. Not his long drawn out struggles with his body and his will. His love for us, his children shines brighter than his struggles, but his struggles are also ours. How could they not be?

My mother wrote my name, Melissa, on the cover of a notebook before she was pregnant; though she can’t tell me where she got the name, she knew it was what she would name her first child. How could she have known it would be her only child and one she wouldn’t even raise? She only ever came up with the one name.

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