The Magic Jaw

“I can’t tell you why you shoulda’ known it, sensitive kid start acting like a grown up”

Cold War Kids

“You were such a little brat as a child, I hated having to deal with you. You have grown so much since then!”

Adults of my past went to such great lengths to ensure I was aware of how they felt about my younger self the moment I hit twenty, which I assume is the official age where your child self and your adult self automatically sever ties forever, or at least it was for me based on the generalized assumption. I have laughed, grinned, and waved this off as a silly comment and accepted it as the “compliment” it was meant to be because breaking into tears would suddenly make me an overly dramatic victim. “Be quiet, little girl and take the nice compliment,” I would tell myself, “you made it!”

Since then, I find moments where I dwell in it. I cry. I hurt for that little girl who kept trying to not just be seen as the obnoxious child/adolescent/teen in the adults’ way but a child raising red flag after red flag just to be ignored and labeled. They are moments I carry because I can never try again and will always remain someone’s historical stain and a failure. Why go to such trouble to tell someone that that they were neither loved nor cared about as the unwanted negro child inside their children’s realm? What was the intent? Why could it not be, “You know, you were a tough kid to deal with, what was happening to you at home that made you that way?”

This is my first chapter excerpt posting. This is dedicated to them –

~

I must have been five or six years old when it happened, a relatively cloudy day, however, the weather was clear enough that a trip to a popular, local park playground became a part of that day’s agenda. I loved the swings. Feeling like air itself, rushing around you, within you, through you - this was THE playground high that everyone should experience at least once.
In a moment of immature and childish passion, when it was time to journey home, my lips burst into a fit of raspberries towards my mother in retort to her request for us to prepare, my feet preoccupied, whooshing through the air in front of me. A second request would be met with the same response, and the third request included a threat that, at the time, felt empty.
“One more time, and I am telling your father”.
I challenged this with a fit of giggles and another blow of raspberries, not understanding the true consequence of what was to come. I was too young and ignorant of the timeless scenario of cause and effect at that point and how it would end up playing out in real life…for us at least.
It’s not an uncommon threat, I’ve learned, while growing up around other families. Moms have the tough job of keeping our asses in check and the stress of carrying out each necessary punishment to ensure we grow up as proper human beings is not the “dream” part of the job. To expect them to do it alone is a call on a feat of champions.
It was a relatively cloudy day, and my fate was sealed.
Later that day, my father would return home from work and the news of my disobedience would be delivered. To this day, I am not aware of how that conversation went, but swiftly, it would be received, and before I knew it, I was being summoned for questioning to the dining room table.
There he sat, arms crossed over his chest, expressionless he stared directly into my eyes, my mother standing to the side, waiting for his verdict. “Come here”, he whispered as I inched with the slowest precision, the feet between us drawing less and less. “Did you spit at your mother today?” The words still echo inside of my mind to this day, calm and cool, as if discussing the weather, but the expressionless face is what left me hollow. I finally reached him and looked down at the tile floor.
“Look at me when I talk to you. Did you spit at your mother?” he said again. I blinked rapidly back and forth between the two of them standing before me and finally managed a choked up, guilty “Yes” and felt hot tears welling behind my eyes. I knew I had done wrong.
Before I felt my tears release, however, a loud “CRACK!” would fill up my eyes, my ears, my skull; my entire head was ringing. I remember seeing darkness and then seeing stars before I understood what the term “seeing stars” meant. Suddenly, the ringing in my ears was slowly and eerily replaced by my father’s voice, his volume now raised to a violent, angry yell. The room came into focus and pain had filled up the area around my jaw. I could not move it open to speak. My father had just back handed me with the full weight of his fist, sending my jaw out of place, and I could feel it.
Once the yelling ceased and I was sent to my room until dinner, the real pain began to set and the next few days would be spent trying to convince two non-perplexed parental units that something was not right, and my jaw was “wrong” or “crooked”.
“Drama queen”, “over-exaggerator”, and “over-reactor” would be used throughout my youth to describe any matter of ailments or injuries I would sustain from my father and this one was no different. If it isn’t broken and there is no fever, it doesn’t exist. This moment was the beginning blueprint of how the law would be laid down in our household.
I am a thirty-something year old woman and my jaw still clicks and falls out of place in the direction I was punched. My teens would later be spent convincing myself that I had a “magic jaw” as I was able to crack every joint in my body…even my jaw.

~

Everyone has a story, even small children. They remember, they scar, and they carry, sometimes for the rest of their lives, just like you.

Whether you choose to ignore it or choose to listen is up to you.

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