Mother's face turns ash white. She knows. Mother knows exactly what I'm feeling. It's working, I tell myself. Mother tries to break away from my stare. She moves her head slightly to the left. I match Mother's movement. She can't escape. Mother looks down and away. I tilt my head up and sharpen my stare. I smile. From the bottom of my soul I feel so warm. Now I'm the one in control.
From the back of my mind I hear a chuckle. For a moment I think it's me laughing at Mother. I lower my eyes and see Mother's crocodile smile. Her putrid breath breaks my concentration. The more Mother smiles, the more my body becomes tense. She tilts her head toward the light. Now, I tell myself, now I can see it coming. Go ahead, give it to me! Come on, do it! Show me what you got! I see the blur a split second before I feel her hand collide against my face. A moment later, warm blood seeps from my nose. I let it drip on the black-matted stairs. I refuse to give Mother the pleasure of watching me cry or reacting in any way whatsoever. I defy her by remaining numb inside and out.
"Showing a little guts, are you? Well, you're a few years too late!" Mother sneers. "You don't have what it takes. You never have and you never will. You're such a pathetic little worm. I can kill you anytime I please. Just like that," Mother says with a snap of her fingers. "You are only alive because it pleases me. You are nothing more than . . ."
I block out Mother's words as a cold fear creeps back inside my soul. I bow my head, resuming the position of address. Dark red blood spatters the toes of my shoes. For a fleeting moment I felt so alive.
She's in control now.
The more that Mother babbles, the more I nod my head, acknowledging Mother is indeed almighty and God-like for allowing me to live another day in her household. "You don't know how lucky you are. When I was your age, you wouldn't believe what I was put through. . . ."
I let out a deep sigh and close my eyes in a vain attempt to block out the sound of her voice. How I wish she would pass out and drop dead. In my mind I fantasize Mother sprawled on the hallway floor. I would give anything to be there as she quivered helplessly on her back before taking her last breath.
Mother's voice changes in pitch. Suddenly my throat feels as if it is on fire as Mother tightens her grip around my neck. My eyes want to pop out of my head. I did not focus on Mother's attack before it came. By reflex I wrap my hands around Mother's fingers. As much as I try, I cannot pry her hands off. The more I struggle, the more Mother tightens her death grip. I try to scream, but only a gurgling sound leaks out. My head slumps forward. As my eyes roll backward, I concentrate on Mother's face. Do it! I shout to myself. Come on, do it! You're so bad, you're so tough, come on! Show me, show me what you got! Kill me, you bitch!
Mother's cheeks twitch from her intense hatred. Her nostrils flare from her rapid breathing. I want Mother to kill me. I begin to feel myself drift away. My hearing seems as if I am in the middle of a long tunnel. My arms fall to my side. For the first time in years, my body relaxes. I'm no longer cold inside. I'm no longer frightened. I'm ready to . . .
A hard slap makes my head shake from side to side. "Oh no, wake up! Wake up, you miserable piece of trash! I'm not through with you yet! I know exactly what you want!" Mother hisses. "So, you think you're so smart? How about . . . instead of sending you to your Uncle Dan's this weekend, maybe I should have the boys go instead, so you and I can spend some private time together? Bet you didn't think of that one, did you?"
I know by the sound of her voice that I am supposed to respond, but I can't.
From A Man Named Dave : A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness, by David J. Pelzer, Dave Pelzer. © October 1999 , David J. Pelzer, Dave Pelzer used by permission of the publisher, E.P. Dutton.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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