She could feel her heartbeat in her ears and her panting was masking the noise of the traffic, her eyes filled with water, she was running blindly, trying to find an escape. Maybe he had stopped chasing her? She looked behind her and her heart sank while terror engulfed her. He was still behind her, determined as ever. His look was angry, pure rage, he was angry she was escaping him, he would make her pay for that. There was no solution, she had to escape, but go where? There was nowhere to go. No one to save her. She was alone. She kept running with all the strength of her delicate feet, bumping into parked cars, crying and screaming, in hope someone, somehow would save her, but no one was hearing, and no one was coming. She suddenly saw an opening and she crawled, sheer terror in her eyes, trembling, peeing herself almost. Under the table, hiding amongst the thin, shaved legs, she felt that maybe, she would be invisible. She heard laughter. “Come out! Nothing is going to happen to you” Oh how she wanted to believe that, but they didn't know. They couldn't know. She saw the furry eyebrows, the anger, that look only animals have when they are about to jump, oblivious to any other feeling but hunger. The women kept enticing her and some perfumed hands tried to lure her out. She knew the table was not a safe place anyway, but maybe these nice ladies would be shield and shelter enough, maybe witnesses were the invisible cape that would take her to that place now, out of his reach. She tentatively looked at her mothers hand, she was still shaking, and moaning of fear, and she knew her mother was too weak, but the other women kept calling her, like Sirens in the sea, and she grabbed the most elegant one, with a blue sapphire ring and bracelets that chimed around the delicate wrist.
This is the last thing she remembers. First she heard the screams. Her mothers, begging him. Than she saw her mothers body on the floor, and the legs scattered like doves startled by a hunters rifle. She felt yanked from that hand with the beautiful blue ring that scratched her hand, but she didn't feel it, because the burn in her shoulder masked every other feeling, even her head hitting under the wooden table. She remembers her terror and her mouth opening to scream but no sound ever came out. She knew this was it, she would die. She was thrown over his shoulder and she lifted her little hands to grasp someone, something, that would take her to safety, away from the darkness and the despair that was swallowing her alive.
He dropped her on her tiny bed , and she tried to escape, crawling and falling on the floor. He dragged her and put her head between his thighs. She felt trapped, she tried to wiggle herself out, she heard a crack in her neck so she stood still, waiting. She could not hear well and the sound of her heart and breathing was the only sounds coming to her. Her thoughts were maddening… Why am I standing on my hands and knees, what will he do to me? And then, between his rant and yelling and her mothers crying and begging, she felt it. The sting of the flesh, and the pain in her back. She started crying and begging him to stop, but he wouldn't. He kept hitting her on her back and buttocks, randomly, with all his might, again and again and again. Surely he would stop now? Again, and again, and then she realized, he was not going to stop because he was letting go, he was taking out on her everything he had inside. It was not about her learning a lesson, it was about him, on a rage mode. She would die. She is dying. She stopped fighting and her limbs went soft. He still went on hitting, oblivious of the fact that his child\s soul had left that room. She doesn't know how long it lasted, but at some point her terrorized soul came back in her body. She had no tears anymore, she could hardly breathe, his legs had almost choked her. She could not move her legs, she fell right were he released her, her head dangling outside the bed, her breathing a small noise, like a cat with a cold. He finally set her free and her mother came crying next to her.
“I told you not to cross him” she would cry and somehow making it more about her than her daughters pain and terror. Making it about something she must have done. The little girl was not moving. She felt empty. She was struggling to breathe. She was trying to remember how it all started. What triggered it. Oh, yes… her mother had friends coming over so she urged her father to take the child away. He was going to a dirty garage where there were no chairs to sit on, just mechanic oil on the floor, screws and tools. But it was dads best friend and they used to play backgammon together.
After arguing about who would be burdened, she followed her father and tried to be as quiet as possible. She had 8 drachma in her pocket. A bag of balloons were 10.She was bored so she asked her dad for 2 dr but he ignored her and kept playing with his friend. She asked again, but it was like she didn't exist. She didn't dare ask a third time. She turned around, wandered inside the garage, where a car was lifted, ready to spill its guts to the expert hands of the technicians. She dragged her feet. Her shoes had tar and oil from the floor, so she picked up a dirty rag to wipe them. She saw a shadow and recognized the boy that was doing his practice there. He must have been around 16 years old, a gentle village boy that always smiled and brought coffee to visitors. He smiled at her as he passed by, and she had the idea, as usually 9 year old innocently thinks, to ask him for the 2 dr she was missing. He smiled and gave them to her with no hesitation and she went outside to buy the balloons. Not that it was a great game, after all she was 9 now and not a baby, but it would give her something to occupy herself with. She went back in the garage, blowing a red balloon in her mouth when her father acknowledged her presence. “How did you get those balloons?” he asked menacingly and she was surprised he had paid attention. But most importantly, from his tone, she knew she had done something wrong but had no idea what. So she started stepping back. And lied. “They were cheaper”
Her heart leaped in her chest as he stood up screaming “liar!”, sending the backgammon on his friend’s lap. The man and the boy tried to calm him down, and for a second she hesitated. Maybe it would be alright… maybe he would not hurt her, but her hopes disappeared as she saw him pushing them both and running after her. She knew that look, she knew how mad he got and how he would probably slap her or kick her and she hoped he would give up running after her. But he ran after her for 5 blocks, each meter adding to his determination and rage, that exploded on her back, leaving it raw, tender, and damaged, destroying in the process her soul, trust and love for him, her sense of belonging, and the nurture and kindness she craved for the rest of her life trying to find it in lovers, in friends, in every male she met, a proof that some men are good to their children, their wives. It was not just a fairy tale in the movies. She could find someone to feel safe with. But for now, she was 9, terrified, and she knew there was no one for her, she knew, she was alone. No one could save her. And actually…No one did save her.
It took her another 13 years to push that mans hand and stop it from slapping her. To her surprised, he accused her of disrespecting him and hitting him, to her mother. He looked so small. Nothing to do with this big powerful monster that would break her like a twig. The revelation was mind blowing…. It took her another 10 years to forgive him, when she saw how good he was with her daughter, how he had changed, mellowed and how regretful he was for the lost years between them. Ten years later he would die, and she didn't cry for loosing her father, because she never really had one, and you can not miss something you never tasted, felt or experienced. She cried for him. He was not loved. He was not going to be missed. Not by her, not by his wife. She felt sorry for him. For the wasted life, his wrong choices, his lack of trust in her, his lack of tenderness and affection. He was just a scared, pressured, manipulated man, who had violence as the only resort to be respected, to have control. She cried for him and for herself. For her unending quest to belong somewhere, to be accepted for who she was. To create or be part of a family. One that accepts you no matter how stupid you sound one day, and doesn't judge you, envy you, or take advantage of you. She cried for the lack of people who could have just looked at her soul, but were too blind to see.She cried for the struggles her mind had to go through to convince this was not what love is supposed to feel, but she had known nothing else. She cried for what could have been, but never was. She cried for loving him in every man that was him, for every man that the little girl in her picked, asking them to love her. “Why don’t you love me?”
And then she remembered the unexpected time he saved her. He did look. He loved her. He did pay attention to her cries and pain. And he saved the day. It didn't happen often, but neither did the beatings. She had something to remember him by. She knew he loved her as much as he was able to, and more was too much, more was pressure, more was rage. But she did get a taste of kindness, of salvation. She chose to remember only that, and let go. She had a taste of what she wanted. What it was like, for everybody else. And then she cried no more.