24th October 1986
Today I’m going to start keeping a journal. It was Mother’s idea. She was upset that I wasn’t using it when she first bought it for me. I think she loves me very much, but she doesn’t believe that I love her, because I don’t tell her things. Well, I don’t tell things to anyone. There is nothing I can think of anyway. I’m supposed to write down what I’ve been doing today. I woke up at 7 a.m. and got ready for school. A boiled egg and a glass of milk are all I usually have for breakfast. I don’t normally like carrying lunch to school. I don’t like eating in front of other kids. Mother always makes lunch for me, but I either throw it away or eat it secretly in the girls’ toilet. I did that today.
Mandy followed me after the lesson. She took Jessica with her because otherwise she would be scared of me. I was sitting on the toilet seat, looking up. I could see Mandy’s hands grabbing the wall as she was trying to climb up.
“Disgusting !” she said. “You’re eating on the toilet! I’ll tell Mrs. Mills!”
I carried on eating, and then she started spitting on me. I felt ill and threw my sandwich at her. At least Mrs. Mills is a nice lady, she knows what Mandy is like, but I don’t think she likes me much.
When I got home, I went straight into my mother’s library. She has read a lot in her life. All four walls are covered with bookshelves, reaching high up to the ceiling, like pine trees touching the sky. Every book is a part of life; I know it, and I want to know what life is about. My mother seems to know, but she won’t tell me. The bookshelves in the far end of the room are the ones she used to read as a little girl, and she wants me to start with those if I ever want to read and learn anything from her proper collections.
“You’re too young for these,” she always says. I have to admit that I don’t understand them anyway; I have tried reading Frankenstein once because I liked the book’s front cover. I only made it to page four until my mother came and took the book away.
“You won’t understand the language, dear.”
“But it’s English,” I said.
Mother read out the opening of the book with such fluency that I couldn’t follow.
“What did you make of it?” she asked.
I only remembered having read the same words, but not in the same way she did.
“At your age, you should start from where I tell you.”
She shook her head as if I was stupid. I hate her.
None of her children’s books interest me, I know them all, and it is no fun to reread them. I didn’t get a quiet minute to read. When Mother is bored, she keeps coming into the library to check on me. I won’t stop reading the books she forbids me to read. So whenever I hear her footsteps on the corridor, I immediately change the book. When she thinks I’m reading Huckleberry Finn (again), I’m actually reading Madame Butterfly. I had to climb up the shelves to get the book. I was so attracted by the word butterfly. I love butterflies. It reminds me of playing badminton with daddy before he died. It was a strange book; only people talked. It was like watching a theatre in a book.
I’m tired now.
26th October ’86
I forgot to write yesterday, I was so impressed by Madame Butterfly. I don’t understand the story, but I like her. I feel like the child that she blindfolds. It also reminds me of Mother covering my eyes when Rusty got run over by our neighbour’s car. Madame Butterfly is like Rusty. I wonder what life is. I don’t want to tell Mother that I want to go as a geisha for Halloween. Maybe I shouldn’t go at all. But Phil is going! I hate him. He is the only one who is kind to me, but I don’t trust him. I don’t talk to him, either. He smiles at me for no particular reason and then goes away to talk to Mandy. What an idiot!
27th October ’86
I asked Mother to paint my face like a geisha. She used to be an actress on stage. I saw pictures of her with a painted face. Maybe I shouldn’t have said geisha because she gave me a funny look. She said OK and painted my face white.
“Guess you have already decided what to go as for Halloween.”
I smiled, and then she looked me deeply in the eyes, which I didn’t like. It was as if I had done something bad. She kissed my head. After she was done, I found myself looking like Snow White. I didn’t look like a geisha at all. It wasn’t what I’d expected.
“It’s because you’re not oriental looking, dear,” she said.
It upset me, even though it looked pretty. But then mother suggested getting me a wig, which might change everything. I can’t wait!
29th October ’86
I fell asleep last night. I couldn’t be bothered writing. I started reading Great Expectations, which is difficult, but when I replaced Pip with Phil, it became easier to read. And I imagine myself as Estella because I love the name so much. I asked Mother why she didn’t give me that name. She said Estella had a cold heart.
