Once, she flung a heavy ashtray at my head. Blood spewed onto my new pink dress like red polka dots all because I didn’t respond to her calling me, “Naomi! Naomi!” I was trying frantically to reach her special ashtray from underneath the bed. I didn’t hear her the first time. By the second call, I could tell she was getting mad, but I almost had the gold colored ashtray in my hand when I heard her say, “If I call you one more time!” That did it for me; I knew I was getting a whooping. I took my time walking back to the living room.
“Don’t make me call you again, Naomi,” Mama said again as I approached her. I left a small distance between us as I presented her with what she was impatiently waiting for. She went crazy. Mama hit me right on the top of my head over and over again with the glass ashtray.
“You ungrateful little bitch!” she yelled repeatedly in my face. I tried to cover my head with my arms until they grew tired, and I gave up. Fury danced in her eyes and spit sprinkled over me like morning mist. My eyes burned from the tiny flecks of ashes that fell from the ashtray. I tried closing them tightly. Warm blood trickled slowly down my forehead and penetrated my eyelids and cooled the burning sensation.
“Yeah, you must like gettin’ hit,” Mama screamed so loud I wanted my ears to close. I preferred the deafening sound of peace when she whooped me and she was silent. Out of sheer luck at some point during the beating, I passed out. I usually did. Thank God.
When I woke up, I was lying on my bed, which almost never had any sheets on it. I was still wearing what was left of my tattered dress. It was covered in dried blood, more red than pink now. I didn’t have the desire to go look in the mirror. I knew already, since this was not the first time. My eyes would be really fat, and this time, only one was opened partially. I was able to peek out of it. Raised, sweltering, purplish bruises would cover my arms, back and face—the usual damage. My head throbbed. I couldn’t lift my arms. I was afraid to move, afraid to even breathe. I lay there as still as I could. I followed the dingy, white, laced hem of what was once my pretty dress, from my knee to my ankle and across the dirty mattress as it fell off the bed onto the floor where I could see it no more. I wanted to cry, but no tears came. I must have run out of tears, I thought as I managed a painful smile that made my head ache from the inside out even more.
“Nobody likes cry baby, bad-assed kids! Shut. The. Fuck Up!”
Mama hated it when I cried; she always said I only wanted people to feel sorry for me. So, if I had run out of tears, that would’ve made my Mama very happy. I would never have to hear her call me a cry baby anymore, and maybe she would smile at me like she did when I lit her cigarettes on the stove. Well, not like the time when I lit the skinny white one on both ends. I shivered a little when I thought of the whooping I got for doing that. How was I supposed to know when it didn’t have the brown paper on one end of it? She’d always taught me to light the white end only.
Ever since that time, I would always ask first, “Which end, Mommy?” I didn’t want to disappoint her again or make her mad.
I had an urge to go pee. I was comfortable and warm. I didn’t want to move, plus that’s when the pain reverberated through me. Of course my head hurt and I had some aches all over my body, but as long as I kept really still it wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse, like some of the other times before. Moving was painfully impossible and I knew it, so I didn’t.
More than the pain, more than anything else, I didn’t want Mama to wake up. She was lying right behind me. Her arm was gently positioned around my waist. Her hand rest on my stomach. I was balled in a knot with my back against her stomach. I knew she was still asleep. I felt her breath blowing softly on the back of my neck. It felt nice. Every few minutes or so, I could hear her teeth grind against each other or her jaw making a popping sound. The noises terrified me. Still, that was when I loved her the most and felt the safest—when Mama was lying next to me, asleep. I didn’t have the nerve to wake her up just to go. So, I just lay there quietly and watched the torn lace through one eye as I listened to her breathe peacefully until I fell asleep again.
Mama nudged me awake with kisses. Her juicy lips left wet marks on my cheeks. I opened my eye slowly. The day had allowed dusk to run its course and only a small amount of natural light filtered through the window.
Mama gasped as I turned toward her. Then she smiled. “Hey, Mama’s baby,” she cooed.
“Hi, Mama,” I said drowsily.
I felt dampness easing up my back. I wondered how long Mama had been up. Did she know? Did I pee on her? So many thoughts raced through my mind. I didn’t know what to do, so I pretended to be terribly exhausted as she kissed me and explained what I needed to do so she wouldn’t have to whoop me anymore. I needed to be a good girl and do exactly as she said so she wouldn’t have to ever get angry.
“It’s not good for little girls to not listen to their mothers,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“Yes, Mama,” was all I answered over and over again after every statement she made. I wanted her to go away. It hurt too much to nod my head or move my lips, for that matter. “I promise. I will be a good girl, from now on.” I only hoped that I looked as sorry as I felt for making Mama angry again. That’s what she was waiting for anyway—for me to forgive her so she would be okay—until the next time. I agreed that I was wrong for not hurrying or answering when she called my name.
“I love you, baby,” she said as she reached toward me.
I closed my eye and grimaced in anticipation thinking maybe she saw it, felt it. She saw me flinch and then snatched back her hand. I closed my eye quickly in preparation of her smack across my face. Mama hated it when I flinched. The hit took too long to come, so I peeked through my eye again. She was already walking out the door closing it softly behind her.
“I love you, too, Mama,” I said to the empty room.