Witness
A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "You are sleeping, you are sleeping, I will make you be sleeping."
Originally featured on 01-06-2011
As part of our series "The Benefit of Doubt: Stories Written to Explore Domestic Violence and Abuse"

You are sleeping, you are sleeping, I will make you be sleeping. You giggled in my ear. My mother, you handed me a mild overdose of cough medicine. I told you it was too much but you said, take it anyway. I cried hot tears on my exhausted eight year old face and you pushed my hand toward my mouth, your eyes intense and unflinching. You leaned heavily into my tiny body and pushed me deeper into the old floral couch. Teaching me to sleep.

My baby faces, you’ve owned me at all my stages. Before I had a voice, you taught me what I would sound like. You chose my words and my pitch. I was born because you thought I would fill you. A baby is a beautiful, powerful thing and you couldn’t resist what I might be, what I might hold. You told me you saw your face in mine, so I wanted to burn mine off. You told me I was of you. Named me, dressed me. Your solution. You watched me toddle into your open arms, scooped me up and took from my chest, sucked out my energy, your spare source. Your arms were so tight. I hate that I was once trapped inside you.

I didn’t want to be in this, I didn’t ask for birth. You created me, this thing, this being, as a solution to a problem I was no part of, but you brought me here anyway. Then you threw me in the air when I didn’t fix it, a useless toy. You resented that my childish curls and cupid smiles didn’t give you enough. You were angry that you had to protect me, the mild, stupid baby, and I wasn’t the beacon of precious distracting power that you’d hoped for.

I killed you slowly though. You thought I would help, but children need feeding and watering. Sometimes I cried and that just took from you. My own voice sometimes pounded out, so you pushed your hand into my face, trying to smother it back into my head.

A baby is not an angel. I couldn’t rescue you, though you told me how. You held me until my bones hurt. Told me you needed me to love you, kiss it away. All it ever did was cause me to feel what is in your chest. I feel your pain now, it hurts as my own, and I don’t know where my body ends and yours begins. You couldn’t help yourself, so you created a witness to your demise. I caught that pain and I carry it. I’ll wipe your ass when you’re old, out of sick obligation. Your feces will be beneath my fingernails.

I wasn’t yours for the keeping, but you did. I hate even the good people I knew then, those that were part of a game I had to play before I was conscious, in a time when you didn’t protect me. I want to cut you out of my body, but there are no clean lines to cut on.

I can’t bear anything new. When my first boyfriend leaned in to kiss me, I flinched. Not a subtle, nervous flinch but an evasive move of fear. I can’t love him. You taught me that. It’s all I can do to keep this shell alive. You haunt me and you have things that are mine.

I might give you too much medicine one day. I’ll tell you to sleep, in the voice you gave me.

Read More By Alice Clark

COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project

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