Saturday, June 19, 2010


Oh the unfathomable power of hands:  hands gentle to the touch, or brisk hands, capable, but lacking in human warmth. Sadistic hands quickened to impart evil.

In my stepdad’s hands with the words Hold Tight tattooed above the knuckles, the avocado, much coveted by my 5 siblings and I,   becomes an obscenity, the obscenity of things proffered but always held laughingly out of reach, like the proverbial carrot dangled in front of the donkey’s nose. How apt a comparison, for we are asses if we think that this time will be any different, that this time some appeal to his better nature will inspire in him a sense of fair play. 

My eyes are riveted to the fruit, amazed at the delicacy with which he performs its denuding. Already my mouth salivates in anticipation, though I should know by now the outcome of his sadistic little ritual. At 15 I know better (surely I do!) than to hope for any sign of generosity on his part. Still, I can’t stop my taste buds from yearning for the velvety texture of the avocado whose taste is so subtle as to be nearly non-existent.

The room is hushed as the last of the bark like skin lies on his plate. He holds his treasure in his big paws, winking at us with his small-set eyes. There is pleasure in that look, a pleasure riddled with sadistic triumph. Something in the way his thumbs caress the avocado turns my wanting into shame. I swallow hard, steeling myself from all desire. He wants me to ache with hunger, and so I won’t. Wants to see the naked desire in my eyes so that he can experience the power of withholding.

I turn my head away from his smirk and stare out the sliding glass door at my backyard fort, longing to climb into its loving embrace and curl up into myself.

Though the stepdad’s strip-teasing of the avocado is meant for my younger siblings as well as myself, I know instinctively that its symbolism is directed toward me, the red-headed stepchild. A deep shame wrenches my heart as something about the motion of his hand as he places the naked fruit on a saucer stirs up an unwanted realization: I have been that avocado, peeled, exposed, gaped at—lusted after.

Next to my step dad in his Fruit-of-the-Looms, my mother sits tense, her hair in pink plastic rollers. Her eyeglasses are pointy at the corners in the popular butterfly fashion, giving her a perpetually startled look. She wears a homemade muu-muu and flip flops, her stolid legs bare. A frown creases her forehead as she leans slightly forward, her eyes avoiding mine.

I am kneeling across from them on the other side of our marble coffee table, my youngest sister in my lap. My other 4 younger siblings are hunched around the cool marble table in varying degrees of tension; I can almost hear them drool.

My eyes stare trance like at the stepdad’s hands. How precisely his hands performed their task, how deliberate their torture, a crucial aspect of this inane ritual we’ve come to know and dread. My little brother releases a wistful sigh and, from the corner of my eye, I catch the pointed look Mom directs his way.

I lift my gaze to the sardonic smile twisting the corners of my step dad’s mouth. How he relishes dragging out the suspense! My armpits feel sticky. A surge of anger rises in my chest, and I hug my sister fiercely in a surge of protectiveness. I can bear disappointment better than these little ones who forget, from one miserable episode to the next, how it will most likely turn out. Why can’t he just–for once–be human and divvy it up between them?

My youngest brother smiles dazedly at the avocado, and I wince, seeing the step dad take note of the degree of his desire. Our eyes meet and in his I read the mocking turn of his thoughts. What he sees in mine I have no idea, and it doesn’t bear contemplating. I give him (what I hope to be) a cool look before averting my gaze. I’ve steeled myself against all desire, I want to say, and if you offered me the avocado now I wouldn’t take it even if it meant being banished to my room for 3 weeks.

“For crying out loud, honey,” Mom says at last, exasperated. “Let’s get this over with.”

The step dad smirks, and smiles broadly at my youngest brother. “Want half?” he asks. My brother nods, his entire face lit up with expectation before it crumples with disappointment as the King of the Mountain gloats, “Too bad! It’s Doreen's turn!” He hands her half, and the rest of us avoid eye contact in the manner of strangers who have witnessed brutality and are uncomfortable with the weight of collective memory.

My sister gulps down her half of the avocado before it can be snatched away from her. Suddenly my step dad is all irritation and snaps at my mother, “Get these damn kids to bed! What are they doing still up?”

As Mom rises to do as she’s told, our eyes meet for a split second. I can read her warning look plain as day: “Don’t rock the boat, just get out of his hair and let him be.”

And I do. I get out of his bristly hair and carry my youngest sister to her room, gently tucking her into bed with tears stinging my eyes. In the privacy of my own room, snuggled under the covers, my emotions are a tangled mess of shot down desire and frayed nerves. If I have learned nothing else in the past 8 years under this tyrannical regime, I’ve learned the folly of desire and the uselessness of emotions.
And I am poised on the brink of escape, I just don’t know it yet.

My abuser's hands are not the end of the story. Not by a long shot! I know of other, compassionate hands, pierced for my sins, and by whose piercings my wounds are healed. To those who imagine they've been forgotten by the Lord comes the timeless assurance, "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands." No man made tattoo here of needle and ink, which may fade with time.

The Lord's hands: scarred with love, more powerful than any feeble attempts to snatch us out of the grasp of the Almighty. Though I struggle in the aftermath of my step dad's despicable deeds and influence, His word assures me that no power on earth is capable of snatching me out of the safety of my Saviour's hands.

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me . . . and no one is able to snatch them out of my hands."

1 comment :

  1. Again, its hard to say anything that wouldn't detract from the power of this writing. Thanks so much for sharing so eloquently.


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