“Why do you bully?”
She’d been taught to stare like that. She’d copied another school counsellor’s stone like gaze, the ruler-measured line of her lips. I stared back at her in the same way. She was a statue – almost. Aside from our breaths, mine faster than hers; she moved her fingers, nails drumming against the table Slowly, as if the sounds were different and each needed to be heard. My mother did that.
She’d do it right before she opened her mouth. It was an introduction, a way of leading me into the insults, softening my fall. She’d feel my body tense, my skin harden. Idiot, liar, good for nothing. She’d pace around the kitchen and drum her nails on the knives as if they were rose petals. Her pupils were bullets and I was not immortal. Her yells pierced my ears – they never became familiar. Worthless, pointless. They hurt. They stung like injections at a doctor’s office, when the needle doesn’t hurt as much as the nurse’s lies. My mother’s shouts wouldn’t crack glass, but shatter it until the pieces resembled nothing other than disappointment – what I’d become to her. I regret you.
I hear snippets of her in my voice. The insults I hand out are mirror reflections of her, likes replaying tapes of my evenings.
“Well?” The counsellor’s robotic voice became a melody, more comforting than any I’d ever known.
“It’s the only thing I know how to do.”