Sometimes, what can seem the most brutal act to the world a mother can perform, can be a gift to their child. And to that child, it is badge of honor, rather something to feel sorrow for.
My mother cut my nose off.
I know how it sounds. I’ve explained it so many times to others, but they don’t understand. I still keep trying, because to me it is important that they do. She did it out of care.
I came home one day, 11 years ago and found my parents arguing. They didn’t stop as they usually do, when one of the kids walks in, but continued as if I wasn’t there. I tried to say hello, but they didn’t respond, tossing insults against each other.
I went upstairs and found my year older brother sitting on the stairs and crying. I have never seen him cry and even now he whipped his tears to hide them. When I asked, why he was weeping, he couldn’t respond and scolded me instead for being late.
I sat next to him, cradling my bag and waited with him, listening in the story folding out before us. We could see the kitchen from our sitting place. They were dancing around the kitchen island and yelling in language I hadn’t heard in years.
My dad had offered my hand in marriage to his friend, a sixty year old Samharan. It didn’t matter that it was abomination to mom, but dad didn’t care. She has taken over the western ways, he said. Gotten too comfortable to understand the ways of the old.
The ways of the old…
It was the first time in my life dad insisted following the old ways. So far he had been very supportive to getting western education and all of a sudden he wants to marry me off?
I didn’t want to marry. I was too young. Perhaps if I’d reason with dad, he would not force me to? I wanted to go to school, stay there and finish it. Not like this. With diploma. I had plans for my life – first become a teacher and then marry!
I would marry, couldn’t he see? I would, but in few years! Not now or like this!
My brother reached out and held my hand, but then suddenly their arguing ended and dad stormed past us to their bedroom and shut the door.
“Old ways, huh?” My brother reacted suddenly and pulled in rapid breath. “This means my opinion counts, right?”
He was ripped from my hand and went after him, knocking quietly on the door. The moment the bedroom door shut after him, I saw mom running at me with a knife and the glass bowl she kept the salt in. I pulled up from the stairs and she pushed me further, towards my bedroom. She sat me down on my bed, closed the door and sat in front of me.
She was shaking hard and I locked my muscles to keep her hands steady between my fingers.
“I want you to remember to…” her eyes filled with tears and it spill over, creating new dark lines on her soft skin. She dragged in a breath. “I want you to finish school! Demand daddy to let you finish your school and become the best you can be!”
She kissed me on my hair and hugged me. I felt the knot tightening in my chest, remembering suddenly the horror stories my classmates had told me. I thought they were just stupid – you wouldn’t do that to your child, would you?
“Remember aunt Decem?” she asked me, eyes now locked on my hands and she rubbed them, hurting the fingers.
Yes, I remembered her. It makes a vivid memory to see someone without their left hand fingers.
No, my classmates were stupid – it was barbaric! It wasn’t done anymore!
“I would run away, I’ll go to police, I promise!”
“No, my flower. You’ll be sent back, because they won’t find any proof and then if he doesn’t take you, somebody else will and you would still have to… I love you, my sweet, from the bottom of my heart! You must understand – if he can’t sell you, he must find a way to support you until you are old enough to move on your own! The laws here, they will help! He loves you too much to toss you on the street. Never doubt that! But grandpa, he… “
She hugged me again and then before I knew it, it was over and she was standing in front of me, her legendary sharp knife in her right hand and my nose in another.
I screamed until the blood filled my mouth and I had to breathe. She kept screaming she was sorry, but when the door opened and dad came running, she tossed the knife and pressed the end of my nose in the salt.
It took ages for the ambulance to arrive, even longer to get to the hospital. They asked about the nose, but said there was nothing they could do. I was sent to the theatre and that was the last time I saw my family together.
When I got out of the hospital, it had already blown out of its proportions in newspapers and they followed me around for a while. I didn’t see mom for the next two years. First year there was a trial, but I was spared for giving testimonies and later I couldn’t…
After two years I finally went to see her. I had prosthesis made and unless they knew, it looked almost normal. Only in class room, when I was sitting next to window, a friend of mine warned me that my nose glows through. But mom was right. I was kept in school so I could bring pride to the family at least through honorable profession. I chose to become a teacher. Dad cut my grandfather off from us and started visiting mom with us.
I teach children now. Kids ask me sometimes, what happened and I tell them the truth. My mom sacrificed her freedom for the better of her children.
Tomorrow she will get out from the prison. A journalist showed up on my doorstep yesterday, asking if I’d forgiven her. I told her there was nothing for me to forgive. She gave us the freedom and hope for better future. Yes, it came with a price, but that price will be paid soon and I carry my trophy with pride.
We have prepared for it for months. Planting a garden isn’t a one day job.