Saturday, October 15, 2011

Selective Amnesia

       Stale. That is what the smell is. Stale. The stink of a cigarette long chewed. It is time to close my eyes and wrinkle up my nose. I want to crawl under the bed. Out of sight. But I'm scared. It is too dark and Mommie is out working. 
       I heard her heels clacking on the hallway. She tries to tread softly, but even with the raggedy carpet, I could hear her. 
       In the basement is where I and my sister have been tucked into bed by Mommie a while ago. She works in the day too. Poor Mommie. That-woman says it is because we did not die but chose to live. I and my sister Bessie that is. And That-woman says Mommie is working to feed us and if we do not eat or do not ask for anything Mommie would not have to work so hard. So Bessie and I did not eat the whole day today. And yesterday. And the day before.
       But now I have a queasy feeling in my stomach. And so I have this biscuit with me. One for me and one for Bessie when she wakes up. She smells. Of poo. And now I will have to change her nappy. But she would wake up if I tried to. So I’m just gonna let her sleep. Poor thing, she is only two. 
       Mommie reads out ‘Willie-rabbit’ to us everyday when she comes back from work. She hardly gets time to change before she has to go out again. But I love it when she is next to me. Bessie’s drool does not bother her. She places a kiss on the top of our heads and leaves, taking away the scent of half-wet clothes, mothballs, powder. For some time after, her fragrance lingers. As comforting as the tattered blanket we are sharing I almost smile in content. 
       But then the door creaks and I can hear voices. Hands carry me to the drawing room. Bessie is crying because she has been woken up too. Rough hands, and a lap. Now my nightie is yanked off and I’m shivering with the cold. The fireplace is out again. 'I will build a nice warm fireplace for Mommie, when I grow old. And I want to grow as big as I can and as fast as I can'. I talk to myself in my mind. 
       Soon, it is over. 
       Amidst a chorus of coarse laughter and merry giggles we have been retuned to the bed.
       Our refuge. 
       Bessie is wailing. Now that-woman follows us and hits her on the head. Bessie stops crying and whimpers instead. ‘Shut your trap and don’t go about whining the way your Mother does all the time. 
       I let Bessie crouch in my arms. 
       The door shuts. 
       Bessie’s wispy golden hair tickles me in the nose and I sneeze. 
       Once. 
       Twice.
       Thrice. 
       She looks up, and now a smile is forming at the corners of her mouth. 
       I pretend to sneeze some more. 
       Soon she bursts out laughing and snuggles closer to me. 
       Everything is forgotten for a moment.


       But for a moment.