My mom always tells the truth. One truth she told me is the reason dad left us.
“No one’s going to tell you this straight out, but I will. I always honor the truth. Your father left me because of you,” she said one night, pointing her half-red fingertip at my messed up face. She then leaned into her beat-up recliner and laughed a maniacal laugh. I shrugged and went back into my room with a box of saltines, jelly, and our only butter knife. What she said made sense. My mother is a pretty woman. And men stay with pretty women. But I am ugly. Deformed. So it only made sense that he left because of me and not her. And unlike other people, who sometimes told me that I was smart and beautiful, she did tell the truth to me. So I believed her truth.
The truth: I am currently a month into seventh grade. This is my first year in four years with no friends. I did have a friend named Penelope. She used to get teased because of her name: “P-E-N-E. P-E-E. Penelope has a pen(i) pee,” the guys would chant. I didn’t really get it. But boys are dumb. We stayed away from each other at school, but after school we happily stuck together. That is until she became unexpectedly pretty this summer and the girls stopped teasing her and the boys teased her differently. I knew our friendship was over when she handed me a note at first period the second week of September. We haven’t spoken since, although we sometimes make awkward eye contact in math class and her saddened eyes seem to want to tell me something. But I’m not in the position to ask, and she isn’t in the position to tell.
Being friendless, I now spend my days reading. My teachers tell me I have ‘remarkable literary skills.’ I shrug and say ‘thanks’ because that’s what they seem to want to hear. They placed me in accelerated language arts where I get to read books with some ‘inappropriate’ material. Things about teenagers kissing and hooking up and all. My mom had to sign a permission slip even, although I signed it myself. But she wouldn’t have cared anyways. I’ve seen her do more than kiss strange men when she forgets to close her bedroom door at night.
I have been kissed once. But it wasn’t the nice kind. At recess, in fourth grade, a boy tackled me and forced his tongue into my disfigured mouth and then screamed, “Ewwww groossss” and ran off with his friends laughing, “He did the dare. He did the dare.” Someday I would like to have a real kiss like the teens in the books I read. But I don’t think that is possible, due to my disfigurement and ugliness and all. So I just rely on the romance stories I make in my head when I’m trying to sleep or when I am bored. I do what they call daydreaming a lot. In my daydreams, the characters are always beautiful. Like the people on TV.
No one else on TV looks like me. My condition is ‘rare,’ so they don’t really know much about my facial disfigurement. The doctors think it happened spontaneously, but my mom says it’s because of something she was snorting and drinking when I was growing in her belly. My mom drinks a lot. Her and dad used to have a lot of money, but the courts took it all a year or two before I was born. That’s when the shitstorm happened. They were poor, and my mom got pregnant. She didn’t even know she was pregnant until four months into me growing in her, due to her irregular menstrual cycle.
I know what this means now because I started my period last year. At eleven. The doctors were glad that only my face is messed up. When my mom picked me up early from school and I told her that there was blood in my pants she just sighed and said that maybe there was hope, if my body developed like hers. Then she giggled and added, ‘there’s always bags’ and began her maniacal laugh.
I’m still waiting for my body to develop like my mom’s. I started praying for it in August. But all that is happening is that my stomach is getting fatter. That’s about it. My breasts don’t seem to want to grow much. They just look like two white anthills sticking out above my squishy stomach. The doctor talked to my mom about healthy eating habits for me, but she just shrugged and told the doctor that money was an issue and then told me in private that if I wanted to lose weight I should just eat less like her. I’m not an expert on nutrition and the human body, but I don’t think dieting (or restrictive eating, as they call it in a magazine I found lying next to my mother’s reclining chair) is the best thing for a growing body.
I might not know much, but I have decided that action works better than hoping or praying if you want to change things. So I started stretching and doing Pilates in secret in my room. I found the Pilates exercises in the same magazine I saw the restrictive eating phrase in. The girls in the magazine are even more beautiful than my mother, with shiny straight hair in high ponytails, long arms and legs, and a stomach that is flat and line-free, except for the line going down the middle and- sometimes- two lines that angle downwards to where their private region is, half-hidden by tight fitting yoga pants. Abs is what they call it. I’ve been doing the exercises every day for three weeks now, before bed, but the only lines I still have are the ones that appear when I bend over and the fat bunches. But the magazine says that the most important part is to not give up. That results take a while. And, also, that adequate nutrition is key.
I don’t give up easy, so that isn’t an issue. But I don’t know how to eat healthy on my own without money and a car. My mother refuses to cook or buy healthy food, so normally I’m forced to eat McDonalds or Burger King or Kraft Dinner or Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes, sometimes without milk.
As for my mother, I never see her eat. She sometimes eats fruit though, and I get yelled at if I eat one of her apples or bananas. She tells me that until I get my own money I have to eat what she buys for me. I’ve listened to her and tried to get a job, but no one will hire me. They say I’m too young. When I tell her this she laughs and says that life is rough. Secretly, though, the nice old lady who lives two doors down lets me help with the cleaning once or twice a week. When I am done, she gives me a healthy dinner with chicken and vegetables and fancy grains called quinoa or couscous and then gives me money, which I use to buy my own fruit from the corner store down the street. Sometimes I buy a lot of fruit that I hide from my mom in my closet and make sure to eat before it spoils. The remaining money I hide in the bottom two drawers of my dresser, switching the clothes I hide it in every week. My mom stole money from me once, so I know how to hide my valuables well. But I’m still working on hiding my emotions.
Speaking of emotions, I almost made a friend last week named Lacy. Like me, she has something wrong with her face: her nose used to be connected to her upper lip. She came up to me during recess with her warped smile and told me that her dad was willing to drive me and her over to her house the next day after school. I accepted, but I didn’t tell my mother because I knew she would find a way to ruin my budding friendship. Which she did, anyways. When Mr. John, my friend’s father, dropped me off, my mother was keeping watch over our street, fuming outside our living room window. I thought I would be in the clear, because normally my mother doesn’t notice if I come home from school promptly or not. But I was wrong. Since I can’t hide my feelings, she must have noticed my strange happiness around the house the day before. So she stormed out and made such a scary scene that Lacy informed me the next day that her parents ordered her not to speak to me anymore. It depressed me some, but I’m used to these things happening by now.
My mom has something called antisocial personality disorder. It’s what sociopaths and psychopaths have. I know that because I searched it up online after I heard her tell this to someone over the phone. But I think my mom is mistaken. I don’t think she is one. Online, it says that people with antisocial personality disorder often tell lies.
And if there is one nice thing I can say about my mom it’s that she always tells the truth.