I burned like an incense stick, curling into ash as the amber flame made a delicate climb along my sun-kissed skin. Constellations of freckles melted away, along with the uneven scars on my back that my father had used to claim his territory. The new upholstery was being applied, and my arms trembled as I held the newborn child—tight enough for him to feel my uneven breaths, light enough to safeguard his slumber.
“He’s our second chance” my mom wearily stated from across the hospital room, in sync with the consistent beeps from the machines that that sang her heart rate.
“What are you thinking of naming him?” I asked, attempting to choke down the tears of joy.
Our rebirth. A second chance at life for all of us. My mother and I looked at one another and knew that this was a clean slate—an escape raft for the rusted and rotting ship of my father’s abuse. Phoenix would be our proof that we can use our own oppression as a tool to mold our seemingly predetermined futures with. This child awoke a realization—that I could take the memories of being dragged across the dirty kitchen tiles by my hair, and use that experience to shift the cogs and gears inside towards betterment.
It was Christmas day and the halls of the hospital were filled with florescent lighting and the occasional disgruntled nurse. Phoenix nestled into my arms as I sat in the guest chair of the room, hearing the church bells intertwine with the haunting sounds of my pig-like squeals as father’s belt buckle continually ripped into my twelve-year-old flesh.
“Girl, sometimes I think I just can’t beat the fight out of you” my father said, wiping away the sweat from his brow as I lay on the dirty carpet, sprawled out with snot and tears soaking the area below my chin.
Drool leaked from the corner of my mouth as my bottom lip trembled.
“Your fuckin’ mother’s the same way” he grumbled before slamming my bedroom door behind me. I blinked again and saw fat snowflakes falling from the grey sky outside of the hospital room window.
Phoenix continued to take his short little breaths, and I swore at that moment that I would do nothing but love this child with every ounce of my wet and half-rotten foundation.
The church bells rang in celebration as I chewed on my bottom lip nervously, both eager and intimidated to step into the role that I knew I had already accepted the second I peered down upon his sleeping body. Not even death could separate my love for the boy, for I knew that even in death, my love for him would continue to linger like the scent of an incense.