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A reflection on generational trauma and gluten intolerance.

I follow it like a lazy balloon and mutter, “I am probably enough,” wondering why I am still always hungry.

I am probably enough,” I tell myself willy-nilly in between swigs of Mini M&Ms straight from the plastic cylindrical canister as I write at my kitchen table.

I bought them to bribe the ten year olds I tutor into writing paragraphs implementing elements of foreshadowing. And for every successful seed of future mayhem they invoke in their writing, I give them a single Mini M&M, for which they are ravenous. They pretend to swallow them like little pills, a foreshadowing in itself. I pop one in my mouth, smirking, and try to hide my phone as I google whether or not I was correct in saying “statistically” is an adverb.

Danny looks up and whines about this injustice, “Hey, you're eating the M&Ms!”

He likes to pretend to flip his hair like the girls on Drag Race when he feels self-righteous. The confident gesture of a boy whose parents think it’s chic to have a gay son.

“I know, I wanted one,” not indulging his entitlement.

“But they’re OURS,” he persists.

Fine. Bonus lesson for today.

“Actually, Danny, I bought the M&Ms. And I am being generous enough to share them with you all as a reward for doing your work.”

“But you bought them with our money. Our parents are paying you.”

At that moment, I forgave my parents a little for every spanking I ever received.

With a herculean patience, I say, “That’s not how money works. But I would be happy to talk to you about it after we finish the exercise.”

He huffs a resistant acquiescence to my authority and continues writing.

Chloe looks up from their paper. Chloe can read a room so keenly, I sometimes witness it overwhelm her little body. I asked how they felt about Sarah not being in class today because her grandmother passed. Chloe sighed, looking off into the horizon, and said soberly, “Very empathetic.” Chloe is a Pisces.

Chloe told me their pronouns were he/they at the beginning of the year. I noticed them using more feminine gendered language when referring to themself today, so I asked, “What are your pronouns these days?”

Chloe replied sheepishly, “She/her or they/them. Whatever is easiest.”

I smiled and said, “Cool. I like how you let your pronouns change. I do that too.”

She smiled and sat quietly next to me talking about band class while the others ran around on the playground.

“I am probably enough,” I say to myself back in my slice of Brooklyn. I like to trick myself into bouts of self-esteem. Like I could try it on and take it right back off if I offended anyone for liking myself too loudly.

My mother texted me to “make sure you’re not planning on taking any hormones” or chopping my tits off or anything like that anytime soon, having recently shaved my head into an undeniable androgyny. I didn’t respond to this unprompted reminder of how conditional her love is. They say for every year of recovery, you get one second before you react. I’m at about ten seconds.

Another message, “Don’t make it a big deal. I just want to know what I have to pray for. Love you.”

Ten seconds.

“Please don’t make it a thing. It’s just a question.”

The script is so repetitive, she doesn’t even need me to say my lines anymore, and I let her argue with my ghost.

The apple not falling far from the tree, my father is an apparition. Omnipresent but translucent. He gives one the feeling you could walk through him, but he might swat you on the head from behind. Fucking with the mortals from the afterlife. He finally disappeared for real when he legally changed his first and last name to Samsen Endal, like he’s in the Witness Protection Program hiding from himself.

End all.

I did.

I stopped speaking to him altogether. Blocked his number.

I know how mad it’s making him that I won’t even let him say his lines anymore.

He’s an amazing actor.

“I am probably enough,” I say to myself as I chop peppers and avocado into a salad like a chore.

After insisting there is “no food in the house,” the kids are ecstatic that I make them cheese and crackers for snack. I sliced a hunk of cheddar on saltines, an exotic relic from a 90s childhood they have never been offered before. Gluten and dairy.

“Am I doing this right?” I wonder.

I think about how I am the first generation on my mother’s side to have enough to eat. My mother speaks about her childhood of 8 kids living on canned peas and cheese sandwiches like a half-filled helium balloon. Lazily floating away, she follows it and wonders why she is still always hungry.

For the first time, I can feel the distance I have put between myself and Tennessee. I can feel my ten seconds lasting like the never ending lull in a conversation between acquaintances. I am watching my parents argue with my stand-in, and realize that they were never talking to me at all. I pop another M&M into my mouth and turn towards the mirror to see my reflection. I follow it like a lazy balloon and mutter, “I am probably enough,” wondering why I am still always hungry.

I work on next week’s lesson plan.