tenacity

Her 5 year old asked her the question most 5 year olds invariably asked:

Mommy, where did I come from? How did I come here to you?”

Rusted memories grated to a screech and she let the corrosion wash over her.

***

She wove small shreds of friendships with distant people she had never seen. Ones who connected with her differently. The laughter, the love of words, poetry, of music and of need that could fill the void that sucked her in as she sat at home and cooked, cleaned, fed and bathed her kid. The need for fun, for friends who related and for acceptance. Savoring those relationships she built gave her little dewdrops of happiness she relished when she went parched.

After a long drawn out back-to-school night at her child’s school she came home exhausted. She was recovering from a bad viral attack weeks before and her body was still frail. He was watching TV and seemed occupied. She read to the child, tucked her in bed and came down to eat her dinner. A conversation turns sour and with no energy left in her to reason nor an appetite, she loaded the dishwasher, swallowed a tylenol and went up to bed.

In her sleep she hears a voice calling her name, a tight grip shaking her by the shoulders.

Cold fingers clasp her ankle, and she opens her eyes. In the dim night lamp she sees his outlined shadowed face. Spitting anger in his eyes and his grip. Still in a sleepy daze, she looks questioningly at him.

With a curse, he pulls at her firmly, yanking her off the bed. She flails her arms to hold onto the sidetable, her sheet, yet the force lands her on the floor. She lets out a scream, as her arm twists behind her, and her neck hits the bed rail at an angle. Sharp pain shoots up from her back into her head and she was forced awake. She hears his voice calling her names over and over again. Names she heard for the first time coming from this usually gentle man’s mouth. Rough piercing fingers pull her up, but her legs give way and she buckles onto the mattress again.

Stupefied she watches him as he towers over her. A slap across her cheek. Another, and yet another. The sting burns through flaming her face and a spark rises in defiance. Mustering all the strength in her weak muscles, she holds onto his hands and pushes him away. Voice cracking, she screams at him.

Why? Wat did I do?

Over and over again she asked, while battling him off her and failing with each repeat. Her wrists were twisted behind her, and as she faltered, he pulled her up by her hair. Fingers at her throat, choking her, shaking her as if she were made of cloth. Wincing through her tears, dismay and fear, she fought to appeal to the man she knew. His answers were monosyllables swallowed in his anger and her incomprehension.

Cheated? Disloyal? What are you saying?

Saved notes. Who are all those people? Shame? Do you have any? Would a married woman engage in such activities with complete strangers?

She backs away towards the bathroom, limping, pleading. She didn’t do anything wrong. Activities? I just spoke. What did I do? I just spoke. It hurts. Stop. It hurts everywhere. Please stop. Please.

He pushes her forcefully towards the wall. The open ironing board catches her in the middle, and she falls along with it, a 115 lb rag doll. As she tries to hold her balance and get on her feet, a sharp thwack across her shoulder blades, and yet another across the back of her head assault her. Objects were flying at her in the darkness and with the shock of it all, she sinks back on her knees. Pain, fatigue and fear seeped in hopelessness.

A whimpering heap on the floor.

Feet kicking her back, her thighs, her stomach, her legs.

She had stopped screaming sometime ago. The daughter would wake up. So she bit her lips and let fate take over. A bad dream, she tells herself. Close your eyes and sleep and it will all be over. Listening to the voice in her head and only seeing a visual of this man continue to say things she couldn’t hear anymore, she tucked her knees under her chin, covered her face and head with her now blistered shivering palms. It was all a bad dream.

The tremors of rage erupt around her. He wants to teach her a lesson. Cowering she braces herself for the next blow, not wanting to know where it would come from.

She gets dragged lower by her feet. In a swift move he pulls her pajamas away. Her tank offers no shield from his plunder.

She spent the night half-naked on the floor, bleeding between her legs and from the cuts and bites on her upper body, a dry salty cheek resting on her knee. Oblivious to the pain that racked her body, her heart and mind asked her again, repeatedly, “what did you do?”.

***

That’s how this gorgeous little thing was made, she thought looking at her pretty doll in pink, skip on her toes alongside of her.

She smiled and said aloud, “I have no idea what I did, but I got the most beautiful little princess in the world. Whatever I did, it must have been good!”

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