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Purple Plastic Glasses
“I didn’t mean to! I opened my door and I didn’t realize they were underneath the door, so I accidentally broke them!”
Even as I gave this hastily concocted explanation, I could see the gaps widening in my excuse. Right as I finished, it occurred to me that saying I had just stepped on them would have made more sense, and this served to jab a few more holes into my rapidly deflating story. I justified my lie in the assertion that surely lies were not in terms of black and white—no, some lies were not as bad as others, and mine was one of them; after all, it was an accident, just as I had said. It had been one of those things, like pulling the fire extinguisher, where you marvel at just how easy it would be to pull that little red tab, but you hold back because you know that it’s wrong. But the invisible string that held back my finger had snapped, and those fingers had, of their own accord, acted before I could quite figure out what I was doing.
And where was my mom in all this? Standing puzzled, gazing down at me, a six-year-old girl holding two broken halves of a pair of glasses.
Earlier that evening I had been going through the nightly drama and trauma over brushing my hair. My mother being the designated hair brusher, she had to patiently drag me through the process while I complained “Ow!” repeatedly. My hair had a way of getting ridiculously tangled and matted, although I suspect this was due mostly to the fact that I gave it only a cursory brush in the morning, which ripped more than it smoothed.
“I promise I can do it myself. Please?” I entreated.
“Why can’t you just let me do it?” my mother asked in reply.
“It just hurts less when I do it.”
“Why is it any different?” she said, mouth tensing in an effort not to chuckle.
“Because I’m expecting it when it hurts. Sort of like how it only tickles when other people tickle you. Ow.”
“You’re a cat,” She said. To my consternation, I gave an involuntary laugh. Immediately I was silently furious at my mother for laughing off my frustration, for making such a stupid joke; but chiefly myself, for giving in by way of letting myself be drawn out of my moodiness. Determined muteness ensued on my part, claiming the room for the next few minutes as my thoughts wandered along the windowsill, pondering nameless shapes in the dark.
At some point I realized my mother had finished and left. I stood up and tried to brush my way through the few tangles remaining after her ministrations, simply for the sake of having something to do. I brushed brutally, ripped angrily, and still the surviving knots remained immutable, now condensed into one larger mass. I was mad at my hair, but I think it was just a scapegoat for frustrations that had built up throughout the day. At the time, I had no idea what they were. I just knew I wanted to vent them. I felt the need to break something, to wreak destruction on an object. Snatching up the glasses which I had removed for the purpose of brushing my hair, I stood in hesitation for a number of seconds. For the first time, I could sense how fragile that purple plastic frame was, and I held it tighter and tighter, wondering how much pressure they could take. Then by some sudden angry impulse, I snapped them in half.
But I didn’t really mean to! I thought wildly. Yes, I did it on purpose, but if I had only hesitated a few more seconds, I would have put them down. If I had only hesitated a few more seconds… What am I going to say? What am I going to tell Mama?
Why couldn’t I have just broken a pencil?
Fresh guilt set in as I berated myself for ruining such nice glasses. I knew that breaking glasses was not the same as breaking plates or cups—glasses were expensive, and I had already managed to lose my first pair in the snow. Torn between guilt and fear of being in deep trouble, I shut my door, pretended nothing had happened, and lay on the floor reading my book. But I had to reread the same page over and over again to get any meaning out of it, because in truth I was waiting and dreading the moment someone found me.
“Hannah?” I tried to appear as though I had been focused on my book as I turned around to the sound of the door opening.
“Oh, okay. Just wondering where you were. You have to go to bed soon.”
“What?” The words caught me off guard, for I had almost been expecting her to accuse me of my heinous crime the moment she saw me. “um… yeah, I will.”
“ Perfect. Wait, why are you reading without your glasses? Where are they?”
“…on my bed,” I mumbled, petrified.
“You know, you can hurt your eyes if you read without your glasses. Why don’t you put them on now, okay sweetie?”
I had little choice but to comply. And eventually, after reluctantly showing my glasses, presenting my fabricated tale, being queried by my mother, and finally bursting into tears, I told her the entire story. I think she was shocked more than anything else, because it was such an out-of-character act for me to commit. I wasn’t usually an angry child. I was a stubborn child, a whiny child, and a very sensitive child prone to tears, but rarely did I express my feelings in anger. After the truth came out, my mother switched to the slow, serious “and what lessons have we learned” tone of voice that all parents seem to keep in reserve:
“Hannah, it’s okay to be angry, but if you ever feel very angry again, you can tell me. Breaking things if you’re angry doesn’t help anything, right?” I nodded, face still a bit disfigured by red splotches and tear tracks. “And if you do something you shouldn’t, you come and tell me instead of trying to cover up your mistake.” Lots of contrite nodding here.
I was generally a “good girl”: I was the type of kid that would rather sit and observe from the sidelines than risk conflict or get emotionally involved. I didn’t get in trouble very often, so when I did I was given more leeway than I probably deserved, and this also made me doubly as mortified when I was caught doing something wrong. I believe that after alternately admonishing me and consoling me, my mother went and had a good laugh over the whole thing—myself at the time still too ashamed to see any humor in the situation. And, perhaps by coincidence, or perhaps not, my new replacement glasses were made of wire.