What It’s Like

It started with a sound, sort of a sudden gust of wind.  And it all happened so quickly.  It never even *seemed* to take a long time.  There was typically a slap across the face or a kick in the leg to start it, but sometimes it started with intensity and carried through until she was tired.

At first I would fight back.  I would scream and cry and beg her to stop.  So much shame comes from that.  It’s almost more damaging than the physical abuse, that realisation that you can scream at your mother, tell her how much she’s hurting you, and she just keeps going.  You start to wonder what you could have done to hurt her so badly, and you want to spend the rest of your life apologising in a chance to make it right.

I learned, eventually, to simply let it happen.  I stopped screaming, stopped begging, and stopped existing in that present moment.  Sometimes I watched the ceiling.  The room whirled around with every blow, and I imagined I was on a carousel.

When it ended, the quiet was almost surprising.  Sometimes she would stay and cry and tell me how sorry she was.  She would promise it wouldn’t happen again, but after a while I knew it would.  It became easy for me to comfort her.  I’d tell her I understood and that it hadn’t really hurt that much.  When she left my room she’d go to sleep and I would patch up the cuts, put ice on the bruises, wash blood from my hair.  I’d clean up the things that were broken and hide away the evidence.  My sister would do the same.  We knew the routine.

But I loved her, and even though she’s gone I still do.  That’s part of what makes this going back through old memories and fighting with conflicting emotions so hard.  If I didn’t love her, if I had never loved her, it would be easy.


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