My mother said when she was a child, she had to grow up. It started when she was given chores, equally distributed between her and her brothers. These were meant to be done in the morning as soon as they woke up. Buy milk, heat the oven, and sweep the floor. My mother swept the floor of the bakery. At first, things were peaceful and everyone did their part.
Until one day her younger brother stopped heating the oven. Her father excused him and told my mother to heat the oven for him. She obliged and swept the floor in the morning as well as heated the oven, while her brother slept some more. Things were peaceful for a while.
Until one day her older brother stopped buying the milk. Her father then excused him and told her to buy the milk as well. So my mother swept the floor, heated the oven, and bought the milk, all under the rising morning.
These chores didn’t stop then. It grew to tend to the farm, buy more groceries, clean the house, cook for the family, and finally scoop rice for each family member. No one else did them, not her brothers, mother, or father.
And it didn’t stop there, her father believed she was doing the chores wrong. So before her day ended, she was beaten by him for any little mistake she made that day. Every single day, without fail she said.
Even then, she recalled, she still prayed to God every night. Even when as an adult she couldn’t rely on her family she knew she could rely on God, and a child he gift-wrapped to her on a Christmas day. A child is what she wanted. Someone to care for. She prayed for a child before God would take her as well.
“Are we friends?”
“If you keep asking, we aren’t going to be friends anymore.”
“Are we friends?”
The same girl, the same response, every day. Yet, I was still happy that there was someone that wasn’t forced to talk to me. I followed her around like a duckling following its mother. Diving into the waters with her, lifting myself up when I came to drown, and paddling after her like nothing had happened.
Like a disciple, I could’ve followed her into the end of the world and worshiped all the same. As long as she was my friend and I was hers.
“I don’t want to be your friend anymore.”
“Are we friends?”
She walked away from our normal script, and I was left alone. Again. I didn’t understand all the millions of things I probably did wrong.
“Are we friends?”
It was until someone invited me to play with her. It was only her and I, playing on green bars, becoming spies. At the height of my happiness, I watched from afar, my first friend. She ran with her new ones, laughing. Even after the despair she caused, I wanted nothing more than to run with her.
He handed me a red key, and told me it was my body; like the bread was to the man on the cross. It was my heart pumping the pure and precious blood coursing through me; like the wine to the blood in his veins.
“Keep it close to you, and only give it to your husband on your wedding day.” It wasn’t a request or encouragement, it was a demand.
The red key seemed to pump imagination into me as my heart did. Wearing a white gown, with all my friends and family. Instead of rings, I would give my husband my red key, and he would keep it close, forever and ever.
The red key stares mockingly at me, hanging from my lamp. I still dream of the white dress, red key in hand. Walking down the dreaded aisle, to someone. I still dream of giving it to a daughter, watching her make the same trek down, red key dangling from her tiny hands.
A boy over my height, over my age, and over my intelligence. My mom instilled that standard into me. To find someone so much more than me. Someone who can take care of me. Be quiet. Be obedient. Be a godly woman. Over and over again, I formed myself carefully to do so.
Until I saw her. She broke my world with simple words. Rewired my brain in a snap. Without ever even knowing it. Someone as tall as me, a little younger than me but definitely smarter than me. She was so much more than me and yet made me feel so similar. Whisking me away into a world where I was equal. Where we stood on the same floor, the same hill, the same step. I never had to be quiet, obedient, or a godly woman around her.
Her Her Her
I couldn’t let the fantasy leave me. Domestic life, sweet words, and maybe a little hand-holding. Wherever I wanted to go I wanted her with me. A different type of life. A sweet and beautiful one. Holding gentle hands and longing stares. Maybe something more. Excitement wherever I went. A new spark to my life. I was finally awake, and I was happy to open my eyes.
But then I saw the truth about her along with myself.
She would never feel the same way I feel about her. Nothing I could do. Not a single thing I could mold about myself. It’s none of our faults, but it feels like mine. The stares will stay stares. And the delusion- no matter how sweet, stays a delusion.
My mom laughed in the driver’s seat. Telling me stories of her best friend and how everyone would mistake them as a couple because she was so manly. Being the toughest kid in her neighborhood, and the one doing all the work in the house while studying for school. Then she met my father.
And all of a sudden, everything she once was gone with an “I do”
I hope none of that happens to me. I don’t want his reused plans, the ones he gave to my mother, and her mother and her mother and hers. A life filled with praying we were all dead.
And yet she tells me and I listen, one day God may be merciful to lead me down the righteous path of marriage. That maybe, within his great plan, I will find a good husband. One who provides, one who would somehow like me, who doesn’t yell and understands, someone who is good.
Then she laughs at her own joke and tells me more atrocities within her own.
“I looked at my feet in their white socks and ugly round shoes. They seemed far away. They didn’t seem to be my feet anymore. And the garden that had been such a good place play didn’t seem mine anymore”.House On Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros