Written by Anonymous
I’m 5 years old. My mom informs me we’re going far, far away from this place. “We’ll build a new home,” she reassures me. I’m 5, so I don’t worry. Because I don’t know how to worry. I trust my mommy with all of my heart, she’s my best friend. It’s just going to be me and my mommy, on an adventure. I don’t mind the idea of that one bit. What seems days later, we arrive in America. I find my grandpa waiting for me at the airport, with open arms. We haven’t found a house yet, but I know we’re home.
I’m 6 years old. My mother calls me into the storage room of my uncle’s convenience store. She looks at me hesitantly, and hands me a phone. “Talk to your papa,” she quietly says. I don’t want to. She knows I don’t want to. I know I don’t want to. I don’t quite remember the shape of his face, or his features. I don’t really know the man on the other end. “ASalamualaikum”, I politely whisper into the speaker.
“I’m coming to see you, do you want me to come see you?” his deep voice utters. I look into my mother’s eyes in search of the answer that he seeks. “Yes”, I lie.
I’m 7 years old. My mommy wakes me up extra early that Saturday afternoon. She lays out a pretty dress for me, and tells me to freshen up. We’re expecting a visitor that day.
The sun has begun to set, and our visitor is nowhere to be found. I pass my time by watching my favorite feel-good movie, called Mohabbatein- the Indian romantic drama starring the dreamy Shah Rukh Khan. I didn’t know much at that age, but I needed happiness on that particular day. I knew that much.
A man appears at our doorstep. He says he’s my father, he says I’m his daughter, very matter-of-factly. He speaks these words as if they’re supposed to mean something to me. He asks if I missed him. Words continue pouring out of this strange man’s mouth, words that request – nay, demand – my trust to be handed to him. My mom eagerly watches for my reaction. I eagerly watch her in return, to figure out how I’m supposed to react.
I’m a spectacle – all sets of eyes in the room are on me. My grandparents and uncles urge me to go on and sit on this man’s lap. Confusion fogs my mind. I thought I wasn’t supposed to trust strangers? How can he be my father if I don’t remember the structure of his face and can’t recognize the curve of his smile? Why am I to sit in this man’s lap? I don’t trust him, but I trust my mommy. So I do as I’m told.
He holds me close, his thick black mustache tickling my soft skin as he plants a kiss on my cheek, evidently giddy with excitement. I see cameras clicking away, pointed in our direction. I am a spectacle, at a time where all I want to do is shrink to where I can no longer be seen. This is all just temporary, I tell myself. It’ll be over soon.
His deep bellowing laugh echoes through our tiny living room, as he rocks away on my grandfather’s favorite rocking chair. We seem to be the center of attention, except only one of us seems to be enjoying the attention. He draws his attention to the bag of toys he’s brought along for me, urging me to open it. I’m just happy to be able to get off of his lap, so I jump towards the bag. Inside is a doll, an X-Box without games, and some traditional Pakistani board games. He seems obnoxiously gleeful, with a self-gratuitous smile plastered across his face. He urges for my praises to be given. He asks if I like the gifts he brought for me. I wonder to myself, if he’s supposed to be my father, then why doesn’t he know that his daughter hates Barbies? I lie again, “Yes, thank you.” It’s all temporary, I tell myself. He’ll be gone soon.
I don’t sleep well that night. I want to crawl into bed with my mom until this strange man goes away. Although I want to ask her why I have to see him, my mother’s stern look discourages me from asking any questions. So, I decide to wait. It’s all temporary, anyway.
I’m 8 years old. We cut cake in celebration of my parents reunion. Once again, I find myself with all eyes on me. My mom says she’s doing this for me. She wants me to have a father in my life, she wants me to be happy. I tell her to remarry – someone else. She says it’s not the same. I want to say I’m happy with just you mommy, I’m happy when it’s just the two of us. The room is crowded with family members, and there’s too much white noise for me to speak my mind. I politely cut the cake, as I’m asked.
I’m 11 years old. It’s the 7th house we’ve moved to in the past few years. With my father around, it seems we’re always on the move. It’s an early Saturday afternoon. I’m sound asleep in my room when I’m suddenly woken up by the loud howls of my father’s voice. I run outside to find my mother pushed against the kitchen counter, with her arm harshly twisted behind her. I’m confused, but mostly angry. I’m still dazed from my sleep, and don’t know what to do. I muster up what little bravery I had, and half-heartedly exclaim that I’m going to call the police if he doesn’t release my mother from his grasp. I’m shaking in my own skin, but I need to save mommy. A wicked look forms on his face. One that made it feel like he found pleasure in this situation. He taunts me, daring me to try. “Go ahead, here’s the phone.”
