Me: Ma, isn’t Dad amazing? He knows everything about everything. He gave me so many gems for the debate at the learning centre tonight.
Ma (in her usual, thoroughly disinterested tone): How wonderful! So, what time should I come to pick you this evening?
Me (mischievously): Ma, it’s only going to be a war of words – you don’t need to pick me up from the centre for that!
Ma (giving me the silent, sordid stare that mothers all over the world have mastered, over centuries): What time?
Me (quickly shifting my stance from humorous to assertive): I’m 17 already! I’ll be 18 in three months. Why do you still treat me like a child? I’m the only one who gets a pick-and-drop service from her mother. My classmates make fun of me. Do you have any clue how embarrassing it is?
Ma (with her usual, truly frustrating calmness): In my experience, it’s better to feel embarrassed than remorseful.
Me (exasperated and indignant): What? What does that even mean? What did Grandma and Grandpa do to you to make you like…THIS?
Ma: They didn’t come to pick me up from my evening classes at the learning centre.
Me (utterly perplexed): Huh?!
Ma (as nonchalantly as if she was narrating an everyday occurrence): When I was almost 18, they did not come to pick me up after my biology lessons, one night. As I was about to reach home, a guy grabbed me from behind, took me to an alley, and…with the number of rapes taking place around us every day, you’d think it would be easy for us to use the term, by now. Isn’t it strange how we still hesitate before uttering the word that seems to engulf our very identity, at times?
Me (tears streaming down my horrified face): But…but…didn’t you recognize the monster who did this? Didn’t you tell Grandma and Grandpa? Didn’t they have him arrested?
Ma: Yes, and yes. He was our landlady’s grandson, and I told Ma and Papa the moment I could manage to get home. And no, they didn’t have him arrested. They had me arrested, instead. They got me married to him the day I turned 18.
Me (picking up my bag and heading to the door, unable to look into my mother’s blank eyes): You can pick me up at 8, Ma.
©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021