When my cousin Lucy flipped her jeep at age 21, she was allegedly on cocaine and alcohol. she was estranged from most of the family. i always had an affinity for her. she was feisty the way my nonna was. Lucy was named after my nonna Lucia. she was in a family of one girl and five boys. my uncle frank , her father, was a mean drunk. i would smoke cigarettes with Lucy. She was 15. i was 17. we were both depressed and liked to sit around and talk about how we couldn’t wait to move out and be on our own.

i made a right turn on the road map that would become my life. i lost my virginity at the same age Lucy gave birth to her son. i got into a state college and had an abortion when she gave birth to her daughter. i tried to tell her that having an abortion was okay. she reminded me she would change her direction on her road map by raising her two children with love minus the abuse.

the day of Lucy’s catholic funeral, i remember her young innocent son and daughter each putting a rose on her wooden casket. fuck i thought. now my horrible uncle, her father, was about to fuck up another generation.

i learned at her burial at the catholic cemetery, that lucy was stripping when she died. beautiful young 21 year olds piled out of a stretch black limo with a soft top. they were dressed in short dresses. a few guys stood by them. i thought how grateful i was that Lucy had so much love around her. the love her family could never show her. this amazing tribe did.

the first and only time i snorted cocaine was with my friend whose side hustle was a shot girl at a philly strip club. sue told me that’s how she stayed up 20 hours a day. only needing 4 hours of sleep. we worked at the abortion clinic as counselors during the day. she served jello shots at night. i loved visiting her at the club. i drank for free. the strippers loved me, because i tipped well and wanting nothing in return.

when i told sue i was quitting the clinic after almost 5 years to move to dc and attend graduate school, she was disappointed. i wouldn’t be her support during the day and at night anymore. i felt the same way.

lucy’s road map abruptly ended at age 21. my road map would continue to the age i am now. 51. it is not what i really wanted. i lost too many people in my life to addiction and mental illness. my map started and stopped like when i drank too much and told jay my entire life story at the bar. he told me his. we fucked in the bathroom. we tried to date. in the light he was damaged like me. i slept in my dorm. he lived in his car.

i don’t know what’s next. i have been working with broken people like me my entire life. my parents. my cousin lucy. her brother tony, my favorite cousin, who died the exact same way his sister did. the ironic thing is i was broken long before them. having spent the last 30 years helping broken people like me has been my penance. i told my therapist that today.

“Please stop telling me how my work has been this or that. i do this work because i feel guilty for being such a fuck up. i am not a good person. this is the suffering i always felt i deserved.”

barely taking a breath i added “if i really loved myself. if i really stopped i would work in a field that made me rich, and independent. never being scared. never not having choices. so we can both let go of this false narrative bullshit that i am a good person because of the work i do.”

my therapist didn’t know what to say. or what question to ask next. she always asked question after fucking question. there was nothing more to say.

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adriana suriano

i am a first generation italian-american who grew up in southern new jersey. Life is amazingly beautiful and devastating. Sometimes in the same day.