Self-harm, Sexual Violence, and Abortion
My youngest daughter grew up terrified of the sound water makes when you pull a plug out of the bathtub. That hollow, slurping vortex as it drains. If she was left alone in the bathroom with the sound, she would scream out for me, hands cupping her ears, the sides of her mouth stretched taut. It’s the Devil trying to suck me away with him, she had told me once, an idea I assumed she must’ve picked up from some of the other kids at Sunday School. It’s only water, I would say, shaking her by her little shoulders, it’s only water.
When my daughter’s hysterical episodes continued, her grandmother advised me to go and get her Christened. But I took her to the doctor instead. The doctor told me that the fear of loud noises and monsters was a natural part of childhood, just the nervous system maturing. While he shone a torch in her ears on the examining table, he said that those fears, like the fear of the sound water makes when you pull a plug out the bathtub, would simply disappear over time. I nodded, wanting desperately to believe that every fear from childhood would simply disappear over time. As my daughter skipped through the clinic parking lot with a Fizzpop in her mouth, l imagined all her childhood fears just finding new places to hide as her body grew bigger. The same way bathwater eventually just disguises itself in the sea.
When I arrive home at the end of my shifts at the mall, I climbed out of my cashier’s uniform and ran a bath. Stretched out, glasses to the side, my ugly toes poking the mouth of the tap, this was the only part of my day where I got to swim inside myself. But even with the door closed, the light off, and my face submerged underwater; motherhood always had a way of floating me back to the surface. My body, a lifeboat for all the drowning flying ants. During my bath time, my three, now teenage daughters would step into the bathroom to see me, they said. One by one, they would sit down on the closed toilet seat lid. Most times, they’d just sit there in the dark saying nothing. But other times, while their father sat in the living-room with the tv blaring, we exorcised our demons by candlelight.
grade 8 disco / a man / a bathroom stall / please call me / i’m like a bird nelly furtado / two hands around a mouth / purple / a father’s friend / her fault / a bruise / a thigh / she didn’t see his face / the devil wear’s russian bear vodka / slit wrist lion razor / then he unclipped his belt buckle / don’t tell father / what happened next / my fault / back-alley abortion / deformed / please god forgive me / strobe lights / polystyrene cup / then he unclipped his belt buckle / i’m like a bird nelly furtado / please call me / don’t tell father / i’m gay / a uterus shaped like an hourglass / and so are the days of our lives said the foolish grandmother who spoke in tongues not knowing that god would never listen to a woman
Over the years, the bathroom became the place where my daughters and I scrubbed the crime scenes of all the women in our blood. This was our church, this was our prison.
Only later did I come to understand why my youngest daughter grew up terrified of the sound water makes when you pull a plug out of a bathtub, that hollow slurping vortex as it drains.
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