I was the first-born, the most talented, the best behaved and, more importantly, the smartest kid in the household and I thought I deserved everything I got and more. My siblings, however, did not deserve a goddam thing. I could not understand why I was not my parents’ favorite and why they didn’t love me more.
My brother didn’t have to do anything to get attention. He got it whether he liked it or not because he was a cute little bastard who was always causing trouble. He had, and still has, the ability to make you feel awful for yelling at him for something terrible he did. “Oh no! You pistol whipped your sister you infantile sociopath?!” He would look up at you so sadly you’d choke up for hurting his feelings. “Oh don’t worry sweetheart, it’s not really that much blood. She’ll be fine once the ambulance gets here. Do you want a piece of cake sweetie? Anyone know how to make a tourniquet?” (The last time the grown-up equivalent of this happened was last year when he kicked my sister and I out of his house right before we sat down to eat Thanksgiving dinner.)
My sister would simply ask the question and she would get the answer. I was above asking, like my sister did almost every day, “Mami, what do you love more? Me or your Fiji perfume? Me or your Chanel No. 5?” She would bat her eyelashes and my mother would hug her and respond “Well, of course you, you silly Hen!” I wanted to ask her who she loved more. Me or that silly, attention-starved, air-headed social butterfly with bad taste in clothes. I didn’t and opted for behaving well, studying hard and winning prizes, thinking, quite foolishly, that was the way to my parents’ heart.
I asked a question once and only once. I was almost five and a few weeks into the first grade (skipped kindergarten naturally), when I came home and I informed my mother they were having a spelling and grammar contest at school. I asked her if she wanted me to win the trophy for her. She responded “of course sweetheart.” Two weeks later I came home and presented her with the award for first place. She was agape with surprise. She had forgotten all about it. After that, it didn’t matter whether she wanted me to win or not. I simply won because I couldn’t stand to lose, so asking her was inconsequential. I dedicated the next 30 years of my life to being the best so that my mother loved me more for my incredible gifts and not just because she gave birth to me. Nope, that wasn’t reason enough for me and I wasn’t willing to share the prize that was her love and admiration. It had to be me. I had to be on top.
As my sister got older, she got more sophisticated with her attention-grabbing antics. She started faking fainting spells, especially when she presented her report card. I could not understand why Cs and Ds got more attention than all As and I was determined to make a point and teach my parents a lesson. In tenth grade, I enlisted the help of a classmate who was an expert at tampering with report cards. For $5 bucks per letter, he would effortlessly turn a B in to an A, but turning an A into a C or a D presented a new challenge for him. “This is going to cost you. I don’t usually do this type of work. It is difficult, “ he said shaking his head, flabbergasted at my request. He acted as if I was asking him to forge a Soviet passport. He wanted ten bucks a letter. We settled on six, and he didn’t have to make the letters perfect. After all, I was just going for shock value, not verisimilitude or long term deception. God forbid. I would present my report card, my parents would gasp in disbelief, and then I would tell them the truth. They would see their damn foolishness and finally be thankful they had a daughter like me. They would announce that I was their favorite all along but they couldn’t reveal it for fear of hurting my siblings’ feelings. They would then apologize for putting me through that agony, but they knew, because I was such a good and smart girl, I could handle it. In tears, they would ask for my forgiveness. Then we would hug and kiss and they would take me, and only me, to a great dinner and shopping, while my sister and brother waited at home with the maids.
My parents were enjoying an afternoon cocktail in the living room when I walked in, forgery in my pocket. My heart was racing. I still hadn’t made up my mind and I wasn’t sure if I could pull off my plan with a straight face. “Hi sweetheart, how was school?” I kissed each on the cheek, gathering resolve. I put my hand in my pocket and felt my report card. The curtains were drawn and I could see my brother, cousin and another kid in the yard playing soccer. Since my parents had their back to the window, they hadn’t noticed them. I handed my report card to my dad. He unfolded it and just as he was about to look at it, we heard a scream. My brother had jumped on top of his friend. The soccer match had turned into a World Wrestling Federation match. “Goddamit, that kid!” my dad said and handed my report card to my mother. She took it, glanced at it, then turned her attention to the spectacle outside. “That’s very nice honey, 4.0 as always,” she said to me, handing me back my report card. She turned to my dad. “Teddy Bear, do something! He’s going to hurt him.” “Jesus, fuck, goddamit, son-of-a bitch!” my dad yelled and banged on the glass. My brother didn’t care and my parents ran outside to rescue the poor kid who was getting his ass kicked.
I locked myself in my walk-in closet. Surrounded by pictures of Don Johnson, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend, I sobbed quietly, rivers of tears running down my cheeks. I was, without a doubt, the most miserable being on earth. What was the purpose of living when your parents didn’t love you? None at all. I needed to show them. Yea, I would show them.
It was the first time I had run away to a place other than my best friend’s house. I was serious this time. My mother would call my best friend’s mother and, for the fist time, I wouldn’t be there. Ha! The UCSD campus was a few blocks away from our house and it was as good a place as any to run away. They had a cafeteria in case I got hungry and the coolest record store where I could kill some time if I got bored. I found a big rock and waited. Sobbing and shivering, I wrote and directed the scene in my mind a dozen times. What would I say and do when they came running, relieved that I wasn’t found under a bridge, dead from a heroin overdose? I re-wrote the lines in my head until they were perfect. It was almost dark and I had been waiting on that damn, cold rock for over two hours. I was tired of crying and I was dying of boredom. I realized no one was coming, tucked the English Beat import I had bought under my arm, and walked back home. No one even noticed I was gone.
I did entertain the thought of actually going through with it. I weighed the consequences. It would kill my grandmother and if I failed, I’d be in so much trouble. And, more importantly, what if it was true that you went to limbo if you killed yourself? I couldn’t fathom the idea of going through with it and not being allowed to see my own funeral. That was the whole point! Seeing everyone cry hysterically over this major loss to human kind and all because of my parents! Also, I couldn’t do that to my mom, could I? And what if I was right and my parents didn’t love me? I would have killed myself for nothing.
I took my place next to the tub. I tried several poses, but they all seemed awkward. I just didn’t know what a corpse should look like. I kept on shifting, changing positions ever two minutes, moving the position of the disposable razor. I thought about using ketchup for blood, but I didn’t want to make a mess. This was good enough, I thought. After half an hour, I got bored. No one ever came in my room. It must have been that I forgot to take down the sign on the door that said “Enter and Die.” Finally, my grandmother came in and I sat up quickly. “Do you want a quesadilla?” she asked. Hell yea, I was so hungry.
I faked my suicide several times after that, and to this day, I don’t know what I was thinking. These days, I reserve all the drama for my screenplays and I don’t care if I get attention or not. Despite the recurring nightmare where my mom and sister gang up against me and mock me, I know my mom loved us all the same and that she thought we were the most special children in the world because all she ever wanted was to have us. I wasn’t the best. She was.