Father dead, when I was nine. Mother weak, a bit emotional, perhaps touched. Found a new Bob, a self-made man, so she said. He didn't like me much. Said I was ugly, dirty, nothing but a failure, unworthy of his home, his goodwill, of no use at all. He beat me, rag doll slapped against a wall.
At sixteen, I left with a boy. Hitched a ride to the city in a pickup truck that smelled of dead chickens. We married, had children. Your mama and uncle they both came out looking the same. Too dark to amount to much. Too poor to be anything more.
I took care of the children, fed them, made sure they were properly dressed. What about that scrawny dark boy I married? That weakling whose body never developed to anything more than a face full of whiskers, who was too skinny for manual labor, too stupid for an office job? Most of the time we didn't see him for days. When he'd finally show up, he'd win the children over with a bag full of brown bananas.
Never mind about him, I did alright with your mama. She learned to cook and clean before she could add and subtract. But my boy, your uncle, he was my biggest disappointment. I had hoped to groom him into the proper man. But how do you create someone you know nothing about?
When he was eight, he began to sneak away at night. He believed he could swallow life up in one gulp. He didn't stand a chance against the world.
They say, without destruction nothing is born. They forget to tell you that sometimes what's born is already dead.
Your mama, she watched and listened. She learned from her brother's mistakes. Swore her allegiance to school, sports, church, and me. I chose the right man for your mama, tall, white, from a foreign country. I pushed her away. It was the least I could do for her.
When you were born, I told her, "Don't let her out of your sight." And she listened. Took me literally. Locked you away in that one-bedroom apartment with only your books and a TV.
Knowing nothing of the world is a luxury, a gift. But you don't want to hear about my greatest success. Instead you ask me to tell you about the past that I wish I could forget.
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This story was a runner-up for the Glass Woman Prize.
Thanks so much, Beate!