This Home is an Open Wound by Breana Mae Estrada

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This Home is an Open Wound

To Brittney. I hope there are no others. I’m sorry it had to be us. Mom, I’m sorry we let each other down.

Once upon a time when I was small, I believed that monsters actually looked like monsters. I thought the definition of home was the smell of my mother’s perfume. I thought the worst that could happen to a person was a broken elbow from falling off their slide. Halloween was my favourite holiday. If only I’d been taught that monsters wear costumes too. That there are worse things than broken bones.


There is a girl that haunts me. Her name is Brittney and she lived next door to me when I was six years old. She was only a baby when her family moved away so I didn’t really know her. But the time she spent as my neighbour was enough for her to be tainted with the darkness that follows me. Each time I think of her, I wish her a different neighbourhood. A new area code. She is the first tragedy I never met.


My mother and I haven’t been talking much lately. She doesn’t understand when I tell her that I’m tired. When I tell her that my insides feel heavy and hollow at the same time. She says take a nap. I do not tell her what I really mean. That I am not a doll, but the empty doll house. There are shadows and cobwebs in my attic that make it hard to sleep at night. Ghost girls play on the porch of my heart, in the living room within my stomach, on every flight of stairs between my bones.


Washington, 2014: Tatanysha Hedman goes to the 7-11 near her husband’s apartment, fills a gas can with gasoline, and sets him on fire as he sleeps. She says she did it because he was molesting her seven year old daughter and shooting him would have been too nice. A comment from one of the news articles I read stated that Tatanysha most likely saved other girls in the future from the same trauma her daughter endured. People claimed she is her daughter’s hero.


I wonder where my mother lost her tongue, when her fingers became too weak to strike a match. I wonder how her spine loosened from the rest of her body. I want to ask her if she knows the exact moment we started to shrink in and away from each other. She says she stayed with him for the money, that we would’ve been homeless without him. I wonder about Brittney, if there are others now. Inside me, the ghost girls weep.


Argentina, 2016: A man is dragged naked through the streets by a rope around his neck after being caught trying to rape an eight year old girl. Her neighbours kept the man subdued until authorities arrived to take him to jail. One woman could be heard screaming for the police to tie him to the back of their car. Most people who hear this story have said that this type of treatment is only fitting for the crime committed. Some think it is still not enough.


I want to ask my mother what she felt when she heard that his hands did things to me that she’d refused of him. Why she didn’t turn into Tatanysha Hedman or that village. Why her limbs stayed fleshy. Why they didn’t expand themselves into angry mob, angry mom, torch and pitchfork. I want to ask why she didn’t call the police. I want to ask her how many girls haunt her elbows, how many hang behind her eyelids. I want to know where my ghost resides. Where Brittney’s is.

California, 1994: I start sleeping in my mother’s bed. My stepdad, on the couch. One of the first places he ever touched me. We put locks on my bedroom door when my mother is finally ready for me to sleep on my own again. We never really dealt with the problem, only appeased her guilt. Only hid from it until I learned the monsters that haunt me are to be locked in the hallway, not thrown out of the house. I say nothing to my mother of the ghost girls in my belly who will never trust her again.


I am an empty box. Marked FRAGILE on the side in bright red scars, only they are too ugly for anyone to notice. I’ve never felt like I owned this body so my self-harm always feels more like tagging on an abandoned building. My mother doesn’t see how I could be so hollow. She says his name in conversation like any other person. She says she gave me a good childhood but asks if the therapy is helping. I do not tell her that the person I talk about most in there is her.

California, 2016: I type his name into the search bars of places like Facebook and Megan’s Law. Sadly, he is on one and not the other. When I find his profile, I pick through his pictures, his timeline, his friends list for possible ghost girls. Maybe his new girlfriend has a daughter. I think of sending her a message. I think of sending out Amber alerts in advance. Of preemptive emergency flares being fired. I change my mind three times before I close the page. I wonder when I lost my tongue, if it’s with my mother’s now. I wonder if they’re where home used to be.

breana mae estrada

breana mae estrada lives in the mojave wasteland, where she fights dinosaurs, highwaymen, and the occasional race-car driver. she laughs at nearly everything, eats poetry at every meal. her favourite colour is rainbow. she can’t resist a good cover song. she has two weasel-dogs and a wonderful family and friends. you can find her at