Her mother is crying in the driver’s seat. She had asked for wrapping paper for her books, which her mother forgets amidst everything else and now her mother is angry at them both. My mother is so very human and I am such a child, she thinks.
She is seven years old, and she sees how being a child renders you helpless and being an adult renders you frustrated from the inability to help. Children do not intend break their parents’ hearts, but intent and impact can be two very different things.
She is seven years old and she sees that parents don’t always do right by their children and each other. That’s perfectly fine, she thinks. They’re only human.
And so she goes to school with her textbooks unwrapped and accepts the rattan strokes her teacher gives. Injustice is a thing she must accept in life.
Trophies and medals are the things she exchanges for her father’s time and attention. She was never good at sports, and so she spends her time learning words and playing with numbers. Her results are tallied at the end of every year, neatly summarized in a school report that she gives to him. A proof of her efforts and a measure of his love.
At eleven she begins to draw bodies, all alarmingly female. She draws silken hair, soft breasts, round hips. A study of the female form born from the need to understand herself as she begins to change. It is a partial truth, its fullness kept under lock and key for her to unpack some other day, some other week, some other year, some other time that is not now. An easy mistake to make, in a society where completeness in a pair is one half a man and one half a woman. Year and years later, she unpacks her truth, the wholeness of it setting her free.
Faith is what she turns to for the emptiness in her soul. It fills her with shame, terror and anger. It fills her with insatiable thirst. It is the first thing she discards in her journey to accept herself.
She is hungry and angry, self loathing coloring her glasses crimson. The path to her self-destruction is paved by a boy whose own self hatred fueled her own. Their idea of love distorted from the ugliness of their own parents’ love stories. Hers, a story of emotional blackmail in the form of children. His, a story of infidelity in the form of another woman. Theirs, a story of emotional dependency, allowed to happen for the slight chance of grasping a happy ending. Endure, she thinks. Forever, he thinks. They do not last.
She thinks of the boy she let down, a fly entangled in her web of lies. She tried to settle for a friend, but no one deserves being the next best thing. She makes excuses and lets him go. Guilt is a sharp stinging thing in her chest. Months later they talk, and she tells the truth. Exhale, your guilt is appeased, she tells herself.