Tough Girls get Tough Love

I am angry, frustrated, and resentful. I am Portuguese, working-class, and full of an accent that can't be understood in an English class. I am nonchalant about any academics that don't involve writing, community service, French, or agriculture, and I am nonchalant about the fact that this attitude will probably seriously harm me in the future. I am the girl you might have seen running three miles the other day. I was barefoot because my shoe finished ripping along the side where I had cut it on a shovel on the farm I work at, but I kept running because I needed to be tough enough to finish. I barely cry anymore, I hardly know how, and I don't want to. I am obsessed with a street culture that completely defies the world I deal with every day when I go to Gann. That's who I am, and that's who I want to be.

I am The Food Project's ) success story. I have worked there since June 30th, 2005 until the present date. I started work as the only girl from Gloucester, became immediate friends with Lizz Cohen, the bisexual Marblehead stoner, and soon grew to love and befriend every single kid in the program with an attitude. We didn't work. We faked sick, we got fake injuries, and we took hour-long water breaks. We made up the "kick-weeding technique", in which you walked along the row and kicked at the dirt around the weeds. We changed out of our uniforms exactly at four. We came late with ice coffees, and skipped work to go to concerts. Some of us got fired, some quit, and some came too close for comfort. The second to last day, Carla, one of my bosses, said something that changed my life. "Casey, I know that if you actually want to do something, you put your mind to it and do it; I wish that you could understand what a power that is". I have been at TFP ever since, always with a smile and a motivation that drives me to fulfill Carla's prediction. Without TFP, I would not be in AP English, and I most definitely would not be writing this essay. I am living proof of The Food Project's vision, creating "personal and social change through sustainable agriculture".

I am Scott's surrogate mother. Scott and I met the second day of our free Israel trip this summer. I didn't think we would be friends, but before I knew it he was calling my name and making me come look at his belly button rings because I had one too. From that moment on, we were inseparable. I woke Scott up every morning, lying next to him in bed until he actually got up. I packed his backpack for him, and on the mornings we switched hotels, I would pack his suitcase too. I'd remind him to brush his teeth, tell him which shirt matched his shorts. I never minded doing it, or I wouldn't have. Scott brought out a side of me I never knew I had, and I know I am the only girl he will ever have do this for him, because he'll never be living with a girl again. Two weeks ago, Scott's father tried to kill him when they got in a fight, and Scott left his house. He now lives with his boyfriend and fiancé of five months, Nick, in Lowell. I haven't seen him since the end of the Israel trip because, typical of Scott, our plans fell through. But something in me knows that even if I never see Scott again, I will always be his mother, and in my heart, he will always be my son.

Je suis l'Americaine de Jeanne et Hélène. This summer I stayed for a month in France with two French correspondents, Jeanne and Hélène, who had stayed with me the summer before. We didn't do much besides go out with their friends and take long walks. Whenever Jeanne would introduce me, she would say, "C'est mon Americaine, Casey". This phrase always seemed to matter between us, this ownership of each other. Once, at two in the morning, after returning from a long night at le Café Chaud, their favorite place to go, we sat on the floor in the kitchen, to exhausted to get up and go up the stairs to bed. Somehow, we started talking like we had never talked before. We talked about boys, girls, love, lust, hate, poverty, death, and the scars that we carried in our hearts, or in Hélène's case, her wrists. After that, I knew that one of those huge pains that we would always carry would be the loss of our sisters across the Atlantic. I'm their American, and they're my French girls.

I am addicted. I'm addicted to the way it feels to laugh with my second family, all eleven of them. I'm addicted to the way Scott's fingers feel running through my hair. I'm addicted to the way French rolls off my tongue. I used to be addicted to things that weren't so great. Now, I'm addicted to the way asphalt sticks and burns my bare feet. I hear Scott's voice and it reminds me of my greatest addiction of all, love.

But beyond my addictions, my loves, my French girls, and my families, there is something far harder to bear because it stems from somewhere so deep within me that I sometimes don't know where it comes from. I scare myself with how tough I am. I stare people down with a hatred I don't want to have. I've punched walls with an anger I won't admit. And if you see me sulking in North Station, hooded and wearing my eyeliner, don't be afraid: just know that I'm another girl struggling to understand how a past like hers can lead to the future she's going to have. I am afraid that I won't be strong enough, and I'm afraid that I won't give enough. I am afraid that when I do, those people will be ripped from me with the passing of time, and I'll be left with a future with no meaning. That's why I'm here, to justify this fear, to justify my future. I am here to prove that I'm tough enough, that the pain I've felt can lead to a happiness I can one day find.