It didn’t take long to get used to faking a smile or laugh. I’ve forgotten how it feels to be happy. How it feels to smile without a centimeter of sadness or shame. I was able to fool everyone around me. I applauded myself for that small accomplishment.
My uncle, my mother’s brother, was a short, slightly thin man who had the most vivacious personality. He could walk in the room with a huge smile and everyone would lighten up. I admired his strength and his love towards his dying wife.
She was diagnosed with cancer and her death was well predicted by herself and everyone around her. She would make multiple visits to the hospital and with each visit, her life expenctancy slowly decreased. Her long, wavy, black hair was completely gone; she would wrap her head with a colorful head wrap. Her caramel-like skin drastically lost its color; transforming into a pale-like tone. Dark, purple circles dwelled under her eyes. Her lips chipped, cracked and dried. Her life was slowly slipping from her grasp, and she still smiled everytime I saw her. She still forced herself to function, even though death was waiting, she embraced life as if every day was her last.
The days that my uncle’s wife spent at the hospital, he would spend it with us.
I convinced myself that he was lonely without her. Who wouldn’t be? Seeing someone slowly die in front of you isn’t something easy.
My uncle and my father would spent hours talking and laughing. Every now and then, during their talks, my uncle would glance over to me and smile. His smile was different during those three second. I was overwhelmed with the same feelings when I saw my grandfather smile at me.
One day during spring time, my uncle came over and knocked on our front door. My parents walked outside and greeted him. I followed them and heard my uncle ask my mother if I could accompany him to the hospital since he needed an English translator. In my mind, I thought it was a bit odd since they have bilingual employees in the hospital. My mother gave a quick response, “Yeah. Sure! ” She looked down at me and smiled. I janked my mother’s arm and shook my head, rejecting her response, “I don’t want to.” I grabbed on to the end of my light blue dress.
That day I chose to wear my favorite light blue, power puff girl dress. I fell in love with that dress, mainly because it had my favorite cartoon characters; Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. The dress had two thin straps that folded over my shoulders and small flares at the bottom. With the Texas heat boiling us alive, the dress kept me cool and fashionable at the same time.
My mother stared at me and her look was enough to tell me that I was going. I walked towards my uncle’s black, four door truck. He grabbed my waist and helped me get on the back seat of the truck. I will never forget the smile he gave me as ge closed the door. I latched my seat belt and he began to drive. It took about thirty minutes to arrive to the hospital. My uncle decided to park away from other vehicles. I took of my seat belt and placed my hand on the door latch. My uncle turned off the car and looked at me, “Wait. Not yet.” He climbed over the seat and sat next to me. He places his hand on my thigh and smiled, “Let’s play a game. Don’t tell anyone. It’s between you and me.”
My heart sunk. I couldn’t decide whether I should do as he said or run out the door. Before I could come up with some sort of logical reasoning, my body moved on its own. My uncle was already on top of me. His pants down to his knees and my panties completely removed. I squeezed my dress as he pushed and groaned. The Texas heat was becoming overwhelming. It was hard to breath. I couldn’t think of anything, except one thing I should have worn jeans.
When he finished with me, he pull up his pants and climbed over the seat. He buckled his belt, inserted the keys in the ignition and started the engine. “Hurry up and get dressed.” My body slowly moved. My legs couldn’t stop shaking. I found my panties on the floor. As I was picking it up, I noticed my hand trembling. My vision blurred. I had to fight back the tears and so I did. I slid my panties on, fixed my dress, and tamed my frizzy, curly hair. Instead of visiting his wife, my uncle drove away. I buckled my belt and this strange thought devoured me as I saw the hospital disappear behind us His wife. How could I do that to her? I’m disgusting.
My uncle drove me back to the house. My mother helped me get down, but I almost collapsed as soon as my legs touched the concrete floor.
My legs were still shaking. “Are you okay mija?” My mother rubbed my arms, her worried eyes tore me inside.
“Yeah. I think my legs fell asleep.” I pulled myself together and jumped up and down.
She smiled and hugged me, “I’m so proud of you. You know your aunt is happy that you are helping.” I smiled and ran inside.
I ran to my room. I couldn’t scream on the pillows or sheets. The images of my father almost made me gag. I stood in front of my door. I looked at my tiny hands and my trembling legs. I didn’t feel like a normal eight year old girl. I felt dirty.
The night quickly replaced the day. I realized I was still in my room. I didn’t wan to eat. I didn’t want be around anyone.
I can’t add another mask to my collection.
I had one more dreadful encounter with my uncle after that first day. He used the same routine as last time and I was forced to agree. They didn’t know what was happening. My mother was ignorant. Oblivious.
I wonder…did my father know? Was he the one who told my uncle?
I couldn’t bare the silence. I couldn’t handle the filth that devoured my body. Disgusting.
So, I decided to confess.
Confess my secret. To break the silence.