Apartment 13M

by Vanessa-Renee Mical

The number thirteen is supposed to be unlucky. Maybe it is. In our apartment, 13M, when I learned that “M” was the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, it seemed accurate to me, growing up constantly reminded that we were twice as unlucky. But maybe there is just as much magic in a curse as in a wish upon a star. Maybe they are the same, depending on how much time you allow yourself to look at them. And maybe, if you have already been spinning out of control, when the world turns upside down, it lands you safely back upon your feet.

By the time I got home on election night, I was inconsolable, and you were the last person I wanted to see. At that point, we weren’t speaking, tired of using each other as props to claw our way out of our own mental illnesses. I was sure that I never wanted to speak to you again. It had been so many years since 13M. But there you were, watching the election returns on my couch with Chris, my brother and roommate, and there wasn’t time to say much before Donald Trump took the stage to declare victory. We couldn’t have known at the time that although this moment would be a ripple that would tear through other families, it would be the thing that would bring us back together. And by the time the morning light hit my face, after fitful hours of crying because my country had betrayed me, you held me again, just like the first time after I exited your womb.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, of course. Before I came home on election night, I was with two of my best friends from childhood. We were filled with champagne and confidence, ready to celebrate the first woman elected president together. As sure as I was then that I was never going to speak to you again, I would have sworn that these women, my chosen family, would be in my life forever. I called them my soulmates. Their kids called me auntie. So much can change in four years.

The cracks were small at first, after all they both voted for Hillary. Both claimed to be feminists. But they are white and privileged, and soon to expose a couple of things to me, about how someone like Trump doesn’t win an election without a million tiny excuses that lead the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The truth is, they probably revealed themselves sooner, but I just wasn’t paying attention. Before long, it would be crystal clear that they either didn’t really believe Black lives mattered, at least not to the extent that would require any real sacrifice on their part, or would be perfectly fine letting their husband’s argue that All Lives Mattered for contrarian’s sake. They were just “asking questions”, after all. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t handle a little healthy debate? It shouldn’t have surprised me, as it did, that they would also excuse violence at the hands of these men. That they would stop calling me, texting me, until it felt like we never knew each other at all. That I would quickly come to believe it is better this way, for how long can you surround yourself with toxicity before it starts to penetrate and metastasize your last healthy cells.

Friendship lost is a grief that I am still struggling to understand. It hurts worse than any heartbreak from an old lover. But the further I get from them, the closer I get to you. The time that I spent texting them is time I now get to text you. I thought I would be marching in the streets with them, but instead, the marches helped me find my way back to you. You have been right about so much. You saw all of the things I didn’t see coming. You tried to warn me. I am sorry that it took so long for me to listen. As the world falls apart around us, we forged a path for ourselves out of the ashes. I am no longer ashamed to be just like you, Mom. I see now that it is what has helped me survive. And now, together, we begin to march on.