It was monstrous.
A crack I could feel to the top of my skull, to the back of my throat, so deep it rattled my spine. A crack that shivered down through my hip bones and vibrated the bottom of my feet – like that cheap foot massager Mom never used after Mothers’ Day.
Being so young, I didn’t know to be hurt by its hiding place in the closet.
Oh the hurting was now, not hiding. It was now now and time thinned out to infinity and I knew – at once, in the place where your body grasps first what your brain hasn’t – the CRACK would become my permanent passenger. It would stay long after the foot massager, long after my being young, long after the infinity of the drop ceiling I stared at while it all happened.
Now I have CDs. I have a small Ugly Doll I squeeze in my hand like a rope tethering my mind to the top of an ungodly-tall mountain. I have “The Nose,” as Diane calls it. I feel sick and woozy and stupid the entire day after, sometimes the next – and even then, none of it matters. None of it matters because 25 years later, the CRACK is still with me.
“Stop crying,” he snapped. “Don’t be a baby. You shouldn’t be crying.”
I wanted to tell him I wasn’t – I wasn’t a baby – I wasn’t crying – that these tears were just trickling into my ears without permission. But of course I said nothing.
The hissss of the machine and my chest compacted, shrank two sizes too small, like the Grinch. I remember thinking, Why are you thinking about the Grinch when someone is killing you? And then, why are you questioning what you’re thinking about when someone is killing you?
He reached back in, his grossly thick fingers prodding, stabbing. They felt huge, like sausages, like hot dogs soaked in blood. He touched the CRACK and I seized and knew I’d throw up soon. I’d throw up or die.
I gagged, and disgusted, he yanked out his fingers.
“Stop it,” he demanded. “Just stop.”
How many times was this?, I wondered. Six? Seven? Was he even getting tired?
He put the metal inside me again, his knee on my chest.
“Once this is done, you’ll never have to do it again,” Mom had promised.
I’d only wanted to be beautiful. So young, and I’d only wanted to be beautiful. Staring at the ceiling, the bone of his knee where my breasts would be, I thought it couldn’t be worth it.
I still don’t know if it was worth it.
Afterward, he led me to my mother and bragged, “We got all eight teeth out. A month to heal, and she’ll be ready for the braces.”
“Thank you!” Mom beamed, while gauze-stuffed I gazed down at her old, tired feet.
He added, “That last tooth was trouble, though.”
“It snapped off in her jaw,” he laughed.