“You’re not wearing any green,” Henry said, semi-accusatory after he saw my new Facebook profile picture.
“Uh, yeah. I kind of hate St. Patrick’s Day,” I said with a questioning intonation. I checked my mental calendar. Yep, nine years we’ve been together, that’s what I thought. And somehow he didn’t pick up on this?
“Why do you hate it?” he asked, probably thinking what everyone else thinks: But your name! It’s so Irish! You should be pissing shamrocks and fucking potatoes!
Newsflash! I’m not Irish. It starts with the name and ends there, too. I don’t even like BEER.
Well gosh, Henry. Draw your chair near, mama has a story to tell you!
St. Patrick’s Day, 1993. I was in eighth grade and dressed like the goddamn Blarney Stone itself birthed me. Hokey Irish sweatshirt, probably purchased from some god awful basement of disparity mall shop like Beer Tees; green leggings; green sequined suspenders; green sequined bow tie. I feel like I probably had some clover-inspired garbage entwined with my locks, as well.
In other words: I looked SUPER CUTE.
That evening after school, my mom wasn’t home for some reason. I’m going to say she was at her ceramics class, because that seems most plausible. Her absence did not please me because my step-dad and I were embroiled in one of our infamous stand-offs, which is basically how I remember most of my childhood. He commanded me to set the table before dinner. My step-dad, the reason for my Irish name, was always on the prowl for a reason to start a fight with me. This particular evening, I didn’t set the table to his liking. Something was out of place, or he didn’t like my attitude, or I looked at him wrong. Pick one.
We began screaming at each other, which was something of a tradition by that phase of my life. He hated, absolutely hated, that I would always stand up for myself. I suppose he wanted me to retreat with my tail between my legs, whimpering and finding a dark corner in which to sit with my weak sense of femininity and brittle backbone.
There was distance between us during this confrontation, something like ten or fifteen feet. So when he picked up that fork to chuck at me, it had plenty of time to pick up speed before plunging between my knuckles. I’m sure though that in some parts of Ireland, this is part of the St. Paddy’s tradition, right before chugging Guinness but in between watching live rabbits boil in cauldrons and blowing up cars with pipe bombs.
There was no apology, not that I was expecting one. He went back to making dinner and I was still crying and cradling my hand by the time my mom came home.
Now Val, she never wanted to get involved in these fights. And the fact that it went beyond verbal was nothing new. He and I were known to get into some heavy fisticuffs, which is probably why I’m so aggressive toward men to this day. I do NOT let a man fuck with me. I do NOT cower in front of a man, either. Val looked at my hand, which was red and swollen, the simple God-given act of flexing ones fingers had become something that inspired cries of pain.
“It’s fine, it’s fine!” she insisted, but she knew, and I knew, that it wasn’t. She wrapped it for me, and made me swear I wouldn’t tell anyone at school what happened.
I ended up having to get an X-ray. One of my knuckles had a slight fracture, but it was nothing severe enough to require a cast. The doctor wrapped it tight and eventually it healed, but for years, if you looked hard enough, you could see a little scar from where one of the tines had pierced through my flesh.
I don’t let things go very easily, and I never really cared much for St. Patrick’s Day after that. It’s just not the same without a fork protruding from my hand.