She was the second born child of three. The second daughter, the second sister. The middle child. She resented her younger sibling because he took the attention away from her. Everyone loved him most. Also, he was a boy. Which was, of course, more than a girl could ever be. She resented her elder sibling because she was too emotional, too kind. A stupid girl.
She often acted out at home and would be punished. The punishments were usually beatings. Sometimes she would steal from the grocery store for attention. But that just led to more punishment. The kids at school called her ugly and fat. So she found solace in nature; insects, plants, animals. There were times she would find injured birds or ducks and bring them home in shoe boxes, hoping to save them. But they died. They always died.
She cried. She sobbed loudly into her pillow, praying for a friend.
At school, she sat in the bathroom stall with a small pair of scissors and would cut herself on her arms. She was sure no one would notice. But some kids found out and told the teacher. That only led to more punishment.
During family gatherings, relatives would ask her why she was so fat and why her sister was so skinny. “Maybe you’ve been eating all of her food!”, they would say, laughing, and clapping their hands together.
As she grew into a teen, she began getting some attention. But not the right kind. Not the kind she had always longed for. There was a boy, a much older boy, whom she really liked. When he found out about her crush, he manipulated her and took advantage of her. She was only seventeen. And he was twenty-five years old. He told all of his friends about her. They took advantage of her, too. They all crushed her.
Soon, the word spread in the community. She was The Slut.
Her family sent her away; far away, to another country, where she could be disciplined. But she was taken advantage of there, too. Abused. Assaulted. Used.
Soon enough, she broke. She knew she would never be enough. She would never be loved. She would never be respected. She was untouchable. Dirty. Filthy. Slut.
One night she swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills, hoping to never wake up, but she survived. “She’s always looking for attention,” they all said behind her back.
For several weeks, she received a phone call in the middle of the night from a blocked number. When she answered, the voice would respond, “are you dead yet?”
She left the house one day, wearing a short skirt, low tank top, high heels, with a purse hanging from her shoulder. Her sister ran after her. “Please”, she begged, “don’t do this.” She looked at her elder sister’s face; wet with tears. “Get away from me”, she responded. And she left.
Abused. Assaulted. Used. She carried on. She became what they told her she was. She might as well be. The Slut. It’s what they all saw. It’s all they ever saw.
She held her head high, not letting them see her tears, her agony. She held her head high through miscarriages, depression,and more assault.
Her family said, “she is worse than a prostitute”, “she dresses like a whore”, “when will she learn her lesson?”, “she has no self-respect.”
And when she brought home a baby, they said, “it’s a bastard”, “she’s no longer welcome in this family”, “she should have died when she attempted suicide.”
She brought her baby to a homeless shelter, where she was given a crib, clothing, food, toys.
She read him books, sang him songs, and kissed his head as he fed from her breast. She taught him kindness and love. Through her child’s eyes, she began to see the world a little differently. Maybe it wasn’t so dark. Maybe it wasn’t so evil. Maybe she had a little bit of power to make it all better.
As she watched the sun rise higher every morning, her days became brighter. Her wounds, very slowly, began to heal. The sun’s rays reached into every dark corner of her life, chasing away the shadows of the past. The past that would haunt her in her dreams.
Until the morning came again. And the sun, her sun, lifted up her face, looked into her eyes and said, “mama, you’re so beautiful. I love you.”