Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bahdria

Therapy was pretty intense today. We talked about my baby sister, Bahdria, who died when I was eight and she was two.  I don't really remember very much about her and what I do remember never seems adequate.  She had very dark brown hair that was always sticking up all over the place. She had pale white skin and the pinkest lips I’ve ever seen. Her name is an Arabic name that means "Moon like" which fits her so well.  She just glowed.  She was so adorable. She was so beautiful.  The most beautiful baby I have ever seen.  I know she would have been a super model if she were still alive today. She was a very goofy kid. She would hide toys in her diaper and walked around with a hairbrush all the time. I have no idea why she liked the hairbrush so much. She also loved to cuddle and she would often squeeze herself in the middle of all her siblings so that she was being cuddle from every angle at bed time. I loved her so much yet I don’t remember much about her today. Her life was cut so short but I really do not know how she died.  When people ask I usually say something benign like, "I think she had an infection or something."  The truth is I don't know what happened to her.  I was never told how she died or why she died.  I was never told anything.  All I know is what happened before and after her death. 

It was a windy and rainy afternoon in Southern Arizona. My mom had been gone for a few days so I was taking care of my siblings by myself.  This wasn't out of the ordinary.  My mother often disappeared for days, sometimes a whole week at a time. Whenever my mother would disappear I would build a fort out of sofa cushions and bed sheets for us to play and sleep in until my mother returned. We’d pretend we were knights and royalty at war and throw pillows at each other.  We would have passwords and strange laws.  "To enter ye must crawl like a crab at all times."  We had fun and we felt safe inside our fortresses.  They protected us from the evil outside world.

When my mother returned she was livid. She was shaking and screaming.  I knew she needed to get high.  “Look at this mess!! Who is going to clean this up? I’m not your fucking maid.” She grabbed my arm, swung my body around to look at the house, and told me I needed to clean up the mess and then go sit in the closet for a little while. I began to clean up the pillows, blankets, cushions and dishes that we left in the living room. I wasn’t cleaning fast enough and she began to threaten me if I didn’t pick up my pace. “I’m warning you girl, you better move a little faster or I’m going to beat your ass.” She slapped my face as a warning. When I am nervous I smile or laugh. I still do it, but I did it much more when I was a child. I laughed. “What the fuck is so funny? You better wipe that smile off your face before I do it for you.” Somehow I was able to change my facial expression and continue to clean up the house. “I’m going to go take a shower. When I come back this place better be clean.”

I continued to clean as my mother disappeared into the bathroom. I finished cleaning the living room before my mother turned off the water. I decided to go play in my room and give her some space until she could get high. I was playing with my stuffed animals when my mother called my name. I knew I was in trouble. I slowly walked into the living room where I found my mother fuming. She pushed me to the floor where there were a few papers and wrappers. “Is this clean to you, you little pig? What did I tell you? Why don’t you ever fucking listen you stupid little cunt?!! You’re going to get it now.” She shoved me into the wall and slapped me again. I took off running. I ran past my siblings who were huddled in the corner watching and praying she didn’t see them. I ran right past all them, past Bahdria and out the front door.  It would be the last time I ever saw my baby sister.

I ran as fast as I could. I ran until my lungs could no longer carry me any further. I climbed a tree where I stayed. It was raining but I didn’t care. I stayed in that tree for hours. I knew I had messed up. I made it worse for myself. I knew it was going to be worse for me when I went home. She was going to beat me worse because I ran away. What was I thinking? I started to fall asleep in the tree when it began to lightning and thunder really close to me. I was cold and shivering and starving.  I knew my brothers and sisters were hungry.  I had to go feed them.  I had to go home sooner or later. I was just hoping my mother would be high or passed out by the time I got home. I climbed out of the tree and began my long slow journey back home. I tried to rehearse my apology as I walked. “I’m sorry mamma, I don’t know why I am so stupid. I don’t mean to be. I try to good. I’ll be better. I’ll try harder.” I thought that sounded good.


When I rounded the corner toward our house the red flashing lights caught me off guard. There were police cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck outside. At first I thought they were there for me, but then I knew they wouldn’t send a fire truck for me so I began to run. I began to panic with thoughts of what might have happened. When I got home two men were putting someone in the ambulance. “What happened?” I asked. No one seemed to notice the panicked, wet 8 year old. “What happened?” I asked again. Still nothing.

My mom was sitting on the sofa, her face puffy and swollen.  Long black streaks of mascara ran down her face. She was drinking tequila straight from the bottle in front of the police. “Mamma what happened? What’s wrong?” She didn’t move. She didn’t even look up. I looked at my siblings and everyone was there except Bahdria. Bahdria was gone! Sometimes she would hide when she was scared so I began to look in all the cabinets and closets. I couldn’t find her. “Do you know where Bahdria is?” I asked my siblings. My brother began to cry and then a police officer told us to come with him.  He put us in the back of his car and took us to my grandmother’s house.  I kept asking where Bahdria was but no one would tell me anything.  I desperately wanted to know where my sister was and what happened to her. My siblings wouldn’t say anything. My grandmother wouldn’t say anything. The police wouldn’t say anything. To this day I have no idea what happened. My siblings do not remember or still won't say anything.  They don’t really need to. I am pretty sure I know the truth.  A few days later the police took us away for the very last time and my mother went to prison for felony child abuse and child endangerment.

I may not know how but I know why my sister died.  She died because I ran away. She died because I didn't protect her.  I left my siblings with my mother knowing she was raging. Knowing she would take it out on them. I only thought about myself. I only saved myself. I could have saved them too. I should have taken them with me. My mother was drunk, she couldn’t catch us, but I didn’t think about them. I didn’t save them. I didn’t help them. I was bigger than all of them and I only thought about myself. I only saved myself. If I had stayed my sister would still be here. I think about that little girl so often. I wish I had been there. I wish I had protected her.  I wish I had saved her. I wish it had been me instead.  I wish I could remember more about her. I wish I had a photograph or something of hers. I wish I could tell her that I’m sorry.