Twenty years ago:
“See, you’ll always need me. I’ll always know what you need, and I’ll always be there for you.”
Nineteen years ago:
“Your hair looks better long. It’s so beautiful when it’s long, but it’s your hair. You wanted to try short.”
Eighteen years ago:
“You’re on your period, aren’t you? I knew it. I can see the little pooch in your belly. See, I know you so well.”
Seventeen years ago:
“Did you have fun?” … “Did you miss me?” … “Oh, I see how it is.” … “No, don’t lie to me just make me feel loved and missed.” … “Tell me what I want to hear!”
Sixteen years ago:
“Jeez. Are you trying to look like a slut?”
Fifteen years ago:
“It’s my graduation party. Why didn’t you ask someone for a ride home so that I can go be with my friends?” “You’re acting like such a selfish little brat. Why can’t you just drive me home?” “You never even asked me if I could or wanted to!” “Oh, please, why would I have to ask for something like that?”
An email arrives, “Stop acting like such a bitch.” For days, she scrambled about her life after being thrown so far off ehr center. The first and only other time someone had called her a bitch, to her face (obviously, she does not delude herself with bromides about how no one could ever consider her a bitch), hit her in the gut like an unbalanced response to an argument she had been having with her brother, the person who dealt the blow. They were both young, and she easily forgave him, mostly through her own naivete but also, through the sheer disbelief that the event had even happened. No one even remembers, now, what spawned the event, but the show of those words loomed large over the siblings for the entirety of their lives.
A week or so after the second bitch-slapping, the perpetrator—a person largely unable to withstand deafening silence—emailed again, “Get over yourself.” A few days later, another, “You need to talk to your mother. She’s a complete wreck.” Decidedly furious, she finally responded, “Dad, she called me a bitch!” The next day, she woke to a response from her mother, presumably after her father had passed along her response to him. The message read, “I said you were acting like a bitch.” And then she added every family member in her address book to her space list. That was five years ago.