CW: child abuse
We should have told Mother that Father touched us. That he said you are mine. That he put his fingers inside; one, two, three, four. That he slapped us when blood trickled. That he rapped his head on our wall, his fingers drawing bloodied circles that haunt us. Those fingers that hurt us. That when he knelt to receive the Holy Communion and his tears shook his frame, we wondered if today was the day he would burst into flames.
We should have told Mother that our legs started to run and we have not stopped. That when we found resting places between legs, we kept our shoes on. That when their mouths said fuck/this is so good/you are so beautiful/I want to die in your arms/you affect me, we swallowed our throat. And their hands made soup or tea or bought us our own toothbrush, so we said amin/amen/oh god, dusted the shoes we never took off and started running again.
We would have told Mother how we splintered in our body, like broken fragments of glass on the front pavement. How we are unable to stuff all of it back in, how we can’t put it back together. How this part wants no part of that part and now we are all apart but still one. Mother, was this what you felt, these many parts, parting? Tugging in a war inside you?
We should have told Mother that when the night swooped low and pressed into our chests, we folded clothes. Scrubbed corners of the room. Painted the walls white. Knocked our head on the knob. Tasted ash. Tested apache. And when the doctor pushed us a packet and claimed: this will make you feel better/this will put you to sleep; we flushed them down the toilet, pill by pill.
We should have told Mother that we took her face. Her too-small face. Her baritone and stretch marks. Her love for tea and shoes with buckles. The running. We should tell Mother that the mirror is starting to look back. We don’t know whether to stay. Should we come, Mother? Should we come too?
Ayotola Tehingbola is a Nigerian graduate student in Creative Writing at Boise State University, Idaho. Her cache of drafts is of traumatic or political fiction and photo essays. Her work is forthcoming in Passages North in Spring ’23.
Photography by: Ban Yido