She was bored.
Her chores were done, her homework finished, the potatoes peeled, salted, covered with water, and sitting in a pan on the back of the stove. She checked the three tiny rooms of the little flat again, just to be sure…every thing was clean, dusted, vacuumed, neat as a pin. She was bored.
She couldn’t go out…she had to have permission to go out and she wasn’t allowed to call Mother at work except in an emergency. A real emergency, like somebody had died on the porch steps…and even then, she was supposed to call the police, not bother her mother, who couldn’t do anything about it from halfway across the city, for God’s sake and what was she, a goddamned doctor or something? No, she couldn’t go out...
Maybe she could watch a little TV? If she only watched until 4:30 the set would have enough time to cool down before Mother got home, right? But she’d been busted that way before, turning on the TV without permission and being naïve enough to think she wouldn’t get caught. But Mother had put her purse on top of the set when she walked in the door and the rising warmth told the tale. No, she wouldn’t push her luck again…she didn’t know how long it took the set to cool down, so she wasn’t taking any chances.
But she was bored. She pulled out the battered little cardboard box from beneath her bed at the end of the kitchen, the place where the table was supposed to be. She sat on the neatly made cot and put the box in her lap, quickly rifling through its contents. A tattered crossword puzzle book briefly caught her attention, but it didn’t hold. Neither did anything else. She shoved the box back under the bed and stood up, absently tugging the almost imperceptible wrinkles from the thin coverlet. “Give her no reasons…” flitted through the back of her mind, but she dismissed the thought as disloyal. She was bored.
She absently opened the cupboards, the refrigerator…a sandwich! She’d have a sandwich! She could sit on the stoop to eat it and if she left the window over her bed open, she could hear the phone if it rang. God forbid she should miss a phone call and the instructions it was certain to bring. Even being in the bathroom was no excuse… A sandwich!
The bread was stale and she had to pick a furry green dot off one corner of the crust, but it would do. She opened the refrigerator and took out the mayonnaise and cold meat, careful to spread only the thinnest layer on the bread and to separate only one slice of meat from its brothers. She wrapped the sandwich in a paper towel and cleaned up the evidence of her illicit snack, then took a bite from the top. Eh. She wasn’t in the mood for bologna. She worked the bite until she could swallow it, then wrapped the remains of the sandwich in the paper towel and placed it near the back of the refrigerator…she would take it to school for lunch tomorrow.
It was an uneventful evening. She sat on her bed with the old bread board across her lap, eating dinner while her mother and step father ate at the coffee table as they watched TV. The sofa was too small for three and there was no other seating in the living room, so she either had to sit on the floor to watch, or stand in the hallway near the bathroom door, where she was “always underfoot, goddammit!” She opted for her bed and the books she checked out of the school library during her lunch break. Heaven forbid she should go after school and end up late coming home and checking in…her ears would burn and her face would smart for hours from the tongue lashing such defiant independence would surely provoke. She’d rather spare herself that, so she would bolt her sandwich and spend the rest of the lunch period in the warm embrace of the library, savouring the fusty, bookish smell, browsing the volumes and following her literary whims. Mary Poppins this week, Aldous Huxley next, perhaps Upton Sinclair after that. After dinner, when the dishes were washed and the pots scrubbed and the stove degreased, she would shower quickly…there would be no hot water in the morning by the time her turn at the bathroom came…and climb into her cot with the latest borrowed volume, block out the TV noise on the other side of the curtain separating the rooms, and read herself to sleep.
Mornings were hectic, with the three of them trying to use the same bathroom at the same time, but since she didn’t have to leave for school until after they had left for work, she would invariably be the last one in. She actually preferred it this way, even with the lack of hot water, since she didn’t have to hurry, there being no one waiting on her to finish. She was standing in her bathrobe, just rinsing her teeth, when her nerves stood on edge at the sound of her mother’s screech. All three of her names…dear God, she was in trouble up to her eyetops! But what on earth for?
She dried her mouth on her sleeve as she rushed to the kitchen from whence the screams emanated, lest she linger too long and find herself summarily dragged there by her hair. She’d been too slow before and the consequence had made brushing her hair a tender affair for nearly a week. She nearly skidded to a stop in front of the refrigerator where her mother stood with the door open.
“Just what in the name of God is this?” her mother demanded, shoving a paper-towel wrapped object so close to her face that she couldn’t focus on it. She felt suddenly cold inside. Her stomach pulled into a tight, agonizing knot. She could feel the colour drain instantly from her face.
“A s-s-s-sandwich,” she stammered. “Lunch today,” she managed to add before she unaccountably found herself sitting on the kitchen floor.
“Get up, you smart-mouthed little bitch, and don’t take that tone with me!”
She got up, carefully schooling her face into an expressionless mask until she knew whether she should look frightened or stoic…the right facial expression could shorten this. Her left ear was ringing and felt hot and fat. She looked up slowly and saw the glower on her mother’s face that meant an explanation…a good explanation…had better be forthcoming or there would “be more where that came from.”
“I was planning to take it for lunch today…” she began.
“There is a bite out of it,” her mother said without even moving her frighteningly red lips.
“I…I know…I took one bite and I…I…uh…I wasn’t hungry so I wrapped it up to take it for lunch today,” she finished in a rush.
Suddenly she was sitting on the floor again, seeing her mother through a kind of red haze, her ear ringing so badly she could barely hear “…times not to waste food…never listen to a thing…incorrigible brat…stop snivelling…stand up here…” She struggled to her feet, feeling a little dizzy, forgetting her facial expression.
“Aw, gee,” came the nasal, taunting sneer. “Now you’re gonna blubber, for God’s sake, over a couple of love taps. You want to bawl? I’ll give you something to bawl about!” She heard it, the cracking sound, but she neither saw nor felt it. One second she was leaning slightly against the refrigerator for support, the next second she was on the floor again. It needed mopping, she thought absently, seeing something that looked wet and sticky near her mother’s shoe. I gotta mop this up before she sees it, she thought dazedly, or I’ll be in big trouble when she does…
And suddenly it was very quiet. She stayed perfectly still, knowing that to move when motion was not commanded could earn another blow. She looked around carefully with her right eye…her face was on the floor such that the left one had no vantage. Mother’s shoes were gone…when had she left the room? She waited a bit longer, in case she had just moved out of sight and was waiting for her to move unbidden. But there was no sound save the ticking of her alarm clock. Slowly, carefully, she raised herself to a sitting position, noting the small puddle on the floor. Embarrassment flooded over her…she’d had a nosebleed! Not exactly the best time for that since it probably splattered on Mother’s blouse when she slapped her…there would be hell to pay for that! Was Mother in the bathroom, rinsing out the blood, ready to smack her again if she interrupted before the storm was over? Slowly, wondering why her stomach felt bruised, she pulled herself to a standing position gripping the edge of the sink and glanced over at the clock. 8:45. Dear God! Mother was at work by now…so was Frank…and she was late for school! Now she was really going to catch hell!
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.