October 13, 2008
I can't sing. I'm a horrible singer. Church choir is embarrassing for a chubby'acne prone...depressed eight year old...did I mention I can't sing? Choir requires you to sing. I cannot. Me, producing a tune, not going to happen. My apologies to all who learn this the hard way. My lack of vocal chords was obvious to my entire family that from the day I first butchered the Barney song. I should never, just out of respect to others, be involved in choir but my mom wouldn't listen. My sister can sing. My mother can sing. My grandmother can sing. Everyone can sing but me. And somehow in her twisted head, the fact that one of her offspring cannot sing is unacceptable. As if me not being able to carry a note has anything to do with her abilities as a mother.

We agreed that if I still didn't like it after three months I could quit. Today had been the worst. I hate Sundays. My younger sister had one-upped me in front of everyone'her voice is amazing, mine sounded like a toad on his death bed 'while enduring a ...horrific case of the runs. All I can do is croak.

I shouldn't have to explain any of this to my mother, but I do. Patiently. For some reason she thinks that the agreement we had was only to get me to join the choir and according to her, I would be hooked after the initial months. I, on the other hand, perceived the negotiation completely different. Soon, a calm discussion escalates to a heated argument. My mother's porcelain skin is an angry shade of pink, almost red. Her jet-black hair is wild from the many extravagant gestures of pulling her hair out. While her rich brown eyes are inviting most of the time, tonight they are anything but welcoming. I realize she is close to breaking from the quivering of her tight lips as she silently glares at me before directing another question that I view as rhetorical. I'm enraged that she backed out of the deal. I went three months to this horrible choir that made my stomach ache every time I stepped foot into the Eastside Baptist Church. I should back down. I know I should. I can tell when she gets that look in her eye. But as she keeps arguing that I am going to attend church choir, I keep resisting with a firm 'no'.

The increasing tightness lingering in my stomach warns me of the danger I am treading on. I anticipate the breaking point. That's what this was. This moment. The third deliberate 'no'.

She hits me.

Slap across the face. Then she's pushing me up against the wall. The trailer doesn't have much room. I trip over the...couch. Her angry hand is slapping, hitting, bullying, as her body is forcing me into my room. I'm crying. I can't stop. My throat is sore. I'm screaming 'stop!' knowing she won't, knowing the neighbors won't hear, knowing I should have turned back when I had the chance.

Allison is crying now too. She stays of out our fights until they get violent. While our confrontation continues in my room, Allie is in the living room begging Mommy Dearest to stop.

The floor in my room had stains. So we took it up. There is linoleum but it has sticky stuff on it. We never replaced the carpet so as my mother is shoving, and furiously shaking me, it's hard for me to pick up my feet.

There is a shelf on one side of my room. I huddle underneath it. She drags me out, and throws me onto the musty smelling bed. We have too many cats.

On the bed, I'm lying on my back exhausted. She's still yelling. She forces herself on top of me. I'm a kid. A chubby kid, but still a kid. Her weight pins me. She has a good 200 pounds on me. I struggle, kick, flail my legs about, but it doesn't faze her.

I'm screaming.

Allie is crying.

I'm crying.

Allie is screaming.

My mother's eyes are bulging out of her head. She is irate, livid. She is screaming at me over and over again. I shouldn't be here; I should be with my dad. I'm nothing to her. Just a smartass. If it wasn't for me we would have nicer things. If it weren't for me she would be a good mother. Her words sting more than her hitting hand.

Still on top of me, she takes her hands and places them both over my mouth'. and presses down. I can't breathe. I'm freaking out. Is she trying to kill me? Or just scare me? Her eyes scare me. I'm trying to yell, to tell her I can't breathe'but against her hands, my words are muffles. Both her hands press down in a rhythm. 1'2'3...4.'It's weird. My nose is free, but I'm panicking. My tears are blurring my vision. The monster that is trying to suffocate me is telling Allie to leave'the room.

All the blood is rushing to my face. I can feel how hot it is. My neck feels like it's going to explode.

She's still on top of me. She removes her hands and starts hitting the side of my head. It's almost over. She's tired. She has to get up early for work tomorrow. She eventually leaves my room after twenty minutes of'shrieking, wait shrieking is what I was doing. She's yelling, threatening me. And then is in the living room comforting my baby sister.

As the woman who had just struck me, cradles Allie calming her fear-induced sobs'I concentrate on regulating my breathing. Simple thoughts. Tomorrow is Monday. I don't have homework. I forgot to feed the dog. The altercation that passed minutes ago seems unreal. Just another unmentioned dispute. As I try to focus on the insignificant details or obligations in my life, I can't help but feel a pang of jealousy toward my sister. Her sobbing has stopped. She has fallen asleep in her mother's arms. I lie in my disheveled bed as the same mother who had made sure I was not to fall asleep tonight carries Allie to her room ever so gently. For a brief second, I want to be my sister just so I can experience that side of my mother. Experience her love. Know what its like to embrace her arms rather than cower from them.

Soon my thoughts morph into fantasy. I'm not choking on my tears, or wishing I were someone else. I am someone else. Someone strong. Someone brave. Someone loved. Someone who is not afraid. Then it is morning and school presides over whatever problems may have transpired the night before. Third grade doesn't require one to dwell on family dynamics but rather AR points and fractions. Eventually the pain numbs and recess drama preoccupies my thoughts.

At home, we don't speak of the fight. We don't speak of why my arms are bruised. We don't address why our mother doesn't look me in the eye or why Allie. can't look at me and not cry. We eat our Raman noodles and go to bed and go to school and pretend that this is a happy family.

Years later I close my eyes and re-live the graphic scenes that once defined my childhood. The memories have a different significance for me now. I won't claim that time in my life did not affect me; I admit I am fearful to have children in case I don't 'break the cycle'. As far as interrupting my daily life, a rough childhood does not hinder the goals I aim to achieve. I could not control what happened to me, especially at such a young age, but I could and can control whether to cope and overcome hardships or to let unavoidable circumstances conquer me. My mother was not in a good place. Her life was just as complex. From her perspective, I realize a single mother with two jobs and no one else to confide in, doesn't lead a stress-free existence. The experiences I was once ashamed of, I now acknowledge.

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