I might be four now, or maybe I’m five. I have already forgotten when my birthday is, because we don’t celebrate birthdays here. Time has come together in one long, continuous rope. It has no end, and the beginning is lost inside my mind. I am either too exhausted to think, or I am floating somewhere else. Doctors will say one day that I floated into my own mental realm where there is no pain.
Mama never looks at me, so I just eventually stop looking at her during church services and at meal time. I go from hoping, to accepting that this is how it is. I don’t remember the exact moment that I gave up hope, but it must have come at some point because I became like a robot most of the time just moving and doing whatever I was told. Jeremy is always with the boys, and he never looks at me either when I catch glimpses of him. I know him right away because his hair is white blonde, and it falls over his forehead. He’s a little bit taller than the other boys too.
I feel the most interested in church when we are singing hymns. I love singing the harmonies and listening to the sound of my voice. I am always fascinated with the reverence I see in people’s faces around me. Sister Lucy with her hands held high, tears running out of the corners of her closed eyes. Or Brother Jake, laughing to the ceiling as if he’s having a personal, gleeful conversation with God. I lift up my hands like they do, mimicking their motions. I stare at the ceiling, trying to see or feel God, but he never shows up or even talks to me.
I know I can sing in tune perfectly. I sing songs like the “Jesus Loves Me”, one that Mama taught me in California, and “This Little Light of Mine.” I hide my light under a bushel by poking the finger of my left hand beneath my right palm, and I shout “Oh No!” I often get glared at for shouting the loudest. In my head, I don’t sound so loud, and I don’t understand why people always say I am purposely loud. I don’t think to remind anyone that I can only hear in one ear, and no one else seems to know or care that the loudness might be because I can’t hear.
I get impressions sometimes, feelings that don’t feel like they are mine. I see the truth about people; like when Betty Lassiter was lying about being in the haystack with a boy. I watched her face when the ministry made her stand up in front of us during one of the special meetings they call when people do bad things; when she cried, saying that it was not her that Brother Alfred spotted in the haystacks with Daryn Munford. Yet behind my eyelids, I can see her and Daryn clear as day in the stacks, with their hands inside of each other’s shirts. I see them as if I am standing right with them; the plaid material of the shirt Daryn has on and the gray handkerchief on Betty’s head.
Then there’s the time when Daisy Harper walks past me. I hear her mind say, “Stupid Sila is staring at me again.”
I answer out loud to her, “No, I’m not!”
Her face turns red and shocked as she hurries away from me. I am unable to control the impulse to defend myself. She tells Sister Debbie what happened. I lie, saying it didn’t happen. I shrug my shoulders, and act like I don’t understand what Sister Debbie is asking me. I am learning the art of lying to try and stay out of trouble. It will come to fit me like a second skin, especially when I sense a potential beating. But the day the pregnant woman walks past me, my ability to see and my inability to control my reactions cost me severely.
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