Aufklärung | fiction | a short story

My father wanted me to watch. He would give me a sign that it was about to happen again, so that I could get ready. These signs were never necessary, the flat we lived in was so small, I could’ve known on my own. I caught them once, before it all became a routine, and he was surprised that he wasn’t disturbed by my presence in the room. He told me once that it helped him. I just watched. He’d leave the door ajar for me or turn my mother around so that she couldn’t see me. Sometimes I’d stand in the room and let their breaths bury mine. I got to know my father well, where he wanted me. I learned how to read the arrangement of furniture, and my place amongst it. He said that there was nothing that he didn’t want me to see. There were phases of indifference, annoyance, curiosity and impatience, but everything changed when he revealed to me that this was how I was made.

My mother hissed at me and shushed me away with her hand before he led her body, by the hips, into the room. It looked like a game. Where did she want me to go? She tried to keep her breaths inside and always held on to anything she could find. There was no way of knowing how long they could last, but they were playing against each other. My mother always disappeared. She reminded me of the packaged meat that she’d buy for us and I’d think of my father who, instead of taking the film off, would pierce and tear it with gusto and marinade the meat on the spot. My mother didn’t eat meat, but she acted like it when he had her. The teachers warned me that I could not write about these things, that they’re private, and what happened between my parents was nobody’s business but ours. My father was proud and my mother was shameful.

I felt that he had told me the truth about how I was made, but it made me grieve. How could I be so alone in the world, how could there just be one of me, if this is how I am made? It made no sense to me and why was I supposed to be silent about how I had been brought into the world? Why could nobody know what everybody already knew? I felt like I was old and young at the same time. He had brought in a chair from the living room (he’d never done that before), and I heard how my mother bruised her knee because she didn’t register it in time. He’d grunt in a certain way which was a good point to come in. My mother was squished like a pancake or an egg, sunny side down, however you want to see it. I sat down on the chair and for the first time, after all these months, I started sobbing in my Sunday dress. I saw where everything went. I saw what my father looked like inside my mother. I couldn’t find my mother. What I started to feel in that moment told me that my body had been awake all this time, that I hadn’t been abandoned, but that I had been told a truth which had led me to my own. And I’m not one to shut her eyes.

For a brief moment, whilst marinating my mother, my father looked over his shoulder to check whether I was still there. I guess he felt that something had been interrupted. He smiled and winked at me. When he saw my tears, he shook his head and grabbed my mother’s flesh to show me how much she liked it and that they were doing it together and how much fun it was. He looked like a child, my father. What was he doing in a body like that? I tried to figure out what and where my mother’s movements were. I don’t know whether she made herself look deceased or whether it was him. It looked like my mother wanted peace. I knew there was life inside of her. And I was here. I won’t lie, parts of me liked what I had seen over the past months, but I didn’t know what to do with that and teachers looked at me in an uninterpretable way. What I knew was that, when I left that room in that very moment, I took my truth with me and safeguarded it against the ghost screams of my parents that followed me on my way out.

My own drawing © Laura Gentile 2022 | Instagram: croque_melpomene

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