I stare into the crowd of familiar faces, scattered laughs rising from their throats as they tear into some blackened chicken, hot dogs, and beans over conversations ranging from scandalous to flat-out boring. Everyone is having a good old time of course and I make a conscious decision to cut through the ocean of family and friends to greet Mom. Of course, my body tenses up, my heart races and my hands turn clammy instantly at the sight of Aunt Malina stepping through the sliding doors to the backyard to nurse a beer beside her. 

As dizzy as I’m feeling at the moment, I can’t recall whether or not I mentioned it to Mom but her sister touched me when I was ten. Without invalidating my trauma, Aunt Malina is conventionally beautiful in every sense of the word and her blessing from the genetic lottery isn’t lost on anyone. As a ten-year-old though, her outer beauty was the last thing on my mind when touched me the way she did. 

I shudder all at once when she’s in the same neighborhood let alone under the same roof. Everyone who isn’t grown enough or a sibling calls her Auntie Lina outside of Grandma but she passed around the time “Auntie Lina” forced herself on me. She had her third and last heart attack ten days prior and “Lina”, as Mom knows her, finalized the divorce with her backbiting, backsliding husband Uncle Moe when she came to visit us. 

She asked me if I ever felt lonely and then proceeded to ramble on about how she was lonely when Uncle Moe found comfort in the arms of other women from secretaries to grade school teachers. Between each pause, she would close the distance between us on my bed until she pinned me to it, yanked my pants down to my ankles and grabbed me and pressed her free hand over my mouth. The tears stung my eyes when it was happening; the jokey, lighthearted woman everyone knew was serious and overpowering for five whole minutes before she stopped and tears sting my eyes to this day. 

“Carlos, it’s good to see you again.” Mom, as radiant and as beer-free as ever, embraces me as if I’ll turn to sand in her arms in a few seconds. All the tense feelings in my bones disappear and surprisingly, Auntie Lina has done likewise until she reappears with another ice-cold beer in hand. I step out of Mom’s warm hug and when she notices the dampness in my hands, it registers to her that something is wrong even if she’s unaware of the cause. 

When we’re in my old bedroom with the door shut tight, we sit some feet away with me on my bed and her in the swivel chair facing my old computer. “Those sweaty hands didn’t come because of the ridiculous heat. That’s for sure.” I brush back some justified tears and can’t find the courage to raise my face from the floor.

“Mom, Auntie Lina, I mean, Aunt Malina touched me as a kid.” The words shake out of my body and leave it shivering after they exit my mouth. I never intended to spend my first day back in town since I left for college as a tearful mess over something that happened fifteen years ago. The stunned look on Mom’s face informs me that I didn’t have the heart to tell her something her sister would never confirm. 

The first words to leave her lips are “you have to forgive her” followed by “on your own time” but they’re choked out of her breath like her throat is tightened. Through her own set of tears, she asks me why I “didn’t reach out to let her know sooner” though I feel Mom has an idea of why I was tight-lipped about this. Anything negative about Aunt Malina is a false accusation with the type of outgoing personality she has. 

“Please don’t confront her about it, Mom.” I whimper knowing the consequences outweigh the importance of the truth. “Everyone’s gonna stand up for her and we’ll both look like idiots.” She sighs at the hurt flooding my face yet she kisses me on my forehead and swings open the door. 

“I know you’ve been outside the whole time, Lina. Apologize to my son for traumatizing him.” She’s stiff and speechless but whether or not she’s honestly feeling this way is bugging me. The closest siblings stand for one another and can handle telling each other the truth even if it bruises their ego. 

“I-- I was lonely, Phylicia and I didn’t know what to do once I found out Moe was dipping in and doing every pretty woman with a pulse.” Mom’s fists clench and sit on her hips knowing good and well what can possibly happen. “You were lonely so you sexually assaulted my son?” 

Now, Aunt Malina is the one with her face to the floor, twiddling her thumbs in the hopes that Mom will ease up on her as she’s always done during confrontations. This isn’t a defense mechanism, it’s a trap and lucky for me, Uncle Moe is on the steps ready to disarm it right as Mom makes her statement. 

“Malina, I know what I did was wrong but you can’t go around touching no boys especially not flesh and blood.” She raises her head to find Moe as somber as I feel, huffing, puffing and downing the last of the ice-cold beers from Mom’s fridge. Aunt Malina reaches out to Mom who dodges her and storms downstairs. 

“And you wonder why some people have a heart of stone.” Moe points at me from the steps and raises the glass bottle of beer. “At least stone hearts don’t break, nephew. It’s not all bad.” 

It’s not all bad is what you comment after tasting some mediocre wine or watching a slightly below average movie. I can only assume that those perspectives are subjectively negative but what Aunt Melina did is, for my current level of maturity, unforgivable and objectively bad. Stone hearts do break, Uncle Moe and that’s why I’m choosing to keep my distance from people to preserve mine for as long as possible. 

October 15, 2019 06:43

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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