Whiplash

I watch you when you stare into space and very often, I don't know whether you're thinking or counting the tiles on the floor. You say that pain is nature's way of letting you know you're alive and I say, "But eventually you get numb and don't feel anything at all."

You shake your head at me and take some pills—blue ones you keep in your bathroom cabinet. You tell me to mop the floor and I do. And when the cats come in and track mud all over the place, I don't curse or yell. I mop the floor again and try to ignore the blisters on my hands. You tell me to cook dinner—anything I want because you won't be eating.

You dress yourself up and leave the house, telling me you'll be back before twelve. I wait for you and wait for you. It's past three in the morning and you're still not here. But I'm not worried because this is nothing new. Finally, you stumble through the door. A sour stench permeates off you and your eyes look around the room crazily. You are on the arm of a strange man. He has long hair and a stubbly chin, and a thick throaty laugh. He tells you dirty jokes and guffaws at them more than you do.

You lie to him—tell him you're twenty-six and I'm your little sister. When he offers you pot you accept it, and then you take him into your room without saying anything to me, and I go to bed because I'm tired.

I lay on the sheets, still in my clothes. I look at the ceiling and paint pictures on it in my head while trying to block out the sounds of your bed creaking and your strange man groaning. But I can't, I can't, I can't. You tell him you want him—you have to have all of him—and you laugh when he gives it to you. I like hearing you happy but sometimes I wonder, Were you like this with Daddy?

I hate to admit it, but I'm jealous of you.

Morning comes. You've gone to work but your strange man is asleep on the bed. He doesn't snore. He doesn't make a sound. I walk into your room and stare at him, counting his breaths, pondering his dreams. I decide that he is lovely in his own way—thirty something for sure, unshaven, and quite filthy. But angelic with an angular face and tousled hair.

I rummage through your closet, feeling deliciously naughty, knowing what you'd do if you saw me. I find a silky pink little number and put it on. It hangs past my knees and the spaghetti straps are too long, almost revealing my mosquito bite breasts. I cover my lips with rouge and my eyelids with light green, and I puff pink powder onto my cheeks. I put a CD in the stereo you keep in your room and turn it up high. A sex song—a slow one sung by a man with a deep voice—comes on. Your man wakes up, confused and irritable. He doesn't even know my name. You never told him.

He asks what the hell I'm doing and I smile at him mysteriously and tell him I'm going to rock his world. I call him "Daddy" and ask him if he's proud of his gorgeous little girl. I turn around and shake my hips, slowly. I pull up the hem of my dress to show off my panties. He looks at me with a mixed expression of disgust. "There's something wrong with you, kid." I get onto your bed and crawl towards him. I straddle him like a horse and suck on my fingers seductively. "You're sick, child. You need a fucking doctor." I lean in and kiss him on the mouth. It's a long, deep kiss. It's fire and ice. It's a bombshell, and it's a gentle rain.

He's not impressed. "Get off of me!" I look at him with an innocent face of genuine wonder. "What did I do wrong, Daddy?" I ask him. He throws me off the bed and yells at me to get dressed and leave. I sit on the floor and cry, not because I hit my head on the nightstand or because my leg is twisted behind me, but because the spark is gone. The excitement. The fire. It's diminished. He orders me to stop crying, and when I don't he threatens to slap me.

He starts to get off your bed and move towards me. That's when I bolt up and dart for the bathroom. I change my clothes, wipe the make-up off my face, and stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks. Before I leave, I take a handful of your blue pills out of the cabinet. He's going to tell you. I know he is. He's going to tell you that your 12-year-old daughter came onto him, and then he's going to ask what's wrong with me. You're going to call me a slut and a pathetic little bitch who makes you sick, and you'll make me crumble under red-hot blows of rage and then leave me to wallow in blood and bruises. I can't let that happen. You're the one person I want to please. I hate you, yet I love you. I wanted to hurt you, yet I never could.

I swallow the pills, one by one, and then walk out of the bathroom. I don't even glance at your strange man. I wobble back to my room, my leg throbbing in shooting darts of pain, and I close the door. You won't be home for several hours. By that time, I won't be here anymore. I'll be flying. I'll be soaring. I won't have to worry about pain because I'll be numb. I'll no longer have to mop floors two times a day or watch you observe space, or hear you tell strange men you need them while I ponder about whether you loved Daddy. I'll be somewhere else. Where exactly, I don't know. But some place where I don't constantly have whiplash.

I have to admit, I was a bit jealous of you. That's the only thing I was ever sure of.