The bare bulb glowed yellow on the water stained ceiling. If she stared at it fully her eyes wouldn’t see well. Her mother was scream-crying, frantically pushing, palms out. Long brown hair, sweaty and tangled, covered her face. His shouts quieted as he grabbed her small frame and thrust her onto the couch. He furiously punched her into the rough, green cushions over and over. Hands over face, she sobbed repeatedly, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry!” Broken.
The little girl sat still, shallow breathing. If she kept her feet behind the line on the slatted wooden floor, she would be safe. She carefully squished each toe behind that line, pushing her back hard against the wall so as to remain unnoticed.
His heavy engineer boots sounded across the hollow floor and the door slammed. Sitting quietly, the girl listened until the sound of boots on stair had faded. Her mother quietly closed her bedroom door behind her. The child listened as her mother’s angry tears melted into broken-hearted sorrow. She dared not move, but stared at the porch door expectantly. Tension still hung heavy.
A few minutes later her mother began applying make-up at the living room mirror, carefully covering bruises already appearing under eyes and over cheek. She was herself again.
On their way to the girl’s aunt’s house, she held her mother’s hand tightly and looked around noticing all the other ladies wearing make-up. It was then she realized why women wear make-up and men don’t. Women must hide their bruises, their shame. She felt a deep embarrassment at being female. A lady walked by. She had short hair, unmade face and manly clothes. She was strong. The girl had seen other ladies like her. She would grow to be like them. She would grow to be a manly woman.
This little girl was two. She would barely remember this day, and would certainly forget her own thoughts, but the seeds of her forming identity were sown. Would future counselors help untangle the mess or would they encourage her further into her confusion?