I am four years old. They are fighting. I don’t remember the words now, but they are yelling. Fuzzy scenes, like cloudy dreams, blurring in and out of focus. Down in the basement, in the laundry room, I hear hot voices and cold words. I peek around the corner. He pushes her down on the concrete floor. She’s weak, flailing, grabbing with desperate hands. She can’t resist. She scrambles up when she sees that I’m there. She stutters a lie through tears, “I’m okay.” She says it certainly. Forcefully almost. But I see the truth in her eyes. She’s scared and we both think she’s going to die.
My mother has long, dark hair. She would look like a Native American mother warrior with her tan, lined face and downward-turned eyes/mouth except for her bangs. She won’t wear her hair without bangs. She fell out of a moving car when she was just five years old.
Her forehead is scarred from the accident. It is a terrible mark. It’s dull purple with blue and yellow streaks, permanently bruised somehow. It has deep white ridges where the flesh comes together to hold back brains, blood and skull. It looks as if the bone just under the skin is broken and could spill its contents from the slightest pressure.
I touch it as if it could bite me. It is tough though, surprisingly and sufficiently. It’s troubling, remarkable and totally unbelievable that someone could have such a scar and be walking around performing everyday tasks.
I’m staring up at her from the front seat of the car. She’s seatbeltless. Hair full of wind and eyes on the road. Her fingers are wrapped around the thin metallic wheel. Her forehead is rough, but her cheeks are feathery and thin, soft under my tiny hand. When I trace her lips, she playfully snarls, bares her teeth and chomps at my fingers. She has beautiful, somber eyes, full of pain and pensiveness. She doesn’t often have a smile, but when she does, you know it’s for you and you know it’s for real.
She is five years old. She is riding quietly in the backseat of the sedan. She falls asleep. Her hand, arm or knee gently releases the door latch. Within a breath, she is inches from the road, ground rushing under her. My grandmother, from the front seat, is holding her hand or arm so she won’t fall. My grandfather is braking. My mother will be crushed by the turning back tire unless Grandma lets go.
Grandma lets go.
Li’l Lil is taken to the hospital and that sickening cut at the top of her sadly-sweet baby face is her rippling flag of salvation. Her never-ending experiment of bangs begins. On some level, consciously or not, this must make her feel like a little girl for the rest of her life. A scared, torn-up little girl who hides her secrets behind those bangs. I know how she feels.
This is an excerpt from my book Present Tense. It’s a very short, vignette-style memoir. Quick read with lots of imagery. You can find the rest of my book Present Tense at amazon.com. Here’s the link http://www.amazon.com/Present-Tense-1-Martha-Maggio-ebook/dp/B00N6R7R8C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453328463&sr=8-1&keywords=present+tense+by+martha+maggio. You can read for free with Kindle Unlimited.
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