When You Are an Only Child

Angela Palm

When you are an only child, your parents coat you from birth, stroke by stroke, with their hopes and dreams. By adulthood, you resemble a refinished armoire, lacquered to death by an overzealous amateur and stuffed with unstylish sweaters. You are polyurethaned with the thick layers of intentions that only serve to enhance your flaws. You suffocate, and you are highly flammable.

“Ebullience” by Misti Rainwater-Lites

When you are an only child, your parents painstakingly document your life. Your father places your report cards in full-view near his cubicle so that upper management will see how successfully he has procreated, in hopes that it may translate into a promotion or at least Saturdays off. Every stray mark you make your mother mounts as a masterpiece. In first grade, your parents buy you a male doll with faux anatomy, in hopes that when your neighbor, Bridget, comes over toting her equally stunted doll, the two of you will have collaborated on the birds-and-bees talk. But the dolls go under your bed, where they sleep until you are fourteen. Then, in ninth grade, your mom lays out your black chucks with your STP t-shirt because it is your favorite clothing combination. When you get caught passing a hopeful, folded-up love letter to Bridget in homeroom that morning, it goes into your mother’s box of savable unmentionables. Likewise, when you lose the arm of Bridget’s old doll inside your rectum during a failed masturbation experiment in your bedroom that night and must ask your mother to take you to the hospital, the remains go into the box.

When you are an only child, you dump the boxes of stored moments into your mother’s trash. You drive away and do not come back for a long time. You do not write, and you do not call. You answer your own phone only after twenty rings, when you remind yourself that a phone call is better than the inevitable visit that will follow an unanswered call.

When you are an only child, you inherit everything your mother and father have when they die. You hope it is money, but it is not. It is all the things you thought you threw away. You strike a match and light these things on fire.

When you are an only child, you forget that you are flammable.

About the Writer
Angela Palm has a degree in English Literature from Saint Joseph’s College. She is an editor and writer for WilliamsTown Communications. She also maintains a blog about the novel she’s writing at angelapalm.tumblr.com.

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