Pickles and Mayo by Jackie Fender

Mayo and pickles, again.

My stepmom wakes me up, hurried and excited.

“Get up! You’re late, let’s go!”

I am 8 years old and it doesn’t occur to me to glance at a clock and protest. I’m pulled out of bed with feelings of dread. Quickly I dress myself and head down the long carpeted hallway to the dining room where my stepmother is ironing like a madwoman.

“Go, go, go!” She demands, handing me my lunch pail and shoving me out the door without another word.

It’s a crisp January morning. The grass crunches under my feet, frosted over with dew. As I walk to school I watch my breath when I exhale into the frigid air.

Hurried, anxious and alone, I remind myself how stupid I must be, like a mantra. I repeat it to myself because that’s what I’ve been told so many times and I allow the stupid tears to well up in my stupid eyes.

Stupid.

My stepmom rarely missed an opportunity to remind me how unwanted I was. On this morning she shoved me out into the cold to go to school. No words were needed.

I arrive to the elementary school and the double doors are locked. I circle to the side door only to find that door locked as well. I am not late. Not only is school not in session, it isn’t even open yet. I cup my hands and push my face up to the glass to peer into my classroom window, hoping my teacher is sitting at her desk working away. Surely, she must be because she is always.

She is not.

I’m scared to go back home. Worried to meet the wrath of my stepmother. Petrified she will tell my Dad how useless and stupid I must be.

I don’t go home.

Instead I sit under the window sill, my lanky limbs pulled in close and I wait.

I wait long enough for a grumble to rise from my belly. In her haste, she did not feed me breakfast. I make the choice to eat the contents of my lunch, skip the lunchroom this afternoon and wait it out until dinner time. If my Dad is home from work tonight, which is rare, I am guaranteed a meal. If not my stepmom may create a feast and neglect to feed me.

I didn’t know what bulimia was back then but came to understand much later the special kind of torture she displayed to me, concocting full meals she would gorge herself on to only throw up after while I went hungry.

I pop open my pail and retrieve my sandwich, peel apart the slices of white bread and peer at the contents with disdain.

Pickles and Mayonnaise.

Again.

My stomach groans at me some more and my eight year old mind is convinced that I am being punished. My father doesn’t want me because I am bad. I can’t help but be bad because my mother is bad. This is what I am told and I believe it because I am sitting outside in the freezing January morning, biting into a mushy sandwich, tart with pickle slices that slide around in the mayo.

Tears threaten to pour from my eyes as the lump in my throat builds. I take small nibbles and throw away the remainder of my meal.

Then I wait some more.

 

*Jackie Fender has been a resident of Tacoma and surrounding areas since she was just a glimmer. Mother of four, wife, creative culture enthusiast. Most of her writing includes cocktail recipes for work but other words can be found at the Weekly VolcanoCity Arts Magazine, South Sound Talk, Post Defiance, South Sound Magazine and the South Sound Users Guide. You can follow her personal musings on her blog. The above is an excerpt of a work in progress yet to be titled.