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How to be a Normal Family
A small girl wriggles around on the couch under a blanket.
Rubs the soft corner against her cheek.
The doctor enters the room, closes the door. He tells the mother to wrap the blanket around the girl and lie on top of her. When the girl screams, her sound is muffled by the weight of the mother’s love.
The mother grunts:
I love you so much. Don’t you want to love me too?
If the child “shuts down” (i.e., refuses to comply), he or she may be threatened with detainment for the day at the clinic or forced placement in a temporary foster home; this is explained to the child as a consequence of not choosing to be a “family boy or girl.”
Dad: Do you think that maybe you’re gay because your birth mother couldn’t care for you?
Mom: Honey, the doctor said this kind of thing could be a symptom of the attachment disorder.
Me: Are you fucking kidding me?
Dad: Look, we’re just saying, maybe if you would have been able to breastfeed and bond with her then you wouldn’t…well, you know…
Me: Like pussy?
deep massage or tickling food and water intake, enforced eye contact,
submit needs, normal outside the , encouraging
to status, or techniques cathartic emotional
My therapist says she is going to re-parent me. I let her cradle my adult body in her thick arms, like a baby against her breast. She smells too much of lavender and her skin feels mealy on my cheek. I tell her it hurts, but she encourages me to stay with it, stay with her, holds me tighter. She begins to coo and talk to me in a baby voice, tells me how much she loves me. I try to remember my mother and pretend to cry.
Andrea Swenson, Age 13
Lucas Ciambrone, Age 10
David Polreis, Age 2
Krystal Tibbets, Age 3
Candace Newmaker, Age 10
Logan Marr, Age 5
Cassandra Killpatrick, Age 4
I’m so excited! I’m going to have a brand new baby! I hope it’s a girl. I’m going to love her, to hold her, and tell her stories. I’m going to keep her very safe. Every day we’ll be together and she’ll be with me forever!
You are so special. You were chosen.
It is perfect, you are perfect, and we want you to always know this.
So little baby, are you ready to be reborn?
From The Missing
I have arrived!
Out of nowhere—
the I has arrived
But I had already arrived
covered in a slick pink film
unmistakably an I
The I that was aborted
The I now trapped in becoming
The I I was
but nearing arrival
like an ill-timed guest
had somewhere else to be
I sits across from a neat table setting
I watches an empty chair
Does duration include kitchen activities?
What in the act begs: Yes, this. (?) A small pain—a girl of six or seven. And isn’t that what matters? The staying? Isn’t that psychosis? A misremembering through the impulse for a kind of mutilation bigger than the irony it produces. A delicious thumb, a sucking wound. The pull inside or the want.
Liz Latty is the author of Split (Unthinkable Creatures Press, 2012). Her work can be found in make/shift magazine, The Wayne Literary Review, Jupiter 88, and the Seal Press anthology We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists, among others. She was a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, as well as the Jackson, Phelan, and Tanenbaum Literary Awards from the San Francisco Foundation. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College and lives in New York City.