The silence splinters as I hear a door slam on the other side of wall. I look up, frustration knotting my face. “What now 13?!” I ask, my voice instantly going higher, louder.
My shrillness is met by the full strength and pitch of an newly adolescent girl-woman, matching my words, my tone, beat by beat. “What do you care,” she snarls back at me, hands on her developed hips. “You only care about 8 anyway.”
The raised voices send 8 scurrying toward a corner, retreating back into a thick book, burying herself in invisibility.
I stare back at 13, trying to find words to dispute the argument, but they don’t come. She has a point. After all, 8 is relatively so small, so tender, her victim status unquestionable.
“Do you even know about me? Do you even remember about me? Do you evencare?!” She shrieks, the pitch higher with each question.
“13, I do care about you. You are special.” I try to sooth her rage, but the words sound trite against her brittle defenses.
“So what if I’m not little. Do you think I wanted to have boobies at 8 years old? To have my P-E-R-I-O-D at 9? Do you think I like looking like this?!”
I look her over, trying to see her without the buildup of animosity. I see her body, developed, womanly, including over-sized breasts and hips, gone is “baby fat,” but replaced with “pleasingly plump.” She is an emotional, ordinary teenage girl, but trapped in a woman’s body, complete with a “mature” hairdo, courtesy of our mother.
“I’m not a whore you know,” she growls at me. “Just because that guy made me get in his truck, and gave me $20 after he touched my tits, does not mean I’m a whore.”
“I know. I never said you were,” my voice soft, trying to ease her tension.
Continuing on her diatribe, the words tumble out. “I didn’t want him to touch me. I didn’t. I don’t even like it when they look at me, especially that way.”
Her full lips start to tremble, her veneer crumbling. I move closer to her, not quite touching her, but trying to let her feel my love for her.
“I’m not a bad girl, you know. I’m not a slut. Why did the stupid doctor have to ask if I am sexually active.” I nod, recognizing the point of her shame. “I didn’t know how to answer him,” 13 sputters. “Yes, I am, but not because I am trying to be, want to be. Why does it have to count against me? Why can’t I just say no I’m not?
“I know it feels good sometimes, sorta, but I don’t want it. But I guess I am a dirty girl. Even my friends must know. Did you see that poster I got for my birthday?Why cucumbers are better,” she relates with a sneer, then regains her gusto.
“If they only knew. I didn’t want the baby sitter’s son’s dick in my ass. I don’t like having to feel grandpa stab and paw at me, when I’m just trying to enjoy fishing with my dad or visiting Grandma. They’re right! At least cucumbers don’t hurt!”
“No honey, it’s not all about hurt and pain. There’s love and being loved,” I gently try to remind her.
Her eyes soften slightly, remembering the magic of a newly ignited relationship, her first. I watch her face release their clamp across her forehead, as she thinks of the sweet words she’s shared with a redhead 17 year old. He’s called her beautiful, special, gorgeous, says she makes him happy. And 13, for moments at a time, almost believes him, and believes he isn’t saying it to hurt her, to use her.
But just as quickly, her face slams shut again. “Love doesn’t matter. I’m just dirty, and no good for someone that is looking for someone Christ-like, for someone that cares so much about church. Besides, he can’t take me to his church without them knowing what I am, what I do. And I can’t be a virgin bride to him, and I know it matters, so why do I even bother?”
She stands rigidly before me, her energy spent on her tirade, leaving me in the wake speechless. What words will help her believe that she is worthy of love and respect, in everyone’s eyes, including God … and, most importantly, her own?
I am grateful she has fight in her, but the rage frightens me, sends away those around us, especially those tender hearted enough to care. I only hope that she puts the bonfire out, before it leaves her in ashes. My small bucket of water, mostly culled from my tears, has not been enough to keep it from spreading.
The only words I find my embrace delivers into her body like a verbal tattoo, “You are good … and good enough.”
I sit back, and watch for the anti-venom to take effect. And, I wait. And, I hope.