Up All Night

I awoke to find them in the same position I had left them hours ago, crouched over action figures, transferring attention between their wrestling matches and ESPN, rapping along with Drake. I informed them that the sun was coming up and instructed them to get in bed. Before I could turn off the light, they were snoring.

Deja vu teased me for days. I felt I had been there before but I couldn’t remember when. I visualized myself crouched over Barbie and Ken, the pink house, the pink van, the clothes. Ken slapped Barbie and my playmate in a male voice said “Where’s my food woman?” This memory plagued me for days, when had this happened or had it at all?

It hit me today. I was about 8. The shouting outside the bedroom door wouldn’t allow us to sleep. Stephanie and I played until the sun came up and her mother entered with red cheeks and dark eyes to prepare us for Sunday school. I wasn’t afraid. I had seen this scene many times before. I was sworn to secrecy and never told my mother of what happened on those nights I slept over Stephanie’s house.

As she covered her face in a concrete layer of makeup, she explained her red cheeks away. “You should always wear sunscreen so you don’t get sunburned like this.” I sat on the bathroom counter watching her in her beige bra and half slip. She was beautiful even after her beating.

We slept all through worship service that day, Stephanie and I. My mother asked as we drove home, “Have you ever seen Stephanie’s parents fight?” I said no. I hadn’t. She never fought back and when the yelling began, we retreated to the bedroom and Barbie and Ken, the pink house, the pink van, the clothes.

I was never permitted to stay with Stephanie again.


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