I used to see her when she was walking around with her toddlers. Once her little boy started crying, and she grabbed him, lifting him up by one hand. With her other hand, she smacked his little bottom as she yelled “I am sick and tired of your attitude you hear!” He was so shocked he instantly quieted down. She smirked and said, “That’s right. You know what’s good for you!” And for good measure, she smacked him once more on a bare thigh. Now that toddler has grown into a lanky, sullen teen, prone to bullying smaller boys around him, pushing them around, making them do his bidding.
Her girl is possibly beautiful, underneath the grime, but she’s always roughhousing with her brothers, and their friends. The scars on her knees and shins; her busted toenails, ragged fingernails and straggly hair do nothing to help her appearance. She seems not to care. Someday, she will. For now, she is fine.
This angry woman still speaks at a yell, her decibel level possibly gone higher in the years I’ve been hearing her. It’s hard to avoid her; she may have insulted everyone she’s ever come across. Yet, she perseveres, and somehow, has managed to quiet down enough to have four children. Over the years, her face has rearranged itself into a permanent scowl; nearly every fourth word out of her mouth is an insult. She is an angry woman.
Growing up was a pain in my ass. I had so many brothers and sisters, and my mother, a big fat black woman with more power in her left arm than most men had in both hands, was liberal with the smacking if things weren’t done right. “I neva had pickni fu lazy bout!” I always wondered why she bothered having children. She always complained about how many mouths there were to feed, and how she couldn’t wait for us to grow up and start working so she could rest.
She’s still waiting to rest. As we all grew up, we all did our best to go away from her and her toxicity. Living at home meant that we would never be able to leave, unless in a coffin. She worked us to the bone from when we could manage the scrubbing board, or the fire hearth. One of us was always cooking, cleaning, washing, running errands. She ran her mouth non-stop about how lazy and good for nothing we were. Sometimes I wondered what it was she did that kept her so tired. By the time I knew myself, we were always the ones working, while she sat and complained bitterly about her lot in life.
I’m not sure she ever really loved us. We were bred for work, and at least, in the real world away from her, no-one could ever say Miss Eva’s children were lazy. I started working as a maid in one of the smaller hotels. The pay was decent, but the manager was a lecherous old man who thought he could touch my behind every time I bent over to clean the cabinets and floors. Well, I lost that job after a massive roaring and a broom accidentally broke on his head.
He didn’t tell the next person who hired me why I was fired from his hotel, but I did. I explained that I was nobody’s plaything, and that I didn’t care who it was. I would not let myself be touched like that, just for a little pay. The new manager was very nice, and he stayed away from me. I found out later that I wasn’t really his type anyway; he preferred young boys. I think he still does. Old pervert.
The first man I let touch me the way my first boss wanted to, well, he left me when I got pregnant. I was so angry, at myself for falling in the trap, and I was mad at the thing growing inside me too. If I didn’t fear God so much, I would have made sure to get rid of it. But instead, I grew bigger, eventually unable to continue working because I was so huge. Social paid me some money and I tried to stretch my money until it was born. I had a boy, and I thought, well, at least I have someone who will take care of me in my old age. Girls tend to leave and start their own families. Boys love their momma no matter what – just look at my brothers: still sending our mom some money, even when their wives get mad.
Somehow, I understood that I was becoming my own mother. My child cried constantly, and I was tired from working hard all day. Then at night this selfish, useless thing was trying to keep me up, up, up all the time. I wanted to shake him or smack him till he fell asleep. I controlled myself, and instead fed him and when he slept, I slept. When he awoke, I would feed him again. Sometimes, even that didn’t help, and I would change him. Eventually, he became human, and started sleeping through the night, and I was so much better. I even grew to like the creature, and before I knew it, I loved him.
I continued alone like that, working and caring for my son, until one day I met someone else who didn’t mind my extra weight, the stretch marks on my belly and legs, and the result of said marks. He liked children, he said. He wanted more. He was a hard worker, and he made me smile. He and I lived together, and he made me happy for a few years. I had three more babies, and together, I felt better about them each time, I loved them immediately, just like he did.
Then he went and died on me. Suddenly, I understood that life was just a long string of mistakes, of awful jokes on the most unfortunate. I had found happiness yet it was taken away from me. I don’t think I have been happy since. My children are a constant source of irritation: lazy, just more mouths to feed, insolent. Nothing they ever do can make me feel happy for more than a moment. I am unhappy and I am angry; so angry at the world for taking my partner away. Everyone seems to be working against me.
I have become my mother, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
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