Sunday, January 13, 2008

Foam Mattress, Cold Showers

By the time I returned to Dakar, my mother had moved into a brand new house, on a better development and I was enrolled at a nearby private school. Although my uncles still lived with us, I felt safe because my mother and aunt kept an eagle eye on him. But as usual, we swallowed hurt emotions, swept raw wounds under invisible rugs and pretended that nothing ever happened. We were one big happy family, the perfect household indeed.
Soon thereafter, my mother was granted a visa; she went to join my dad in New York and my unsuspecting grandmother moved in with us. She was still the same loving grandmother I remembered. Less than a year later, my aunt was on her way to New York City, to join my parents and try her luck at the American dream. I was left with nowhere to hide, a defenseless 9 year old girl, living in a house with a brazen, shameless predator. I didn’t want to be sent away again nor did I want to be questioned with a belt in a locked room; so I wet the bed at night, had violent seizures and unexplained illnesses; but I kept my mouth shut. This went on until my oldest aunt and her children came back to the city and proposed my grandmother move us in with them.
The house was rented, ways parted.
Life at my aunt’s was wonderful at first। My parents sent her a monthly stipend for our expenses and her trouble; but soon enough, problems started arising, and the house quickly became divided: It was them against us, us against them. My aunt was irritated by my grandmother’s blatant favoritism of us over her children and she, in turn, was infuriated by our second class citizenship and treatment. Frustrated and fed up with the constant conflicts, she woke up one day, packed her belongings and without a word, moved back into her home.
Around that same night, we were presented with a gift; an antique foam mattress that had clearly seen better days. It was our new bed. I remember it so perfectly, with its’ deep, centered cavity- that I, as the oldest had to fill in with just the right amount of clothes, so that I wouldn’t spend my nights on the cold linoleum floor of my cousins’ pink bedroom, under their queen sized mahogany beds. Every morning, just before I took my daily, cold showers- it was auntie’s orders that the maids lock away the propane tanks right after my cousins had boiled their water- I would wrestle the reeking beast into the courtyard, then onto the wall; so that it didn’t disturb from my cousins’ flawless décor. The matted giant that never failed to leave its’ trademark yellow specks, embedded into our braids, dusty specks that made us feel like unwanted, dirty orphans, specks we would painfully point at and laugh about having, then quietly help each other remove on our way to school so we wouldn’t be laughed at by others.
We went to school hungry; we came back hungry and some nights, we went to bed, huddled against each other’s warm, slender bodies; hungry. It wasn’t because there was no money for our care, our parents constantly called and always sent whatever amount was asked of them; money they were told would get us fed, clothed and kept happy with, but in reality, it was used for a second story add on. On those nights our stomachs, accompanied by a silent chorus of tears, grumbled in the dark and begged to be filled, we told ourselves that someday it would all end because someday, we would be reunited with our parents. We would be home, we would be safe. This we knew to be true; it was the fuel we held onto.
Almost 2 years later, my aunt came back from New-York on a surprise visit. Needless to say she was enraged and by the end of that week, along with my grandmother, we were moved back home, into my mother’s house.



I do believe that the story is true! These words are coming deep from a destroyed heart! God bless u!

Sayuri Jane said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to read...

chica said...

I've been reading all your posts. Very gripping story. You should publish it.
Who is the "us" you are talking about?

Sayuri Jane said...

Thank you for taking the time to read; it means a lot to me. the "us" refers to my sister and cousin with whom I grew up with.