Sometimes I wonder if demons can be inherited
if the ghosts that rode on the backs of my grandfathers and grandmothers and uncles
have somehow been passed along to me
I wonder when I will start to feel their weight.
When I was accepted to a college my mother poured champagne
and for the first time, she set a glass for me, and
I drank it slowly, trying to understand the taste
and I remember
so little, of what we said and what we did and what was planned
at that kitchen counter, in celebration, but I remember
my mother saying, of the alcohol
that it would help me sleep
and then I understood that right
this wasn’t about the taste.
They say addictive behaviors are everywhere, in everyone, that it all depends
on the drug of choice, whether it is alcohol, or sugar, or applause, or morphine, or the internet, or, or, or–
everything kills you, in the end.
I don’t drink alcohol to help me sleep
and I don’t think my parents do, either, but
they measure worlds
of just enough
born from lifetimes of escape attempts
from hard experience
you can’t outthink the part of you that thinks and I stay up
till all hours, because all I want
is to be exhausted enough
to fall into bed and close my eyes
without having to race my own mind
to stay ahead of waking nightmares.
The first time I had champagne I had just been accepted into college
and my mother mentioned it would help me sleep because she had seen me, had to see me
falling apart for months and weeks and days, frantically
pulling at my own seams and wandering in circles and she
knew this, knows what it is
to be so anxious your brain is devouring itself, she had seen me, had to see this
so many times, across generations, and I wonder
if her hands shook when she poured that glass because
it would help me sleep.
I don’t know if she remembers.
I don’t know what I remember.
I wonder if demons
can be inherited, and I stay awake
I pour a glass of champagne
for my family’s ghosts
and I think.
— questions I am trying not to answer