Thursday, September 15, 2011

Can't Fake It

She stood on the sidewalk, across the street from us. Shirt stretched tight around her belly, about to burst through its yellow and white stripes.

She shot us a glance. Stone cold expression. Hot with hatred. An old anger. Grown from the inside, decayed through the surface.

I looked away. Stared at the street, my shoes, anywhere far from her face. I couldn't do it. Couldn't look at her without my own rage rearing its ugly head.

After all, it was her. The "mother". The woman who abandoned, abused, and exploited the six children she gave birth to. The woman who prostituted her own young daughters to subsidize her habits.

The woman who had her children taken away from her. Who should be in jail. Who should be sterilized. Who is very obviously PREGNANT again.

She knew who we were. Word travels fast in small circles. She wanted eye contact. A "buenos dias". Introduction. Recognition. Connection. She received none.

Couldn't do it. The cordial greeting, the small chat that even most Mexican enemies can muster for the sake of social grace. Not this time.

Stoic stares and silence. Better than the cardinal sin of (gasp) confrontation!

What would she want me to say? That her children have nightmares and irrational fears of being alone? How I had to explain to the eldest girl what "unwanted male attention" was when she asked why I carry pepper spray on my keychain? That we hope the black, rotten teeth of the younger kids will not affect their dental health later on, but there is no money to take them all to the dentist?

Perhaps she would be glad to hear that their head lice is gone, now that they have soap and water for daily baths. Or that their ongoing psychological treatment is a work in progress. That they have learned to eat food with forks and spoons and can clean their clothes, now that they have more than one set.

Maybe she'd like to know the sores from the cigarette burns from her drunken, rapist neighbors have healed. Or that fortunately, her drug use and sexually transmitted diseases have had no long-term affects on her offspring.

Or maybe, she would like me to tell her how her children's faces are no longer hollow and sad. That they have soft smiles and big hearts. That they are happy, now that they are no longer with her.

I'm not perfect. I know I should not judge this woman. But I've seen how her children suffered at her hand. Still paying for her sins. Will continue to.

So I looked away, stared straight ahead and walked out of sight. Because I couldn't be nice to her. Couldn't pretend everything's ok.

Because it's not. I won't enable or ease her conscience. I won't save face for her faults.

Sometimes silence is best. Because sometimes I just can't fake it.