Author: Ina Zareva
She's covering her ears with her palms, knuckles white with effort, but she can still hear them. Her mom is screaming. They are in the bedroom. The dull sound of the blows, the muffled cry, the pleading for help. She has locked the bathroom door and is not moving, not breathing, not existing. She is trying to blend in with the tiles. She knows these tiles by heart, how many there are, which are cracked,where do their patterns reach and break.
She is not just hiding in there, she has become a part of the bathroom. She opens the taps, grabs them tight until her fingers hurt, she leans a feverish forehead to the cold wall. She doesn't want it to be like this. She doesn't want to hide. She doesn't want to be here.
Her little body is shivering from cold and fear and something else - the slippery and stifling feeling of guilt. Of betrayal. Her mom needs help, but she doesn't dare come out from her hiding place. Even if she did, what could she do? - That’s her daddy there. He loves her, he plays horsey with her, he tickles her, he makes her breakfast, he's the best daddy in the world.
But why, why, why? She crumbles to the cold tile floor, curls up and prays that this is just some game for adults, that they are just pretending, and this never really happened.
But the following night it happens again. And the next. And the next.
Her father is charming and well-liked by everyone. He is intelligent, polite, generous, open-minded and sharp-witted.
Her mother is so beautiful, so exquisite and delicate, that she doesn't even dare to hug her tight. They are the best-looking couple in the world. No one would believe that her daddy turns into this monster every night, that he slams her mom in the walls, and his warm and careful hands are in tight fists, swinging at her.
Every night she grows more into the bathroom tiles, buried under the suffocating weight of guilt and betrayal. She now knows what these words mean, they mean her.
During the day her parents are completely different. She has long looked for an explanation, for a reason, but she cannot find one. She cannot fathom what her mom does to make her dad so mad. It must not be the mom then, it must be her. But no matter how she tries to be good, nothing changes. The excellent marks at school, the tidy room, and the presents she gives dad- nothing helps.
She's terrified of him. She doesn't believe that he loves her anymore. She doesn't want to play, she doesn't want him to tickle her, to touch her. She doesn't want to be here. She doesn't trust anyone. She doesn't trust her mom, who denies everything. One day she mustered all the courage she could find, scrapped strength from her shivering thoughts, frightened heart and guilty veins, and told everything to their family friend. Then hid, while the two women were talking. And her mom denied everything. She said, laughing, that it's was just childish tall tales. But she heard it there, in her mom’s voice, she recognized this artificial nervous laughter. Why did she deny it? Wasn't she hurt by his punches, by slamming into the wall, did she enjoy the bruises, carefully hidden under the clothes; didn't she teach her to always tell the truth? Her little head could not fit in all the questions and the possible answers. She felt numb and useless. She wrapped her heart in shiny tinfoil, its beat, and its pain could not be felt anymore, and the reality could not get in, it got reflected away. She was empty inside.
Twenty years later. She is not present in her body, in her mind, in the words that she can hear herself say. She knows they are ugly, she knows the hatred spewing from her eyes, she knows her words are landing like knives in him, and then somehow hurting her even more. She is in pain too, but she doesn't know how to stop. The tinfoil has long penetrated her heart, and she can feel metal spikes in her blood.
His kind eyes are burning with perplexity, he tries to calm her, but that enrages her more.
She hurls insults and accusations at him. A small part of her wants to tear away and to hug him, to explain, to apologize and plead for forgiveness.
But that part is so small, on the cold tile floor in that far away bathroom, she doesn't know how to get out and fight to be heard. The present her, she is merciless. She cuts and slices with words, she humiliates, she stomps on his dignity, she blots the last sparkles in his eyes, she taunts him, she meticulously annihilates the last signs of his pride. He is squirming under her assault. The struggle between his ego and his love for her is peaking in his bulging veins, in his tight fists, any moment, and she'll win. Just one more cruel word, and he'll swing at her. She's been waiting for this moment for seven years now. To hurt him till he fades away, till he loses himself, till he is helpless. To enrage him so much, that he has to come out of this kind and warm pretendance and finally hit her.
Like all the men do.
He just needs a little time. She can wait. She can show him why she doesn't trust him, why she cannot accept to marry him, why she'll never be his. Because he'll hit her. There's no way he won't. It's stronger than the image he has built and hidden behind. All men do it. There, he is rising up slowly. She can feel his anger, burning threateningly hot. She keeps on throwing taunts. His eyes are blurred with pain, indignation, fatigue, and helplessness. He raises a fist. She freezes, expecting the blow, the way her mom did. His hand misses her and lands on the wall. Pieces of the paint quietly crumble to the floor under the deafening sound of cracked bones.
- Don't you understand I'll never hit you? - reaches his voice, raw with pain.
She realizes she is the abuser now.
The original version in Bulgarian you can read here.