Most of you don’t know this, but I’ve spent my entire life writing, journaling almost daily for the past thirty years. Writing is my means of coping with seventeen years of childhood trauma and the mental and physical health challenges that resulted. I’ve always written poetry and stories, but never thinking I had any “right” to consider myself a writer.
In October 2018, I gave myself the gift of attending my first formal writing retreat at the Cagibi Lit Writers Retreat in the Hudson Valley. I also attended a poetry workshop with Fran Quinn. I decided to take courses offered through The Writers Studio, to work on crafting more powerful and expressive writing.
I’ve decided to share a portion of my writing here, pieces I worked on in my class assignments in particular. Thank you.
Autobiography Sketch 1
jess ingrassellino, summer 2019
Look at me, lying on my bed, without words. My mother is standing above me, and I stare at her – through her – outside of my body, with you. We are staring together. She’s angry, so angry, always so angry. Her face is red, her skin just starting to wrinkle around her eyes that are bulging almost unnaturally. She’s screaming, but I don’t hear the words right now. The words float around me. Words float, and I’m checking out.
My dad, all six-foot-three inches of him, is squatting in the doorway of my bedroom, in his weekend uniform of khaki shorts and a gross, sweaty tshirt. He hates his navy mechanics uniform, covered in grease and stained with holes, but honestly I kind of prefer it. I look over to him.
“Say something! Do something!” I plead with my eyes. I’m being ignored, on purpose. Sometimes he ignores us on purpose. I think he’s happy that she’s not angry with him right now, and that’s enough to keep him silent. It usually is.
My brother is standing behind my father, leaning over his left shoulder. He’s so fidgety, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Come to think of it, he’s a restless, anxious adult. And he’s restless and anxious as he waits to see how my mother will punish me.
My sister is right next to me, and she just pulled the sheet up over herself, up so high I can’t really see her eyes. She looks like a shock of red hair on a pillow.
“You fucking bitch, why the fuck are you always aggravating your brother? You’re always causing trouble.”
Fists now, but I don’t really feel them, and I won’t for a long time. What I do know is that i can’t give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry, so I don’t. “Like a rock, like a rock,” repeat it and it will be true. I’ll be so strong and I won’t feel anything. I’m actually doing such a great job of not feeling this, that I won’t feel it for another fifteen years. But she wants me to feel something, because she just keeps punching.
I’ll learn later on that I am not the reason she’s angry. I’m her punching bag, but she’s just trying to figure out why her uncles hurt her when she was too young to know any better. She’s trying to figure out why the people who love her keep hurting her. She just doesn’t know it yet, and neither do I.What she knows is what she’s making me feel right now: she feels like she’s no good. Like I’m no good. I’m no good. I am no good, and no amount of beating me will change that fact, so she stops. Exhausted, sweating because the windows are closed on a ninety-degree day while she punishes me for being alive.