You need to grow up, grow old too early, the wrong way, it’s a short cut that debalances everything. Your brain tries to protect you, it knows that it is wrong, that you’re too young to deal with certain things, and it pushes it down, backwards, into the overshadowed regions of your memories. You must not remember. It’s too much. It’s too heavy. You need to live. You need to breathe. We need to survive. The burial is initiated.
I was painting a bird. I loved to paint, exuberantly, vividly, out of line and with the greatest effort. I felt life in my fingertips. And then she entered the room. The Italian nun. They were there to teach us Italian. But not much of the language remained (I learned it later on in high school), what remained was the psychological and the physical abuse, the violent etiquette. My brother and I went to their Catholic institution. I defended myself with all my might when my mother wanted to get me dressed in that pale blue dress in the mornings, I screamed and kicked her in the stomach. I wanted to protect myself, I knew what was coming, yet I never seemed to verbalise specifically what exactly they did to me, perhaps to us.
Back to my bird and my love for creativity. The bird would be a blue one and I thought it looked perfect and I was proud and she came straight towards me and looked at it. I could sense her intense disapproval and her strict criticism hovering above my right shoulder. I didn’t need to look up. Or see her face. My bird would die then and there. It had no right to exist. I had drawn over the line. Of my bird. My bird wanted to fly. I don’t know how she got me to stand, maybe she forced my body up and I had to leave the classroom alongside her, behind her, my bird, isolated, on the cold bench, with its imposed and condemned imperfection, waiting for me, fearing for its life that I had given it.
Now comes the part where my brain tried to shelter me, but it’s in my skin, in my heartbeat, in my pumping blood. I remember a little broom closet. I remember darkness. Spiders. Webs. My never-ending fear. My hands in a dancing knot. The tightness of my body to make myself smaller. The closed door. Sometimes the ruler. The old hands. The swinging gestures. The rules and punishments. I don’t remember my way out.
When I came back into the classroom with the broom closet stigmata, I looked at my bench and my bird was gone.
Since those times, the image in my head that I want to put on paper never comes out as I see it, my mind and hands are disconnected, interrupted, infiltrated. They had robbed me of my predominant passion at that time and I had lost faith as nuns were trying to impart their wisdom on me.
“Jeune fille aux oiseaux en origami” by Adolphe Piot (1825-1910)