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South Carolina Honors College

I Once Loved It Here

Elizabeth Thompson 

Every year, without fail, our family comes together to set us loose on Litchfield By The Sea 
the gaggle of cousins running across the sand, shrieking in delight
clad in frilly bikinis and floaties, armed with neon shovels and buckets
Our numbers grew: two, four, six, eight, ten. 
some of us braved the ocean; some collected seashells; some made sandcastles
a wobbling toddler’s walk turned into a sure stride
we were nothing alike and exactly the same 

when I was seven I was sure the beach was the greatest expression of love possible
I imagined I’d have someone to share it with one day
I can’t explain why the someone I pictured was another woman
I only knew we would lead our own children onto the sand, laughing 

a seven-year-old’s idea of true love shown was this:
we would build sandcastles together
we would watch TV together
we would get old together 

I wanted what everyone wants deep inside: to love and be loved in return.  

I wanted to be like Mom and Dad.
I didn’t think growing up to be one half of Mom and Mom was such a bad thing.  

Of course, it was. 
There go the nondiscrimination requirements for Miracle Hill Ministries! 
Nobody wants my little dream of a happy family on their beaches, thank-you-very-much. 
I read the headline and tell myself it was a stupid thing to hold on to, anyways.  

A home I offer to a child in need will be scorned 
The love I give 
seeps into the cracks and potholes littering the road 
discarded, unwanted, unrequited 
statues of slave owners
watch me bleed at their base 
I lay myself bare
The Statehouse laughs.  

A heartbeat is a life.  
My body is not my own. 
Why should a child pay for the sins of the father?
Why indeed?
The father does not even pay for his own sins. 
He looks upon James Marion Sims 
And laughs with delight at the sight of a kindred spirit
The government that admonished me caresses him with the laurels they cast at a sadist’s feet
Men who violate women are celebrated 
Women who are violated 
don’t get statues 
they get arrested 

I learn in school one day Hitler was inspired by Jim Crow
And I watch the men who loved Jim Crow stand immortalized over the masses 
I watch men inspired by these monuments gather in white hoods and light torches
all people are united by this: the need to love and be loved in return. 

we are so young.   

we are full of life and vitality, of new ideas and boundless confidence.  

Our teachers couldn’t afford supplies, the classrooms are crowded, someone whispers that they saw a heroin needle in the bathroom, dropped among toilets that never flush and eternally empty toilet paper dispensers, and still we kept going.  

But our skin is the wrong color, we love the wrong people, and we were born in the wrong bodies.   

And so there’s a mass exodus in the works at my school. 
everyone who can afford to go out of state applies out of state. 
in-state schools provide degrees for jobs out of state.  

“I hate it here,” a classmate says, “I hate it here.” 
The assembled lunch table nods in agreement. 
I hate it here just means, I once loved it here 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.