prescription to prescription. An outcast at school and a misfit at
home, the only solace she ever found was in her relationship with her
dad, Tom. Now he’s dead. Feeling rejected by her adopted mom and her
biological twin sister, Jess runs off to South Florida. But she can’t
outrun her old life. Watching the blood drip down her arm after her
latest round of self-inflicted cutting, she decides her only choice
is to find and face what frightens her most. Because I Had To takes
the reader inside the worlds of adoption, teen therapy, family law,
and the search for a biological family. With a cast of finely drawn,
complicated characters, it asks us to consider: can the present ever
heal the past?
It does feel good. The bathroom is the only place in this little shitbox that I really like, so maybe that’s why I spent my entire decorating allowance pretty much in here. “Decorating allowance?” That is funny. I sound a little bit like my mom when I say it just so, turning my nose a certain way and flittering my eyelids. My mom, who never thought I was good enough for – well, just about anything – she and I haven’t talked in almost a year. When I left, I took some of the money that my Dad left me after he died and saved the rest from work and that was all I needed for a security deposit and one month’s rent on this, my palace, a first floor apartment in Jones Beach, Florida, a good thousand miles away from where I grew up. After my Dad died, I thought about going west, to California or Arizona maybe, but instead I followed my friend Macy down here because she got me a job. When we were little, my Dad used to repeat the line from a movie we used to watch and tell both my sister and me “all girls are Princesses”. Well, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way, but once in awhile I still try to think of myself as a princess, so I call this place my palace. Just to myself, though.
The water in the tub is just the right temperature. Thankfully, tonight the pressure is high enough; some days, I barely can get any hot water much less enough of it to fill my tub. I have my legs hiked up on either side of the faucet, and I’ve slid down to just the right angle so the water is pounding right where it needs to go. The tub is a little small, like the one I had in my old house when I shared a bathroom with my sister. Instead of yellow, this one is a commercial greenie kind of color. Or maybe its blue. It’s hard to tell. Not that it matters at this particular moment.
The stopper on the tub broke after I moved in, so I had to buy a rubber one from Rite Aid. It fits in the drain pretty well, but sometimes pops out and unless I can jam it in real quick, all the water runs out and I have to start refilling again. That gets particularly annoying, especially if I am in the middle of the “bathtub trick” as I like to call it when I get off in here. The stopper is in there nice and tight right now, and with the level low and the water running hard, all systems look to be a go.
My dad is dead. It’s been almost a year now. He was pretty young, only 52. When I think back on all I have done since I last saw him, I’m not sure how I should feel. Embarrassed? Some, yes. But also proud of myself, in a strange sort of way. At 23, I’ve probably done more than a lot of people have. Or should have, anyway.
I made it at home for just a little while after he died. Me, my mom and my sister. And that’s exactly how it was. Me. My mom and my sister.
Kasey and I are twins. We were born in Pittsburgh and adopted right away. My parents did not use an agency but got us through what they always told us was an independent adoption. They found us literally by running some sort of “baby wanted” ads in local papers and those penny saver things that people look at in grocery stores. Ever since I can remember, Kasey and I were different. As twins, one would think that we would have a connection, a natural bond of some kind, permanent “womb-mates”. For whatever reason, though, I never felt it. More than that, I never even liked Kasey. I know it’s crazy to say, but as far back as when I was about six or so, I can remember wishing that something bad would happen to her. Of course, for a little kid, “something bad” usually meant like her hair falling out or hoping she threw up all over herself. Once when we were little and on the couch exploring the depths of our prepubescent vaginas while watching Sponge Bob and playing that stupid “Pretty Pretty Princess” game my sister loved so much, I handed Kasey a clip on earring and told her to put it on that little bump thing just above her vagina.
“It will tickle.”
Like the mindless sheep she was, Kasey immediately snapped it right onto her clitoris. She went screaming through the house and it wasn’t until my dad could catch her and was able to pry her legs apart long enough to unhook the thing that she finally quieted down. I didn’t exactly know what a clitoris was at the time, but it sure looked like it hurt. I stayed on the couch and laughed my ass off.
As we got older, I stopped wishing for Kasey to take a fall somewhere along the manicured little path that my mother paved for her. Like old bathroom wallpaper that no one notices, I just stopped thinking about her altogether.
Same as my mom, Kasey always seemed perfect. When we were kids, her hair was long and light brown and curly. She had this creamy translucent white skin and I don’t think has ever, even now, gotten a pimple. She reminded me of one of those irritating American Girl dolls. When we would brush our teeth together in the banana yellow double sink bathroom that we shared, I always looked over at her in one of her little pink Lanz nightgowns, buttoned up all the way to the top. When she finished, Kasey would rinse out the toothbrush and put it right back into the holder, exactly where it belonged. I looked at her, and then straight ahead into the mirror at myself, toothpaste running down my chin.
