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Look at me, lying on my bed, without words. My mother is standing above me, and I’m staring at her, through her. I’m outside of my body, with you, my other self. We are staring together. Mom is angry, so angry, always so angry. Her face is red, her tan skin is just starting to wrinkle around her eyes, which bulge almost unnaturally. Her body is lean from overwork, under-eating, smoking, drinking, stress. Body so small that nobody understands her power. Nobody understands why I’m terrified, even though I’m the same weight and even a little taller now that I’m fifteen. When she threatens to kill me, I believe that she can, that she will. She’s screaming at me, but I don’t hear the words right now. The words float around me. Words float, and I’m checking out. 

My dad squats in the doorway of our bedroom, in his weekend uniform of khaki shorts and a gross, sweaty, white tee-shirt, worn thin by time. He hates his navy mechanic’s uniform, covered in grease, with holes, but honestly, I kind of prefer it. I look over to him with pleading eyes: “Say something! Do something!”  But he looks past me, gangly 165-pound shell-of-a-man that he is, a six-foot-three-inch skeleton, leering. I’m being ignored, on purpose. He often ignores us on purpose. I think he’s happy that she’s not angry with him right now, and that’s enough to keep him silent. It usually is. 

My brother stands behind my father, leaning over his left shoulder, watching like he doesn’t understand or care what’s happening. Of course, he’s only six, and this is all he knows. Years from now, he’ll recall these times. He’ll be my best friend. He’ll visit me in the hospital after every suicide attempt, and he’ll understand why I tried. Right now, though, he’s so fidgety, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, restless. Restless and anxious as he waits to see how my mother will punish me for snapping a rubber band at him.

My sister is right next to me on our bed, and she just pulled the sheet up over herself, up so high I can’t really see her eyes. She looks like a shock of red hair on a pillow, shrinking back while my mother screams at me: “You fucking bitch, why the fuck are you always aggravating your brother? You’re always causing trouble.” Fists now, landing with enough force that my body is bouncing on the bed, but I don’t really feel them, and I won’t for a long time. What I know is that I can’t give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry, even when I hurt. So I don’t. “Like a rock, like a rock” – I repeat it in my mind and it becomes true. I’ll be so strong that I won’t feel anything. Actually, I’m doing such a great job of not feeling this, that I won’t feel it for another fifteen years. But she must want me to feel something, because she just. Keeps. Punching. 

I’ll learn later on that I am not the reason she’s angry. I might be her punching bag, but she’s just trying to figure out why her uncles hurt her when she was too young to know any better. She’s just trying to figure out why the people who love her keep hurting her. But she doesn’t know that yet. Neither do I. What she knows is what she’s making me feel right now: she feels like she’s no good. Like I’m no good. 

I’m no good. I am no good, and no amount of beating me will change that fact, so finally she stops. She’s exhausted and sweating, because the windows are closed, on this ninety-degree day, while she punishes me for being alive.

Jess Ingrassellino

About Jess Ingrassellino