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Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
The clock sounds exponentially louder. The house has an unforgiving silence looming across each room, slowly dispersing itself – once again – like fog on a chilly day.
Two hands. One moves quickly. Harsh. Quick. One moves slower than usual. Is this what Albert Einstein was talking about?
Two complex machines in the room. One doesn’t change whatever you do to it. You could light it on fire, you could throw it against the wall, you could break its glass and scream and yell at it. It’ll not change. The other one, on the other hand, is as fickle as the sea. You could do nothing and it will explode. Not into oblivion of course, it’ll turn back into the perfect machine it was before anything ever happened.
Such was the contrast between the clock and the mother. And in the midst of this all, positioned to suffer the consequences of their functions, was a girl. A girl with a childish heart, untouched by the dawn of puberty, and broken dreams, knowing how the real world functions all too well. There she was, on the ground, between the two machines that were so different. Tick tock. The clock was louder again, as it is every time her mother explodes into a rage. She knew what the clock wanted to tell her – that time was ticking away, reminding her of the seconds, minutes, hours until she erases back into nothingness. Her mother?
Funnily enough she didn’t know what she wanted.
As the pain stung her cheek, and a tear slid down the other, she thought that maybe her mother was right. Maybe her mother never wanted her born, just like she says. I mean, she thought, why will they say something they don’t mean? People say stuff in anger, not to be taken seriously, they say. But what does it mean when it happens, once, twice, thrice, and every time something sets off her alarm?
Her lip quavered as she reached out for her nebulizer. Another reminder of how much of a burden I am? Great. No one likes sick kids. No one likes spending their little salary on paying medical expenses. No one likes taking care of someone dependent on them again and again? Right?
As she climbed onto the bed with every inch of her tiny body hurting, she felt a soft fuzz on her leg. Two round eyes looked up at her, asking if she was okay. Normally, this would’ve made her guard come down a little, pick her cat up and play with him for a while, slipping back into her normal self. Today it didn’t. How could a f***ing cat understand me better than my own parents?
She sighed at the question, and got onto the bed, pulling the sheets over her and trying to get comfortable, something she hasn’t felt in a long time.
Comfort. What did that mean again? It felt like a distinct reality, an alternate universe. It’d been so long since she felt a hundred percent okay. After a long day of work or school, people come back into the comfort of their home. But what if your home itself wasn’t comfortable? Where do you go then? Home wasn’t a home anymore. It was a house. Multiple walls, fewer windows, even fewer doors and no love.
Home is where the heart is. Where is my heart? Years of insults being lashed, judgments and laughs crashing against her have only hardened the remaining bits of what was supposed to be a heart. Nothing delighted her more than wanting to escape.
She picked up a stream of abuses directed towards her, being violently flung across the tattered walls. What was on the menu today? I wish you never existed, as the main course (it was quickly becoming the best seller), a topping of You’re a disgrace to the family, with a side of the usual, overcooked, I’m not paying for your education. The menu was never the same, but it never got better. Maybe the occasional dark chocolate dessert, which was good while it lasted, only to leave a bittersweet aftertaste.
She shut her eye trying to ignore the screams. Shutting her eyes helped provide that temporary escape from reality that she clung onto. Maybe if she shut her eyes enough, she could eliminate the voices, the struggle, the pain, if she got lucky. The bright spots that we see when we close our eyes were stars to her. She desperately held onto them.
What’s the point of having a child, and only one at that, and refusing to support them? Genuinely support them. If you’re not capable of it, then no one’s forcing you. What’s the point of making decent money if you’re not gonna support your child? Your one and only child?
As a child, she never wondered why she didn’t have a sibling, unlike the rest of her classmates. She had a pet, and that was enough. Childhood was a simpler time, when she could hardly understand anything. She didn’t fully recognize something was wrong. None of us did. Which was probably why she grew up with the notion that whatever happened in her family – the screams, the bipolar mood swings, the terrible food – happened in every family. As she grew into her features, developing into a bit more of her mother, she realized that she was the outcast, not everyone else. That it wasn’t normal to be left starving for hours on end. It wasn’t normal to feel strangled into silence. It wasn’t normal to feel like falling into an endless abyss. It wasn’t normal to laugh out loud when she read that “Family” stands for “Father and mother I love you”.
Her childhood was plagued with being brought to the very top, just to be pushed and cause a greater impact. False promises, lies, deceptive words, masked affection, sugarcoated smiles. A façade of lies. But hey, promises are made to be broken, right?
This won’t last forever, she thought. Whatever your family’s doing to you? her tiny subconscious asked. No, no, this silence, she corrected. Eventually, her mother will come around, with her favorite cake, a smile bigger than her face, and a wall of love. She’ll tell her to never mind, what’s said in anger is never serious. And while biting into the cake, she’ll smile, knowing that this won’t last, just like the chocolate, and that everything could change, anytime – it was as simple as turning on a switch. She accepted that she was being taken to the top just to be pushed down. A machine being built just to be taken apart. And she’ll forgive, like she has been doing for the past few years. She’ll forgive, train her mind to believe that it’s okay and they’re good people at heart. Somewhere in the back of her mind, her subconscious tries to remind her of all the abuse she’s faced, and all the words she heard, and how her family is striking off days until she leaves. She shushes the voice, locking it in a box in the very back of her mind with a ribbon, as the chocolate cured her cravings for food and love. It isn’t meant to last, was going to be a fact that she had to just learn to accept with time. Tick tock.
After all, will a slice of devil’s cake make her forget about the devil itself?