I left for school that morning with my head bent intentionally to avoid the gaze of all whom I passed. It didn’t work. As I made my way down the track a neighbour called out to me, “Who won the fight?”
“I did. You should see the other guy,” I responded forcing a smile as I tried to make light of the situation. I made my way to school in the same manner in which I left home - head bent and eyes meeting no one. The trek to school allowed me time to think and ponder on all that had transpired last night. I didn’t have a plan but I had made up my mind that I was not going home this afternoon.
When I entered the classroom, my friends gathered around me one by one as though being asked to gather for assembly.
“What happened to your face?” one of them asked.
“My father slapped me last night,” was my response, which led to a long period of silence.
A brave soul questioned, “What happened?”
“I put his dinner on the stove to warm and started my homework. I forgot about it and it burned. He started ranting, raving and cussing. Then he slapped me.”
“What are you going to do?” another friend inquired.
“I know what I’m not going to do. I know I not going back home this afternoon,” I replied, as resolute as possible.
I was then bombarded by a flurry of questions.
“Where are you going to go?”
“What are you going to do?”
“Can you stay with any of your family?”
“Did you tell a teacher?”
I walked away from them. They followed slowly and quietly.
“I think you should tell Miss,” one girl suggested.
In the short time between the school bell ringing and arrival of the form teacher someone had already informed her of my dilemma.
She called me out of the classroom and asked what had happened. I told her in a nutshell. She took a close look at my face. My father’s finger nails had left me with what looked like a slash from across my right cheek down to my mouth. It was impossible to miss. Later on that day my form teacher sent for me again. I was called out of a class to speak to the school’s guidance counselor in the presence of my form teacher.
“I was told that you said that you are not going home after school. Why is that?”
“My father hit me for burning food,” was my curt response.
“Were you rude or disrespectful?” came next.
“I wasn’t. I didn’t get a chance to say anything much. He started quarrelling and cussing and when I tried to tell him I was doing my homework and I forgot the pot on the stove he slapped me and said that I couldn’t even warm up some food.”
“Is this the first time this has happened?”
“Where was your mother?”
By the expression on the counselor’s face I knew that the question and answer session was now about to start.
“My mother had reached the point where she was tired and fed up of him. She couldn’t take him anymore. She was frustrated and her nerves were acting up. She tried time after time but she couldn’t take it anymore and left. She had lived in Mexico previously and decided to go back there.” This was my answer to “Do you know why your mother left?”
The counselor listened as I continued. “Their relationship was a horrible one. He would quarrel over the simplest of matters. Small things would escalate into huge arguments. It usually ended with them not speaking to each other for weeks at a time. It would be “go and ask your father this”, or “tell your mother” that. It was nerve wrecking. An argument could erupt at any moment. It was like walking on pins and needles all the time.” I ended by saying, “If I were her I would have left a long time ago.”
“How do you feel knowing that your mother left you?”
“What? My mother didn’t leave me. She left my father. She told me she was leaving him. I knew, but she couldn’t afford to take us with her. She didn’t leave us. She left him,” I said, trying to convince myself that what I was saying was true.
“But you are here with him and she is gone,” prodded the counselor.
“As I said before, she should have left him a long time ago.”
“You have to understand that your father is hurting, just as you are. He is in a situation where he has two young girls to take care of and he really isn’t coping very well with the situation.”
“So it’s my fault then.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that what your father did is right, but what I am saying is that this new situation is affecting each of you differently and you all will need to find the proper outlets to help you cope. The long and short of it is that you will have to go home this afternoon. We cannot remove you from your father’s house just like that. All of you need to be counseled. I will need to see you every Tuesday and Thursday from now on.”
I left that small room unsure of what they were going to do next, but there were a couple of things I was sure about. I knew that I wasn’t going to be a victim like my mother. I wasn’t going to have kids and then leave them behind, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t going back home.
Indira Sammy is from Trinidad and Tobago. She writes skits, monologues and poems. Some of her work has been published by Anansesem.