Thursday, December 14, 2017

A story to beat


Mark Fraser

Soma lay curled up, feeling the pain in every part of her body, knowing she deserved it.

I too chupid, she thought. She had known what she did was wrong, or at least she knew it now, because of the licks. Thank you, Mammy. She had not thought about right or wrong when she took the selfie. I just thought I looking good. So she had downloaded the picture from her phone and posted it on Facebook.

She wouldn’t have done anything like that before her body changed. Those changes had happened suddenly, or maybe they had not happened suddenly but she had just took long to notice—loose seams in her clothes now tight, the strain to hook her bra, denim difficult to pull over her bigger backside.

Looking in the mirror, Soma saw a stranger. She would get dressed to go out, and make a last check—and pause in surprise. Who was this woman looking back at her? Sometimes she would unbutton the blouse to examine her breasts, hanging like strange fruit on the stranger in the mirror.

Soma had never been pretty, but she had always considered herself passable. Yet boys had never really taken her on. She didn’t know why, she didn’t know why girls she thought were uglier than her seemed to get more attention from boys.

Even her mother, with her sagged body and I-go-cuss-you face could draw men’s eyes when at Carnival time she put on her red tights and gold vest and took Soma and her sisters to the Queen’s Park Savannah to watch the bands pass and her mother and older sister would wine to Machel, and Soma saw how men looked at them.

Even more at her sister, dancing to Destra in her tiny tight shorts and low-cut top and furred boots. Soma had watched the men watching them, and she had wondered if she ever could get anyone to watch her like that, like if their brains had stopped working.

A red wave washed blackly over her mind, but she did not faint. “I sorry, Mammy,” she whispered, knowing her mother could not hear her. Her mother was dread, and she loved her. Ever since she know herself, her mother shouting at her to not do that, leave that alone, what you interfering with that for? Other children’s mothers let them do what they want, they could not be bothered, but her mother was always bothered, always vex, always trying with her six children.

Sometimes Soma used to do something wrong and see her mother’s face get like a rain cloud, see lightning in her mother’s eyes, and then in the small apartment was like a hurricane, Mammy cussing and the leather belt licking out like a snake tongue, raising many weal snakes on Soma’s legs and arms and belly and bottom and, sometimes, face. That used to real hurt.

But God say spare de rod spoil de chile and I was a real spoil chile, she thought. Soma always knew she deserved this pain, this terror, because her mother loved her and beat her so Soma would work hard in school and get a good job in a government office.

It good for me, she thought as she tried to stop the trembling all over her body. Soma knew she had been thinking with her body, not her brain, it was the body which had always made her do stupid things. Her body had changed, and she thought she did not know herself, she so dotish, she know she was still Soma. But what did other people see? Did they see Soma or did they see someone else? And if they did, what did they think of this other Soma, whose reflection was so unfami­liar? Facebook seemed like the best place to answer these questions, post a status, see who Like, see who Comment, see who Like the Comments. “Yuh doh think, Soma!” her mother used to tell her. I still doh think, she thought.

And now the darkness was lifting and through one swollen eye she hazily saw a white coat and heard a man and a woman speaking.

“Three cracked ribs, sprained wrist, four teeth knocked out, trauma to left eye, concussion.”

Soma heard the rustle of papers. She could see a stethoscope hanging loosely around the doctor’s neck like a dead black snake.

The nurse holding the clipboard said, “She come in two months ago. Miscarriage.”

The doctor asked, “Age?”

“Twenty. First pregnancy.”

“Who beat her?”

“The man, nah. Police say he get vex about some Facebook picture she put up from a beach lime.”

The doctor said, “She lucky he didn’t kill her.”

He love me, Soma thought. He really love me.

She smiled a small satisfied smile, and a stitch on her upper lip pulled and began to bleed.