“But you will have someone like Pip running after you one day,” she said, but that spoilt my interest in continuing the book.
30th October ’86
School was terrible today. I threw my lunch at Mandy again. Everyone was saying that Phil fancied me. But they weren’t laughing at him; they were laughing at me. I don’t understand why.
“Phil has such a bad taste,” Mandy said/
I didn’t see him in school; otherwise, I would’ve thrown my lunch at him instead! I haven’t been reading today. I can’t concentrate; I’ve got a funny feeling in my stomach. I wonder if Phil is coming to the Halloween party tomorrow. I’ll slap him! Mother showed me the wig today. It looks strange. It seems like I’m wearing a black gift box on my head! Or a black puppy!
Mother said she was going to work on the wig, so it doesn’t look so big. I told her to hurry because the party is tomorrow.
31st October ’86
I couldn’t wait. I have to tell you about my costume. Mother bought me something that looks like a dressing gown; I forgot the name, but it has beautiful patterns of flowers and butterflies. It feels so silky and smooth! The wig doesn’t look so bulky anymore. For the first time, I find myself pretty. I know how Cinderella must have felt. I wonder what Phil will think. He’d better go as a naval officer. But if he dares to come near me, I will punch him!
I’m not tired. Mother just helped me to wash my face. I look the same again. Maybe it’s better this way. I can’t stop looking at the mirror. It’s not even midnight yet, and the magic has gone. Mandy pulled my wig off…right in front of Phil. In the end, I just looked like a pantomime or even a clown in a dressing gown. I felt so ugly. Mandy dressed as the snow queen and was very pretty but cold like Estella. I locked myself up in the girl’s toilet until Mrs. Mills came to check on me.
“Your costume is the most beautiful of all tonight, my dear,” she said.
I didn’t believe her. If I had had a sandwich, I would have thrown it at her.
“No one knows what you are going as because they are not as culturally educated as you.”
I don’t know what she meant. I don’t care, either. I just wanted to go home and hide in the library. When I left the girls’ toilet, I bumped into Pip. He looked at me, first with no expression and then I saw him smile. I walked away. Mother came to pick me up, but Mrs. Mills had stopped her. They were talking while I was in the car. Mother didn’t sound happy; she was raising her voice, making angry hand gestures.
When she got in the car, she said, “At least she agreed that you are the most beautiful tonight.”
We didn’t talk on the way home.
I think after Mother has gone to bed, I’m going to sneak into the library.
1st November ’86
I had a bad dream. I’ve just woken up crying. I dreamt of Russian dolls. Like the ones grandma gave me. I kept opening them, but they wouldn’t go smaller. I don’t know what I was looking for and began to cry. Whatever I had wanted, it must have been hidden in those little monsters.
It’s Saturday, and all my homework is done already.
I went into the library and lay on the floor. It was beautiful and quiet, with the sun shining through the window. I think I fell asleep for a while. A whispering voice woke me up, but it wasn’t Mother. I got up and looked around, but the voice had gone. I couldn’t remember what I had dreamt about.
My eyes rested on a red book on the top shelf of what mother called the adult corner. She had told me that she was a feminist and that those were the books she had spent years reading at the university. She said that I would read them too once I’m a grown-up.
The shelves were too high; I couldn’t reach them. Mother had taken the stool out of the room. Then, I remembered the story of The Tower of Babel. Daddy used to read things to me out of the Bible, but Mother is not religious.
I had an idea. I piled books up, only big and heavy ones until it was high enough to get the red book from the shelf. It was called Giambattista Basile’s Folk & Fairy Tales. Why did Mother put children’s fairy tales on the top shelves? It didn’t make sense to me. It’s like an antique book; the writing is tiny. There are no pictures, either.
