• Kali Van Dusen

she is magic and wonder


I wrote this 2 years ago about my dad on my cousin's 21st birthday party when i watched my uncle celebrate her and how recent words from my family had felt. Not sure what some of this means at this point.




The air is thick and balmy, weighing heavier on my body than the jean jacket I can’t seem to remove

I take up so much space yet none at all - is that possible? Can you be so enormous the space of the day feels tight and suffocating, yet so small the world might just kick you aside, simply forget you were ever there


I’m halfway there all the time, every time. Halfway to that boy who I saw across the room and who maybe saw me - except he didn’t really, only for that second, maybe two if I’m lucky

It’s probably wrong to give him such power to feel like I am lucky to hold his gaze but I can’t seem to shake it


I’m almost there to fill a room, but not like she does. Not like he can always do. Eye contact is fleeting, questions are simple, laughs are distant and polite. Is it what I look like? Is it because I cross my arms and scratch my fingers and pull at my hair and scream what should be whispered? Is it because I don’t have money? Is it because I talk about not having money? Do I complain too much - no not enough - wait too much again. slow down try again

Nope, still wrong.

I’m disrespectful, lazy, i’m rude and i’m boring - can I be anything else?


Can he look at me like he’s proud of me? Can he tell me I’m doing well kiddo I’m on the right track? Can he look at me like my words make sense and are correct? I’ll try again with direction, I’ll finally get it.


The celebration is glorious, it always is. It’s warm like the color of the kitchen and the light that seeps in. She is precious and magical - just like they all say she is. Like I know she is. I watch the devoted love pour in without expectation or reward and know I have the exact same, yet it doesn’t feel the same in my hands as it does watching hers. Mine feels loose, hard to hold on to, never entirely in one place. I watch my mom and feel guilty for the space I take up, how I weigh on her life, her glorious final chapter. How I’m not as magic or light or charming, how I don’t feel the same in the room. I am dark and loud - my sentences end in “but…” and my stories involve all the parts we choose to ignore. I’m so tired. She is everything I am almost and she relishes in it but it weighs on her too. I am almost there but stay far away enough.


“She is magic and wonder” her dad writes for her on her 21st. Does my dad remember my 21st? Was he there? Where is he, I never know. Days and weeks, we don’t speak. I miss him but I hate him but I miss him and I will miss him. Or is it the idea of him? I miss her dad who isn’t mine and his dad who certainly isn’t mine and what I lay and dream of my dad being. I want to be filled with magic and wonder and I want him to notice. I love you more “than anything in the whole word, except for The Bear of course” sounds frighteningly similar to "the only thing keeping me from blowing my head off is the cat.”


My muscles ache and groan, frustrated with me too. Can I honor them and rest without the wave of such guilt? Get up quickly, a dull mind sharp, work harder, longer, smarter and faster, get up and do it again. How do you afford that? Your little job. A little job behind the counter. Don’t forget you have to work. Don’t forget you need a job in college. Don’t ask me for money, what if you buy clothes? You don’t deserve what you are giving yourself, your rewards.


He is good and kind and funny. He is sweet and smart and genuine. He is intuitive, patient, and sees me. He is manipulative, expectant, and broken. He is defeated, he is dependent, he is insecure. He is everything I am and I relax into it but he is everything I am and it’s painful to be around. Am I just as hard? What if he is the bookends of my life? Who else looks at me like they look at her and her and him and her again.


I’m so tired.


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