My hair was a bit darker and much straighter than my sister. I had this awful freckle on the tip of my nose that to me looked like a little licorice jellybean. I picked it off over and over again, must have been a hundred times, only to have it always grow right back. The summer before I went to high school, my Dad took me to a plastic surgeon that lasered it right off.
I did everything I could to get my hair to curl like Kasey’s. I tried my mom’s curling iron, burning my fingers more times than I care to remember. A few times, I tried tying my dad’s socks into it overnight hoping to wake up and see one of those unrealistically cute Disney channel characters in the mirror. One time, I had my dad drive me to a dollar store and bought me my own set of 1950’s style curlers. I put them in and one got so tangled that the next morning my dad had to cut it out, leaving a short, jagged patch. Nothing worked. When I got a little older, I just gave up, and instead, just let my bangs grow and brushed them over the side and across my forehead, often low enough to cover my left eye. My hair-never-out-of-place mother didn’t approve. More than once she told me that I looked like one of the Beach Boys. I didn’t know who they were back then, but I knew she did not mean it to be a compliment. I asked my dad to play me some of their music and thought it was pretty good. After that, I didn’t really mind the comparison.
Like everything else we owned, my mom bought us the same nightgowns. I hated those things, all frilly and soft. Kasey kept hers folded tightly in her “nightgown drawer”. I just never felt comfortable in them and stuffed them into little balls underneath my bed. Instead, I would rummage through my dad’s old t-shirt drawer and steal one of his particularly big and baggy ones. It drove my mother crazy, but Dad kind of liked it. Even now, at 23, I still wear his old t-shirts. Except for his Asbury Jukes music collection, what’s left in my bank account and some great fucking memories, those old t-shirts are pretty much all I have left of him.
My mom must have told the story about a thousand times about me trying to stab our dog, Sonny, with a fork when I was seven years old. She told my grandparents, my teachers and all of my many therapists. Over the phone, at the playground, in the grocery store. Just about anyone and anywhere. I can’t tell how many times I heard that story growing up. God knows how many more times she told it when I wasn’t around. Personally, I never believed it since I love dogs, grew up with them and would never be without one, even now, if I didn’t have to live in a place that doesn’t allow them.
That’s not to say that I was an easy kid. Anything but.
Apparently, when I was in preschool, I refused to follow rules. I don’t know exactly what rules I broke back then, maybe I didn’t put the Legos back the right way or, wouldn’t stand in the right place in line. Who the hell knows? Whatever it was, it was enough for my parents to okay my being evaluated by the preschool psychologist. From there, I was off and running through fifteen years or so of tests, shrinks, medications and therapy that continued until I decided that I had enough and pulled the plug on most of it a few months before my dad died last year.
Even as a kid, I was acutely aware of the growing conflict between my parents over what to do, how to help, how to take care of me. How to “fix” me. While Kasey travelled the easy breezy, walk in the park kid route, mine was a bumpy, angry road. My mom always pushed for medication, while my dad pulled the other direction, wanting to believe that I would be okay and better off without a bunch of prescription sedatives and mood-stabilizers running through my veins. Ultimately, my mom won the battle and I spent the good part of my years from childhood through my teens bouncing from diagnosis to diagnosis, treated with one drug and then the next. You name it, I had it. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Check. Mood Disorder. Check. Anxiety Disorder. Check. Borderline Personality Disorder. Got that one, too. The list went on.
With every diagnosis came a pill. When one didn’t work or caused some sort of unintended symptom, like I couldn’t sleep or couldn’t wake up, another plastic bottle was added to the collection in the cabinet above our kitchen sink. The list could have made some twisted alternate lyrics for a mad pharmacist singing Julie Andrews’ ‘My Favorite Things’ from ‘The Sound of Music’: “Ritalin to Seroquel to Adderall and Dexedrine. Abilify and Focalin and Lamictal and Prozac…”
I was always trying to find my way, walking through a house of mirrors. It was just that the mirrors weren’t made of glass. They were made of drugs.
“epitomizes stability and old fashioned common sense” by Bethesda
Magazine and routinely makes every top Washington DC Metro lawyer
list. His clients say that he is “the best non-shaving,
motorcycle-riding, bourbon-drinking, non-lawyer, lawyer” they know.
his family to get a professional degree. After years of raising kids
and focusing on family responsibilities, Bulitt Bulitt now spends
much of his spare time discussing world issues with his dogs and
working on his novels. His first book, CARD GAME, was published in
2015 to a bevy of five star reviews. His new novel, BECAUSE I HAD TO,
is available now on Roundfire Books.
PA, one of Maryland’s largest and most prominent law firms. His
practice focuses on all areas of family law, including cases that
involve complex financial and property matters and property
distribution, divorce, and child custody disputes. He is often
appointed by local courts to serve in one of the most difficult and
demanding legal roles, as a Best Interests Attorney for children
whose parents are embroiled in high conflict custody disputes. He
also has extensive expertise working with families that have children
with special needs.
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