Most children live in small families but I have a big one. When I was small, I lived in Macau with my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, two aunts and two younger sisters. My father and two aunts had to go out to work, so, they did not really “live” with us, they just stayed with us. They were the peripheral members of our family and most things did not concern them. My grandparents seldom went out and seldom talked. I had a very hazy image of them. The only thing I remembered about my grandfather was that he had hairs growing from his ears. Those nasty black wires grew in all directions, filling the whole ear canal. I always wanted to check where was the origin of the hairs but the canal was too dark for any further investigation. I wondered if many people would have this kind of ear hair when they got old. I hoped not. The hairs looked awful. Unlike my grandfather, grandmother was in no way special, she was just fat, but she was nice. The only available adult left was my mother and she was the highest authority in the house. Everyone in the house seemed to listen to her. The only reason I could think of was because she cooked and decided what we ate each meal. Meals were very important. Among our three sisters, mother was especially fond of my second sister. Her name was Na and she was eight.
She was a very obedient girl who always stuck with my mother. Their relationship was symbiotic. When mother was in the washroom, she leaned against the washroom door; when mother was cooking in the kitchen, she prepared herself a stool and sat in front of the kitchen door. If this kind of closeness was the reason why mother was so fond of her, it was logical that mother did not like me. I was two years older than Na. I always tried to avoid mother. I did not want to feel like competing with Na for our mother’s love, or it was because I knew I would lose. My youngest sister, Hing, was too young to understand any of these, she was three and her life was much easier.
We three sisters always played together, we did not have many toys. But, we knew how to utilize what we had. One of our favorite games was to play on my mother’s bed. Mother’s mattress was a very thick one and it had a lot of springs inside. We liked to jump on it. When the bed bounced back, sometimes we could not balance ourselves. We fell on the bed and it was fun. One afternoon, we were playing on the bed again. One side of the bed was against the wall and I was near the wall. Na was in the middle and Hing was near the edge of the bed. We were all jumping with our hands and legs flinging around if they were broken. Then suddenly, I heard something hitting the beside table.
It was Hing. She fell from the bed, hit the table with her mouth, and then fell on the ground, facing down. Mother was in the sitting room at the time. When she heard the sound, she rushed in. Na and I also came down from the bed and looked at the scene. Hing was now sitting on the floor with her back leading against the table. She had turned her head down and of course was crying. When mother turned Hing’s face and checked if she was hurt, we saw her face. Everything on her face was normal except her mouth. Her lips were swollen irregularly. The upper lips were purple and red as if all the blood inside was boiling. There was blood around her mouth too. At first, I thought it was because her lips were hurt but then I knew it was her gums. There were several little white things scattered around the floor and mother picked then up. They were my little sister’s teeth, a total of five of them. Na and I were standing like statues looking at my mother cleaning up the floor and my sister’s mouth. Mother put all those teeth inside a piece of tissue paper. Maybe she thought the teeth could be put back to the teeth holes again. When little sister was transported to the sofa in the sitting room and everything was settled, mother came near us. We were still motionless. We did not even look at each other. Mother looked so kind when she was wiping the blood off my little sister’s mouth. She was like the most loving mother in the whole world, at that moment. But, when she turned and looked at us, she was like an irritated lion. I did not understand why emotion could change so quickly. Adults were really complicated. She asked us who pushed my little sister. I told her no one. Hing fell by herself. She seemed not have heard me because she then asked who pushed her, again. She was so stubborn. No one pushed her. My sister was keeping quiet as usual, but then she said something surprising.
“Older sister did it. I saw that.” She said it and began to cry very loudly.
I was dumb-founded. I felt like having a bone stuck halfway inside my throat. All the blood inside my body was rushing to my face. I, of course, said no. I was near the wall, even if Hing was really pushed by someone, it would not be me. I did not mean it was Na, it should be no one. Na should know it, she was not that stupid. Pushing Hing from where I was at that time was a mission impossible. I tried to explain but mother would not listen. She did not cover her ears with her hands, but I knew she was not listening because before I had finished, she ran out and grabbed a bamboo stick. I ran to my room and laid on my bed.
“I’m asleep! I’m asleep!” I kept yelling, then I shut both my eyes and my mouth.”
Mother surely knew I was pretending to be asleep as my tears kept flowing out of my eyes, but I really did not know what to do. The stick hurt and the words even more. I wanted to pretend nothing had happened. It seemed to be the best way to end the torment. Mother kept beating me like a machine. I bet she did not know what she was doing too. She was totally taken over by anger. Then she stopped. She was probably tired. She left the room with Na and locked the door. I opened my eyes after she left. There was no one in the room. I was still crying but I was not thinking of anything. The crying was just involuntary. I was feeling sad and angry at the same time. I did not remember how long did I cry, but, when I woke up later, it was already the next days. No one called me to have dinner that night.
My relationship with mother is always bad. She never buys me anything and she receives nothing from me on Mother’s day. For me, she is just one of my family members with a name called “mother”. Nothing sweet is attached to the name. I don’t know whether it is because of that incident or not. Maybe so, maybe not. Sometimes we go to visit our aunts, they would tell me how naughty I was before and how I pushed my little sister off the bed as if they had seen that themselves. They said I must have forgotten that remarkable incident. I might not remember things happened later than that, but I would never forget that tragedy. For them, it was like a funny experience. I don’t know why, but I never think that incident was funny. Ten years have passed and that day is still awful.
With a little smile and a tiny tear in my eyes, I watched as she bought the toy for me.
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