Girl

What’s wrong Bear-Bear? She asked. My sister Kerry looked at me sincerely wondering. She used the name my family called me because of the little round ‘bear’ nose I had. I shrugged, tears spilling onto my cheeks. The truth was I didn’t know. Encounters with my only sister like this were rare. I loved her so much. She was beautiful with soft clear skin, long brown hair and she smelled good. Like fresh spring flowers. Everything I wanted to be. She picked me up and gave me a hug. “It will be ok.” She said setting me back down. She looked at me again trying to see what it was and then sort of shrugged and walked away. She was 12 years older and had a busy high school life. To me She was like a noble princess. I knew she was athletic and excelled academically. Much of her life was a mystery to me though. At 4, how could I comprehend the turmoil she struggled through in our large dysfunctional house. Years later I learned of a much older boyfriend, teen pregnancy, an illegal abortion and our parents marital troubles. She was just surviving, as we all were.
The house was huge by any standard.  A “White Elephant” it had been called a few years later when it went on the real estate market. Ultimately it was divided into 3 wealthy homes and sold piece meal. It was a great place to be lost in the shuffle especially  in such a large family.  Something like 6 bedrooms and 8 baths. Lots of dark wood and gaudi furniture. A scary basement my older brother loved to lock us in and a giant living room where gladiatorial boxing matches between us were held. A perversion of the boxing lessons my golden gloves father had instituted for the older boys.
By the time the 4 youngest including myself were taught it was administered by older teenage siblings with a slightly more twisted spin. 2 younger brothers against 1 older for the entertainment of friends seated in the couches around our arena surrounded us. Blood sport. Fight until you drop or face the wrath of our older brother 10 years my senior. I lived in fear of these contests. I always ended up crying and ridiculed. “Your just a girl.” They said. It usually developed into a chant. “Girl, Girl, Girl!” I had our loving Nanny to thank for that gift. She was the first to offer them that handy label.
Gloria. 5’2″ 220 pounds of angry uneducated black female from rural Georgia with a scar on her face where she’d been disciplined by her parents with a hot iron. She was only 17 when she had taken the job of watching the 4 youngest boys. AKA “the boys.” She held us under her very firm thumb. “Coming up side our heads” if we acted up with the ring she wore on her right hand. Ever vigilant she knew just how to play our absentee parents. “No Mrs. Mahoney” she’d say, “I don’t know why they’re crying.” She’d lie after some abusive discipline behind closed doors. She knew I wasn’t just a “boy” like the rest of the four and found it entertaining to single me out. “Anyone want to try on some lipstick? “She asked on one grocery shopping excursion. I jumped up from the back bench seat of the white Chevy Impala where my 3 brothers and I sat unbuckled. “I do!” I blurted. Somehow I imagined this would be my chance to be the girl I longed to be. “Ok.” She said. “Lean forward and do your lips like this” she said puckering. I leaned over the front seat pouting my lips the way she had. I watched in ecstasy in the rear view mirror as she drew the lovely red lipstick across my mouth. The wax smell intoxicating to me. “Ha ha!” She jeered. “Why you wearin lipstick?” “You ain’t no girl!!” My brother’s began to laugh too taking their cue from her. “You just a girl you little sissy.” She taunted. “Girl, Girl, Girl.”

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