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Don’t Play With Fire

By @conlin_r


I stared into the deep abyss of my mother’s harsh eyes.

“WHY did you do THAT?” she screams at me, her Italian voice thick with anger.

I look down at my feet which seem to shrink in size every time she calls me a delusione. A disappointment.

“I’m sorry, madre. I didn’t mean to destroy the cake. I’m very sorry. It was a mistake,” I say. My eyes are cowering with tears. I’m such a baby.

“No, figlio. You are a mistake.” She quickly turns on her heels and dashes away, most likely going to complain about me messing up yet again to my father.

I let the tears slowly fall down my face because I know I’m alone. My siblings are either at college or work. I pull out the white swiveling island chair and slump down in it. I palm my hands into my face and weep.

I’ve always been the unwanted seventh child. The tiny baby who no one pays attention to until it comes to what college they want me to get into. Nobody ever likes to hear my side of the story.

Expect Valentina. My kind, sweet older sister who is more of a mother to me than my own mother. She took care of me ever since I lit our old house’s main floor on fire. But honestly, my family should be thanking me. That house was way too small for nine people to live in. Are they crazy?

My thoughts were soon enough interrupted by my buff dad storming into the kitchen and slamming his hand down on the island where I was sitting.

“You deficiente! Your mother has been working on that beautiful masterpiece of a cake for a neighbor’s daughter’s wedding! It was beautiful and you ruined it! Ruined it! You little merda! I’m disappointed in you! Go up to your room!” he booms through the kitchen, cursing at me. I start crying even more now. “And stop crying you bambino!”

I dash up the stairs and pass my mother who is standing in her bedroom doorway, arms crossed, a happy scowl slowly creeping across her face. “Yeah, bambino,” she mutters.

I turn around and flip her off. She doesn’t have a clue what it means, but she returns it. She’s a *******.

I open my bedroom door, the one that I share with my two older brothers, and glance down at the dirty floor. Clothes, shoes, and old discarded notebooks litter the floor.

The notebooks. Those are mine.

As I’m heading toward my bed (also known as the top bunk of a ****** old, DIY bunk bed set), I reach down and grab each and every one of my notebooks.

My older brothers, Luciano (who wants to go by Luke because it’s more “American”) and Nero, like to play these things called “practical jokes” on me, such as deciding to go through and read my poems, mark all over them with crude jokes, and then throw the notebooks all over our room. All that does is make me want to cry more.

I get to my bed and hide under the comforter. “I am a bambino. I’m a stupid baby that no parent wants. That’s why they’re having another freaking one. They think they can make up for their omissions with me by having another one. Ergh!” I shout-cry into my blanket Valentina gave me for my fourteenth birthday.

It’s a fuzzy, warm blanket. She says she wants me to keep it safe with me whenever I’m anxious because she can’t be here to comfort me. I think that’s a very sweet gesture and the thought of it makes me cry more.

I can almost hear my sister’s calming voice as she pats my head. “It’s all going to be okay, tesoro. I will always love you.”

I shudder at the thought that she’s thousands of miles away at college. I can’t bear living without my sister. I cry some more.

I peek my head out of the comforter and open the notebooks to see what hurtful comments my mean brothers have left me this time.

In one poem I entitled “Non Si Possono Soffrire” (for you English speaking folks, “There Is No Love Lost Between Them”), my brothers wrote “There’s no such thing as love, *****. Shut the **** up.” And over the picture I drew of my two characters in the poem, they scribbled nothing in particular. They don’t know the talent it took to get Isabella’s face perfectly shaded to make her look like she’s shedding tears. I throw the notebook across the room and it landed on Luciano’s bed.

There is love in the world. You probably experience it when you’re kissing all over your girlfriend, Nero. You probably experience it when you talk to your girlfriend in Italy on the phone, Luciano. You probably both experience it when you… did it. Gosh. I hate everything.

I start throwing other notebooks at my brother’s beds, pretending they’re lying there getting thousands of papercuts. Why am I so troubled?

I cry some more.

A hard knock sounds at my door. It’s my dad. He is the only person who knocks that loud without their hand falling off.

“Go away, babbo,” I say, turning my head away from my door.

He twists the handle and walks in, disobeying my orders.

“Your mother is requiring you to make a new cake with her. Go downstairs and do it NOW.” He points to the hallway and glowers at me.

I wipe my tears with my fuzzy blanket from Valentina and hop down from my bed.

“Now,” he repeats.

Aye,” I answer.

A strong force inside of me wants to cuss my father out, to continue flipping off my mother until she understands what it means, and then run back to my bed and cry until Valentina comes back home for winter break, but that force is held back by another stronger force.

The force of parents.

I can’t disobey their orders and then hurt their feelings. I’d be dead if I did. So I did what my other six siblings did their whole life. Suffer silently and complete the duty. Cry later.

I realize now that crying is just a form of extinguishing. I wish I would’ve cried the day I caught our house on fire. Maybe then it wouldn’t have lasted as long. Maybe my parents would love me. It’s all a parallel universe to me. I wish I would’ve done something different. I wouldn’t be disappointed now.

I wouldn’t be sad.

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