Awarded 1st Place for Creative Non-Fiction, Twice Publish (US & UK)

unŸ-learn

|ˌənˈlərn|

verb [ trans. ]

1. Heterosexual sex. The animalistic pounding from behind. The knocking of fleshy bodies. The methodical wiping of shameful goo, dripping from my inner thigh. I want to unlearn the patience it took to unknot my tormented hair. To forget the protruding knife that dug out my innocence. The doors I opened allowing him to come in. Not needing any encouragement, he had me on the stairs. The nights he pulled to the end of my street awaiting my arrival into his passenger seat. We’d drive to the end of the neighborhood, my clothes at my feet before he placed us in park. I’d clung to the handled ceiling as he tried to find success buried in me.

2. My brother’s mistakes. Mistakes he weighed out on tiny bronze scales for measuring drugs. Mistakes monitored in motion sensors hung outside his door meant to keep him from trouble’s grasp. I want to unlearn the times my room was lit with red and blue kaleidoscope lights just before the dawn of morning; I sat in my room listening to my mother scream at him. She yelled at his rebellion. She yelled out of fear for his future. She yelled because he was an embarrassment. The screeching of metal into metal, of banishment as my father sealed his window shut from the outside.

3. My father’s slow death. I want to unlearn the day I discovered my father was not my hero, or capable of being anyone’s hero. I want to unlearn his drunken stance, his slanted eyes, and his incomprehensible, stammering sentences. I want to forget his prescription hobby, his collection of Xanax and Prozac bottles. I want to unlearn the static that lulled in his voice the day he called to tell me he’d been fired. I want to unlearn my pity, my helplessness, and the heavy realization of having to parent myself.

4. My mother’s other lover. To unlearn her escape plan. Unlearn the moments I saw his hand resting on her lower back on uncountable occasions. I want to unlearn their love songs, the clips of history she would sermon to me on our long drives to school. How the only man she swore, ever loved her was loving eight other married women just the same.

5. I want to unlearn my parents’ façade. To undo the full smile my mother would get when speaking to her distant lover. I want to unlearn the story my mother shared, in her defense, the story of my father sleeping with other women while he was fighting in the Desert Storm War. I want to unlearn the ways in which my parents’ marriage fell apart. I want to unlearn the memory of my past that I now see with adult eyes.

6. I want to unlearn my brother’s criminal record, his eight years’ failed attempt at college. I want to understand what it means to not drink and drive. I want to continue to shun acid, ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine, because he taught me what they are capable of doing to the body.

7. I want to unlearn the reality that people are weak.

8. That people are selfish.

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