Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Difference

Something I wrote for Tania's class.
From the POV of a family member.
I walk into the bedroom to find her in front of the full-length mirror with the soft mahogany sides .  Gripping the edges, her little moon-shaped fingernail imprints decorate the wood.  She leans in close, nose touching the surface, breath fogging the glass.

“Hey, Katie-did,” I greet her.  “Whatcha lookin’ at?”

She giggles—she laughs at everything—and turns to me.  “My eyes,” she says.  She turns back quickly, nose to the mirror again.

I change out of my uniform and pull on a pair of linen pajamas I’ve had since I was nineteen.  The holes in the knees are familiar; the cuffs are a few inches too short.  I remember that Katie’s overalls are also too small—she shot up like a weed—and I turn to her again, but my body is frozen.

She sits quietly, Indian-style, her arms up, exposing her little pot-belly under the Spottie Dottie top we got for her fourth birthday.  Her forefingers and thumbs nimbly stretch her beautiful almond eyes open, her dark pupils floating in white circles.  Stretched as far as they can go, far from the curved eyes we have called lovely since the day she arrived on the plane with her daddy, her new daddy.

I want to do something.  I want to say something.  Anything.  My mouth, hands, are all grasping for words, coming up empty.  She doesn’t understand what she’s doing, or how it’s making my heart feel like it’s stuck in my throat.  Her world is Sanrio-colored and full of sunshine.

She’s going to start school soon; people will ask her why we look so different. They will ask her why her eyes are so small, and why her brother doesn’t have the same eyes.  She will say it like a script; that she has a unique family, that she is adopted from Korea, which is a seventeen-hour plane ride away, that she landed here to be with her family.  They will ask her where her real mom and dad are.  She will point to my husband and me; no one will believe her.

Some days she will come home crying; I’ll learn along the way that, just like in this moment, I can’t do much of anything but exist, and braid her hair, and pray that one day it won’t hurt as much.   She will end up attempting to destroy herself; I’ll blame myself for not doing more, and the fact that she doesn’t believe in God.  One day, she will look in the mirror in her own place, on her own time, and in her own way, learn to see herself the way that I see her.

But now, I sit in silence, looking at her, waiting; she’ll grow tired of this soon.  We’ll go downstairs, and she’ll put barrettes from the red paisley tin in my hair, and she’ll forget for a moment that my blonde is so different from her black.

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