…I run outside to find my mother pushed against the kitchen counter…
I’m 13 years old. We’ve moved again. And I have brothers now. It’s not just “the two of us” anymore – but I like “the four of us.” This time, I’m on a school field trip in Washington D.C, when my uncle from across the country gives me a call on my pink Blackberry. He says to find a ride home after the field trip, mom isn’t feeling well. I ask him where my father is. I sense distress in his voice, but he just reminds me to hurry home.
A teacher ends up giving me a ride. I say thank you, and head towards the back door. I’ve had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach since the phone call. The house is pitch black, and it’s eerily silent. My brothers aren’t in their usual spot in front of the TV, and my mom isn’t there to greet me. I call out for them but there is no response.
I search the house, until I find the three of them sitting in the far left corner of my bedroom, huddled together. My mom holds her children tightly with her black-and-blue arms. Her eye is swollen shut, and her body is bruised. She silently weeps in the dark room. That night, I locked my bedroom and placed a chair in front of the door. My mother, my brothers, and I held each other tightly the entire night. The next morning, I found him perched in front of the TV, waiting for his lunch to be served. He is a child trapped in the body of an adult claiming to be a father. It’s all temporary, wish to myself.
My mom holds her children tightly with her black-and-blue arms.
I’m 14 years old. We’re on our way to his friend’s house, a place he drags us along to often. A fight breaks out in the car. His voice raises, and he slams the acceleration. He says he’s “sick of us,” he’s “tired of us.” He’s going to “kill us all.” He throws the car into high gear, and we begin closing in on the vehicle in front of us. I’m in the back seat, sitting dead center, with my baby brothers on each side of me. My mom sits in the passenger seat, completely silent. She has learned over the years that giving him a reaction only ignites more anger in him. She sits silently, as we continue to fly forward. I brace for impact, I brace for death. My first instinct is to place one arm across each of my brothers chests. I want them to live, I want them to grow. I get the same feeling I once had sitting in the corner of my bedroom that night. I hold them back tightly, praying it’ll all be over soon.
I’m 15 years old. I’ve learned to avoid seeing this man, except when absolutely necessary. Fights are frequent, but we’ve all grown accustomed to them. No one is happy, and my baby brother often recalls the time he witnessed mommy being beaten into the ground with a yellow plastic chair. We all walk on eggshells, except for him. He seems oblivious to the home that he has shattered. Clueless about the family he has broken.
I’m 18 years old. My mother has grown stronger from the pain over the years. She’s learned to stand her ground. She’s learned to say no. He’s learned to stay out of jail. He’s learned that he can no longer bully a woman, who has three children protecting her. My brothers and I have learned to protect our mother, our queen, our best friend. We are her answer to mental peace, and we must fight for her when she cannot. He’s started to catch on.
I’m 20 years old. My brothers and I follow our usual routine when a fight breaks out. Retreat to one room, together, if it’s small. Speak up and shut it down, together, if it’s bigger. This one was over taxes. He really, really, didn’t want to file his taxes. As a grown man, with a wife and three children, this was an absurd idea to my mother. She urges him to wake from his cat nap on the sofa during the middle of the day, and do his taxes. He throws a fit, kicking and screaming. He is a child trapped in the body of an adult claiming to be a father. My siblings and I are equally as shocked, as we are amused. He says this is the last straw, and that he’s leaving us to fend for ourselves – but before he slams the door shut, he demands for me to come outside to speak in private. It was the first time, in my entire life, that I had spoken back to him. It was the first time in my life, that I wasn’t polite. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t do as I was told. And it was the first time that I didn’t look into my mother’s eyes to find the right answer.
“No, I don’t want to.” I say. Not a second later, the door slams. A sudden wave of peace washes over me, over the house, over my family. We are finally free. We can breathe. It was all temporary.
I’m 21 years old. My friends often joke that I seek out my father in every man I come across, and I laugh because they really have no idea how much I do. I do seek out my father in every man I meet. I seek and I search to make sure they’re nothing like him. I search for disrespect, I search for misogyny, I search for abusive tendencies. I listen to detect lies, I listen for what causes an angered raise in their voice. I look for their ticks, their anger, their tells. I search for these clues, and if I ever find them, I make sure to stay as far away as possible.
I’m 21 years old. There are no amount of words I could write that would ever explain my feelings towards my father. The amount of anger and bitterness I feel towards him, is just as much gratefulness I feel towards him. I’m grateful that through his actions, my mother turned into the strongest, bravest woman I know. I’m grateful that his actions have taught my brothers what not to be. I’m grateful that my mother never gave up hope, and never gave up on us. I’m grateful that my mother is happy, that my siblings are happy, that I am happy. As painful as an experience the past 21 years have been, I have never questioned God’s decision about why my life has played out the way it did. It has been said, that affiliations wipe away sin. That even the pain felt from the prick of a thorn will be rewarded by expiating a believer’s sins. With this in mind, I remain hopeful and pray that the calamity my mother has lived through, is fully and thoroughly rewarded with good deed in the afterlife.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence – there is help.