by Jacqueline Kirkpatrick
At five I was abandoned on a doorstep in a trailer park just outside of Albany. It was not yet daylight. I was still in my pajamas, and I carried one brown paper bag containing some clothes, some Legos, and the number of a bar where my mother could be reached in case of an emergency. That bar, Duffy’s, still exists. You can call it right now. If you ask for my mother they will let you know she owes them money. They might even refer to her as a bitch or a slut. They might even refer to you as a bitch or a slut if you share her last name.
The third month. March.
On March 27, 2011, I was asked to marry one of the four people I have been in love with. I said yes. Five months later we bought a house together. Nine months later I left him.
I wrote this poem on March 22, 2012:
If there is a storm to come
I am not braving it
Seven is my favorite number. I had the number seven tattooed on my ankle. It was my seventh tattoo. I married my seventh lover. The woman who adopted me had six children—I was her seventh. I was born on July 7.
I have been in love four times, but I have said “I love you” more than four times. I was not always telling the truth. Sometimes I was being kind. Or maybe I thought I was. Doesn’t matter now.
Maybe they were all just being kind to me.
My first memories begin at six years old. Anything before six has been told to me by others. I am lying beside my father in his bed. He is sipping black coffee and reading me a Richard Scarry book while half a cigarette burns in the ashtray next to several finished butts. I can still close my eyes and smell the Old Spice and Winstons.
I don’t stay anywhere too long. Leases terrify me. Seeing familiar things in familiar places for a period of time make me nervous. Since I was twenty-two, I have lived in nine different places. Commitment is ugly.
After thirty-two years, I have finally realized, through physical and metaphorical death, that one is not the loneliest number.
* * *
From the time I was left on that doorstep until I was seventeen dialing 537-4691 would connect you to my home. If you try to call it today you will get a message saying it has been disconnected. I have dreamed of calling it for the past twelve years, hoping to hear my mother or father pick up the phone. I’d give up every other number in the world to hear their voices just one more time.