Grade Six (continued)

Things were about to get very messy.

Mina had started to wear the hijab when she entered grade nine, but gave it up as the year drew to a close. I kept wearing it, as it was the only thing that made me somewhat special somewhere. 

The compliments of old family friends, of Aunties and Uncles was all I could have to appease myself. 

If you still remember the old friend I told you about, the one whose family knew my family in Riyadh, she was much too busy with her more acceptable friends to pay me any mind. 

Don't mistake my words for self-pity, but annoyance. I can't stand two-faces.

But apparently Mina's social life was taking more of a dive than mine. She had been pressured into admitting some kind of attraction to a total jerkwad that every other girl she knew was crushing on, and he started acting like a creep towards her especially.

One day when she was walking home from school she spotted him sitting in his driveway with some of his hooligan friends and could hear him spit the words 'ugly as f--k' in her direction.

That is all I know of that part of her experiences, but I can tell firsthand the psychological impact that small statement had in her fragile mind. 

She grew very conscious of her appearance. Her self-esteem fell to nothing. Mina became so harsh on herself that it was hard to believe. 

And then, one day, she was caught cutting the pale skin on her forearms. 

My mother was distraught. My father blamed her. Ham cried. I tried to talk her out of it, but to no avail. 

We had to start hiding all of the sharp objects in our house. 

But the initiative of that was not enough-she used anything, pins from remembrance day poppies, her nails, to claw her flesh into red welts and scars. 

She called herself stupid, ugly, dumb, undermined her own existence in countless other ways. Her tastes started to shift, into gothic literature, darkness, heavy metal. 

I felt lost. I could barely comprehend why someone would want to self-harm, even if I had been imagining my own death. That was a matter of letting off steam; an instinctive impulse that I would never act upon. 

Who was I to look up to now, when even I could tell that Mina's life was falling apart?

Ham was clearly disturbed. It was bad enough the criticism that was always being shot at her, because of her problems in academics. Where Mina and I had never needed assistance, Ham did all of her homework wrong and my mother had to do it all for her. Her marks were bad. She had been put into English as a Second Language, even though it was her first, and even though I had been in the gifted class at her age. 

Arthur, the man who I have trouble calling my father, tried unsuccessfully to teach her, and always ended up seething and yelling at her, threatening her and sometimes even hitting her. 

He was and is like a time bomb. Everyone becomes tense around him, because we all know what he can and will do. 

I grew up in a house where I believed violence was the norm. That when a child refused to eat their oatmeal it was normal for them to be sworn at and dragged up and down the stairs, that it was what fathers did. 

That fathers could sit on the couch all day every day, 'working' and demanding that he be served and his surroundings cleaned. I was practically never even allowed to sit peacefully, as he would always have some command for me, to fetch this or do that or stop this. 

And anything and everything made him angry. He has screamed so many times that I have lost count, he did nothing but intimidate us all with threats of breaking our legs and arms. 

The words he used, on his wife and young children, are almost shameful. Bi--h, shameless, wicked, and many other foul words in the Urdu language that I don't even want to understand. 

He also demands that we all speak Urdu around him. Arthur blames us for the fact that Ham can barely compose a proper sentence in English or Urdu and has exploded on multiple occasions that I, in particular, am the one who has caused her language issues. 

Bastard.

And still he has the nerve to insult my mother and her parents, for God's sake, telling her that she doesn't do nearly enough work and has no respect.

He can't even cook an egg right, so he's got an awful lot of nerve. Apparently he thinks that 'women are the shoes of man' and deserve to be abused and worked to the bone. 

Sometimes I wonder, if all three of his daughters ended up in marriages to illiterate, chauvinistic pigs that beat them, would he even give a damn?

I have made the resolution, on my part, to cut off all ties to him once I am out of this hell-like situation. He can rot wherever he wants, but as soon as he even tries to take a step into my house, I will call the police.

...not that the method has worked very well for our family. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let us return to my soon-to-be in grade seven self. 

The End

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