THE SEA throws punches. I hold mine back.
Years pass and I get super wise. So wise that the teacher says, Are you dumb or what. Later, she apologizes. It’s protocol. It doesn’t change the way she thinks.
Years pass and dyke romance blooms in me. Keep it on the down low. Real low. How low can you go? Low as my grave, Dumbo. I got dark thoughts. I go online.
Years stand still. I’m young. I’m so young. I’m looking for love. Adult love. Don’t know what it looks like. Only love I got in my house is not it. Got a mama and a papa and a grandma in my house. Grandma hates Papa. Papa hates Mama. Mama hates me.
Everybody knows reading is for losers. I’m a loser. So I try to read. I read so slow. Everybody else reads so fast. I fall behind. I geek out on my own sadness. I write it all down.
I get a heartbeat when I see her in class. She glows. Dark eyes and braids. Cheeks so honey. I fade. I’m white trash. Jew trash. Immigrant trash. Girl-boy trash. I’m a Casanova without a cause.
Years stay still and I’m gross. I miss the sea at night. You want to stay in your room your whole life, Mama yells. I’m not wearing a fucking swimsuit in public, I yell back. How can I tell her? You took something away from me.
I decide to be a loser who raps. I sit at home and spit it out. Drip my spit on an mp3. I used to put together some dope stuff on my computer. But I don’t have a computer anymore. Mama says it’s my fault it’s broken. I tell her I need one that fucking works for school. She says the library’s got one that fucking works. I use my phone to watch YouTube videos where they teach you to beatbox. I want to get really good at something.
Check this out: I hate this country ‘n I hate where I’m from. Gotta find another galaxy, get a honey girl ‘n make her feel sexy. Make my money girl, let you live easy.
The new English teacher tells us rap is poetry. I’m tired of people believing in me for no reason.
I wish I had a girl to fuck. I’m real good-looking for a tomboy. So what if I keep my eyes to the ground.
There are a couple girls online who are into my photos. They sent me private messages and everything. We’re chatting now. They both live far away. But fuck, I’m not going to stay here forever. They think I’m cute, being a loser and a geek and all. I told one about my beats. She thinks it’s funny, a white Jewish girl with a Russian accent rapping. Like funny-cute. I’m funny-cute. I’m funny-handsome. I’m funny-funny too. I make her roll in her LOLs. I told her I can send her one of my tracks if she wants.
Mama says it’s hard enough that I’m a lesbian, but why do I need to dress like that. She tugs at the hair sticking out from my cap and tells me to wear it down.
Why do I always feel like I owe everyone everything?
Mama says I must be stupid cause only someone who’s stupid would punch a wall instead of using their words.
The girl that glows talks to me. She asks me why I don’t sit with the white girls. She says it softly, like it’s only for me to hear. I say the white girls are mean as fuck. She’s so pretty with her heart-shaped mouth. I want to die to the sound of her voice.
Years keep still. She hasn’t said anything else to me. It’s been weeks. Guess it was a one-off conversation. Anyway, I’m glad it happened.
I got loads of time.
Mama says that’s my problem. Too much time on my hands. No, you’re my fucking problem.
That one girl stops messaging me back. Guess she thought my track was stupid. I know it’s stupid.
I lock myself in the bathroom. Mama’s banging on the door cause she knows I took the big kitchen scissors. She’s losing her shit. I like that she’s afraid I might hurt myself. I feel like a king for once. Maybe I will hurt myself. Is this what kings do? I take the scissors to my scalp and cut my long-ass hair off. When I come out, Mama puts her hands to her mouth. What have you done? I didn’t kill myself, Mama, that’s what.
How do I tell her? It was either me or the hair that had to go.
Maybe I’m the problem.
Got a new message. She thinks I look like a Backstreet Boy with my short hair. You old school, she tells me. I think she’s into it.
I feel cute. Real fucking cute. My bedroom door is locked. I’m safe for the night. I don’t want to close my eyes just yet. I want to keep looking at myself in the mirror. I’m cute as fuck and that’s a fact. I’m feeling myself. Can’t wait for the girl that glows to see my new hair. Maybe she’ll say something else to me. I could be her loser boy.
There was this Jewish community group I had to go to when we first got here. To learn Jewish stuff. Why I gotta learn this Jewish stuff, I asked the counselor. Because you’re Jewish. Don’t you want to learn about yourself? There were four other kids like me. Stuttering immigrant kids. I was the coolest one by far. They taught us some prayers for Shabbat and I made fun of them to the woman’s face. I told her I fucking hate Jews. I got kicked out of the group.
Years lie still. Some nights, I start praying in freestyle. I throw in the Shabbat words I remember and make up the rest. It sounds pretty dope.
I don’t know why that phlegmy-ass Hebrew shit makes me cry.
When I do have a girl to fuck, this is how it’s gonna be. I’m gonna tell her she’s beautiful. But I won’t tell her I love her. I won’t say anything else. I’ll just make her come. And after she comes, I’ll wait till her breath slows back down. I’ll wait until she starts playing with my hair with her long fingers. Kissing me on the side of my mouth. Then I’ll say something like: You’re the reason I was sent to this country. Baruch Hashem.
Yelena Moskovich is a Soviet Ukrainian, American, and French artist and writer and the author of three novels: A Door Behind A Door, The Natashas, and Virtuoso, which was long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She is the director of creative writing and a lecturer for the University of Kent’s Paris School of Arts and Culture.