When crisis strikes, the British put the kettle on. But for me, when crisis strikes, I reach a 3.0 GPA after years of hard work, graduate high school, and get accepted to my dream college all in one fell swoop. It was in January that the proverbial skeletons that hid in my family’s closet made their way out into the light, and I found out for the second time about my father’s infidelity. The first time I had found out were not factual occurrences but things that when looked back on in retrospect in the very instant that I learned the truth made it easy for me not to be surprised.
I had heard from my friends their own war stories of when they had found out the same things. They warned me that the divorce would be messy, told me stories of how their mom’s became, and where their dad’s went. But most of all, I was told that it was okay to fall apart a little bit in order to deal with the monumental brokenness that I felt inside me. Except, for me, that’s never been how it works. I had always been more efficient during the storm: I was the person that people leaned on, the one who made sure things were orderly, the defender. It was the last stretch of my senior year, and though my parents fought endlessly over money, over his infidelity, over him going or her staying, I was determined to finish strong.
I never told my teachers. At least, not until near the end when there was no more work to fill my time. Instead, I systematically studied, wrote papers, did homework, asked for extra credit where I could, and when I needed to cry in the middle of class, I excused myself to go to the restroom, and I cried. I always chose the restroom downstairs and near the cafeteria. Nobody ever went into that one. It was far away from most of my classes but it was private, and it was only place where I could breathe.
There was a point when things got so horrible that even now, months later; I have no idea how I got through it. My mother had gotten drunk and left home on a mission to die. She didn’t have to tell me for me to know what she was planning to do. I sat on the floor of my room, crying and texting her. But what strikes me now is the coldness of it all: How my father had left texting and calling and praying for her all to me. He didn’t tell me it would be okay. He didn’t drive out after her to stop her. He went back to bed.
But even during this time, I still managed to finish my readings for Economics. I still managed to get good grades on my essays in English. I still made consistent A’s on my Latin tests. My grades were shining, even though I was not. My attention waxed and waned in school. My sleep schedule was gone. I hardly ate. At night, I listened to my parents screaming at each other. My brother drove me to school. My mom left to live with relatives. My dad told me nothing at all.
Then came the part where I was no longer welcome in my own home. The part where I was blamed for things that were out of my control and I decided to live with my mom and our relatives. My school was an hour away. I slept on the couch. I had only a few pairs of underwear. My brother’s t-shirts. Pants that I came there wearing. But it was easier, and though I felt shattered, I didn’t cry as much. It was at this time that I told my AP Literature teacher what was going on. He was sympathetic and kind. As was my Latin teacher.
But it didn’t matter anymore.
Official grades were coming out soon. I had finally achieved my 3.0 GPA. I was going off to the college of my dreams. Graduation was a week away. These things were enough to make my mom get out of bed even when she felt as broken as I had. They were enough to bring a triumphant smile to her lips, and a put a little glimmer of hope in her eyes. Now, I am in college and though the storm continues, I work and I strive and I drive myself to continue to be her pride. I cannot afford much. I don’t have many clothes or any of the cute room décor items that the other girls have. But I have a reason to continue. My mom.
And that’s more than enough for me.
Brooklyn Manga is an Atlanta-based author and poet with a preference for writing historical fiction pieces about queer youth, overcoming trauma, love, and nature. Though she has never been published before, Brooklyn has written two books, many short stories, an abundance of poetry, and is currently in the process of completing her third and longest novel yet. She has been an avid reader and logophile for as long as she can remember.