I hid the book in between some children’s books and replaced the gap on the top shelf with One thousand and one nights because it was huge and red. There are many stories in the big book of fairy tales, and I’ve just started with Sun, Moon, and Talia. I think Talia is my age, and I’m not sure if she has sex with her father. The language would be easier to understand if I read aloud, but then Mother would hear me and ask me what I was reading. I wonder how sex works. A girl in school says it’s when you start bleeding. Daddy never told me. I don’t think I ever want sex, then. I sneaked the book into my room… I’m going to carry on reading in bed.
2nd November ’86
Oh God, I nearly got myself into trouble! Mother woke me up this morning, but luckily I was lying on the book, so she didn’t see it. I can’t remember when I fell asleep last night. I was scared because I heard someone knocking on my window, but I saw nobody. It couldn’t have been anyone, because my room is on the 5th floor. But I was still scared. Or maybe that didn’t happen. I can’t remember.
I finished reading the story from yesterday. I didn’t like the queen, she sounded evil, but I don’t know why I had to think of Mother; I don’t think Mother is evil, only sometimes.
I read Rapunzel as well, but it was different from the original version. This one is so sad. No one seems to like her. All she does is cry, and the prince is an idiot! Maybe she needs sex. I spent all afternoon reading these strange fairy tales.
3rd November ’86
School was terrible. Pip and Estella laughed at me when I slipped on the wet floor. I hurt my knee; it still hurts! The janitor shouted at me that I couldn’t read the sign. I can! I just couldn’t see what was written on it because it was so blurry.
Mother took me to the optician’s today, who said that I was shortsighted and needed glasses. I’m going to look ugly! Everyone in school is going to laugh at me! I’ll just stay in bed for the rest of my life. This is not life.
4th November ’86
I’m ill today. Thank God. No school. I vomited this morning and couldn’t stand the sight of eggs, so Mother made me some porridge. There was blood on my bed, but I don’t know where it came from. Mother didn’t say much, except that it was all right. She was only angry that I had the window open. I’m sure Peter made me ill last night. He knocked on my window again. It was him the night before, too. I opened the window to let him fly in. He wore tight green clothes and placed his hands confidently on his waist like most of the actors did in Mother’s photographs. He is a little bit older and taller than I am. I like him.
“You’re a beautiful girl, so full of life,” he said.
He kissed me. I blushed.
“There is so much you haven’t seen!” he said.
“Are you going to show me?”
He held my hand and led me to the window as if he was going to take me away.
“Wait,” I said. “I can’t fly!”
Peter looked sad. “But where are your beautiful thoughts?”
I couldn’t think of any. I felt terrible.
“I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow.”
Finally, he smiled again. “Maybe I can help you.”
He put me to bed. I don’t remember what happened afterwards – I must have fallen asleep in his arms.
Mother has been looking after me today. I didn’t want to talk to her about what happened, because it’s a secret. Peter would get angry and never speak to me again.
“Darling, something’s wrong with you…”
“I’m ill…” I said.
“I got you some sanitary towels. I told you how to use them, right?”
She made me feel sicker; I didn’t want to talk to her, so I didn’t listen until she said, “I’m taking you to the doctor’s.”
“Come on, darling…”
It always stinks at the doctor’s place! I get goosebumps all over my arms when I see people in lab coats; they look like ghosts!
The doctor asked me about my hobbies, what I eat and so on.
I suddenly heard Peter whispering in the room, “Don’t tell our secret!”
I looked around the room and forgot about the doctor and Mother.
They looked at me as if something was wrong. The doctor’s beard made him look like a king from a fairy tale. I was thinking of Briar Rose’s father.
“What is life, doctor?” I asked.
He smiled and led me to the half-opened window. He then threw his handkerchief out. It flew like a butterfly; the moment it fell, it flew back up again, wherever the wind was leading it.
At last, there was my beautiful thought.
Mother had tears in her eyes when she wished me a good night. I don’t know why. I have to think about the handkerchief again that turned into a butterfly, and I have to think about Cio-Cio San. I’m going to blindfold myself tonight before Peter teaches me to fly. Everything should be alright because I have my beautiful thought (and I won’t even tell you). I have to make sure Mother won’t come in as I will open my window.
Life, I know what it is!
by P-chan (c) 2004