Generational trauma lives under the beds of your fingernails. It collects like plaque between the teeth, corrupts like hair bleach. Except no amount of scrubbing or filing will rid your skin of years of dried blood. No amount of lip gloss and white dresses can soothe the damage done. Your lack of pride, your ancestors’ grime, it lives in you forever.

You can try to hold hands with your sisters, but watch them wash off your dirt. It is uncomfortable for them, like soggy bootsoles, like wet sand in your shirt. You can brush your teeth till your gums scream, spray perfume on rotting skin. But for whom are you hiding it? Who is healing from this? Is a house you can’t stand naked in truly your home?

Peel your bandages off and take a damn shower. Clog all their drains with your blood. Kiss a girl in their living room. Leave clumps of hair wherever you walk. The pain will drip from you like candle wax. You traverse this house like a ghost now, but you do not haunt the house. The house haunts you.

This house on the hill was not built for filth. She was cursed to remain squeaky clean. She yanks at your stitches and spills your insides across her floor, then hands you some soap and a sponge. This house does not care if she threw the first punch. In this house, you scrub clean your own blood.

With one foot out her door, she whispers her sorries. She smells of lavender soap, of salt water and a hint of lime. She offers you some lip gloss; she promises to try.

But for whom is she doing it?

Who is healing from this?

You strip off your dress on the way out.

Dom Ocampo