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February 18, 2024

1991, Take Me Back

Holly Pelesky

1991, take me back, bury me in your soft and quiet bedsheets, cover me in innocence, before boys became men, before I was my family’s black sheep, back when I was just an eight-year-old girl who taught herself long division from a Golden Step Ahead workbook, taught myself to write in cursive by tracing over dotted letters, knew my brain only to be a place of wonder and discovery, not also my demise, back before I was so melodramatic, when I could call things what they were, not paint everything into the monster I believe it to be. 

1991, take me back to a time when I could fall asleep at night—at least I think 1991 would be far enough back—before I was afraid in my own home, before I stayed up long past everyone else, imagining the worst things that could happen to me were moments away. 

1991, take me back to before puberty, take me back to when my brain was what people noticed about me, before I became just a body; take me back to being just a girl so I don’t have to be a woman, forgive me, I’m tired of parading and hiding my femininity, exhausted by the ways I use it to serve me, weary from the ways it has disadvantaged me. 

1991, take me back to riding bikes and drawing and writing stories that weren’t full of dread. Take me back to my sister and I sharing a room, to singing into hairbrushes, staying up to gossip, angering our father with our into-the-night conversations. 

1991, take me back to listening to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio, that old show my pop culture since I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music, take me back to the Boxcar Children and Benny’s pink cup, take me back to believing I would become an author at thirteen, take me back to my relentless hopefulness that the world is kind and will open itself to the people in it who are too. 

1991, it’s gotten a lot darker for me in the years that followed, but you never had to learn what comes next. I thought you must have been idyllic when I lived there but I know now you too were full of murder and rape and bigotry and war but, 1991, the you I knew smelled like grass after it rains, tasted like those cheap popsicles I didn’t yet know were trash. 

1991 and before is my untouched history in therapy, my years when I played mother to my baby brother, had my own plot of land in the backyard I grew carrots and beans in. There was that dinner when the whole family ate my harvest and pretended to like the taste of vegetables, when I knew how bad they tasted, but still believed they were delicious because I had made them with my own two hands.