I stumbled into the bathroom ,my eyes were glazed over with tears. I could hardly see anything but the sad pathetic face looking back at me. Crushed soul. I saw the the nothingness that my self image had become. I didn’t see me in that mirror. This time I couldn’t blame it on the crack in my bedroom mirror which always made for a great excuse as to why the image staring back at me was not beautiful. A hollow chuckle and the words “I’m a beautiful girl” would follow. Now, here in this bathroom, these mirrors were clean. Like really clean. Cleaned and polished everyday clean. SO clean that beyond the several masks I could see myself. Like these mirrors had been waiting for me. Waiting for my hollow chuckle or the shallow “I’m a beautiful girl”. Silence. I unmade myself. I buckled under my reflection. I became undone. Unravelled at the seams. Let out a gut cry and saw the crack in myself. Gut wrenching heat rising from the darkest insides of my belly parts clutching hot fingers to my throat and releasing sweaty streams down the hills of my face.
One of the boys in my computer class had been asked if he thought I was beautiful enough to kiss? With the most disgusted tone he threw out the words “no way!”. I heard myself crack as his words hit me. I will not let them see me unravel. Unsafe. This is not a safe place to unravel. I heavily raised myself from the chair and stumbled into the bathroom. Cracked face in clean mirror. Heaving shoulders. Shaky spine. Shoulders hunched.
Whenever someone would ask me if I have ever been kissed – I would smile coyly and pipe up with my very unusual answer – “yes, my father is the only man that has ever kissed me on my lips”. Strange look. Confusion. He may have kissed me on my lips when I was a baby. But I wasn’t a baby this time. I was old enough to remember it. Remember how pleased I was. He kissed me and I couldn’t stop smiling. He was proud of me. I ran to him with my school report in hand and right there in the kitchen next to our stove he beamed at me and kissed me on the lips. Pride in his eyes. My father smiled at me and kissed me on my lips. I cradle this memory. I cradle it deep within me for the times I need to be reminded of the fondness that lives somewhere in his being. When his image too becomes cracked in my brain. I reattach it with that kiss. I put him back together and I remember him in that moment. I remember the way he kissed me with such pride and my insides smile.
He’s not a very nice man. He stumbles in late at night with the stench of alcohol and prostitutes clinging to his clothes. His words are not what you may call beautiful. They are not beautifully stringed sentences to build up your image and pride in being the seed of this man. He is reckless with his hands on my mothers’ delicate skin. They do not touch with gentility. There is no gentility in him. Well, maybe I’m being too critical. It must be there. There is no reason why a man with no gentility would be able to lure so many females into his fortress of solitude.
I digress. Forgive me. I have to at times wrestle with the dichotomy of his personalities in my head. His drunken persona and his sober persona. I sometimes only ever get stuck in the drunken realm. Strangely and sadly the drunken persona was my favourite. It was gentle and it had the most infectious cigarette ridden belly laugh. You know the laugh of one who has smoked way too many cigarettes? I am not able to accurately depict it to you. Go outside. Stand at the bus stop. Wait for a smoker. Tell him an awkward joke…. Get it? It’s coarse with a hint of cancer but it’s so infectious, I loved to listen to it and I still hear it when I want to.
My father married my mother.
When I tell of their marriage to the seed of my womb. My unblushing response will be; I remember him coming home every night and my mother’s eyes shifting. Her strong frame tensing. Waiting to see which persona will walk or stumble through the door. Walk in – he’s sober. Stumble in – he’s drunk. Prayers for his intoxication rising to the ceiling. Breaths of relief at his intoxication. Dread and anxiety at his sobriety. Nothing more nothing less.
Or maybe when I tell it to those birthed by the loins of my children. My head the colour of snow and my step tortoise like. A gentler me. Who through time has learned to count the rainy days and the sunny days together as blessings. Who thanked God for both rain and sun. For growth and pain. This me will stretch out my long fingers, the fingers of a lazy person according to my grandmother, this wiser me will place my hands on the youthful face of my grand daughter. Look into her youthful being. Feel her beauty beneath my palm and tell her this; my father was a strong man. He was a man of few words. He did not show affection much because he did not grow up knowing affection but there is a time etched in my memory, a sunny day, when he bent down and he placed a kiss on my lips and I felt beautiful.