In Beirut I remember nothing: hardly. Only the room where I lived, the
insects. After our mother died, our father hired a series of maids, old
neighborhood women in their forties or fifties, who would cook and clean.
We would call all of them Grandmamang. As a rule, they were efficient when
my father was present, friendly but negligent when he was absent. One would
bring her friends around and they would have a party in the living room.
I was hungry and I would lie down until they left. Otherwise, she would
lose face as a hostess.
I remember once, she had invited them to my birthday party. I was given
a box of gold foiled toothpicks for a birthday gift, shaped like fencing
blades---all of which were immediately put to use. They then praised me
and ate the cake that she had baked for the occasion. A rum cake.
I remember wandering in the garden with my rum cake, drunk on the rich taste,
the rum on my breath. Even now, the smell of rum is intoxicating, delightful,
brings to mind a flurry of yellow butterflies.
Before her, we had two other grandmamangs: The first stole all our toys,
one by one; she had five grandchildren. She was fired when she stole the
new accordion that Wyndham received. Nothing was said openly but I had wanted
to tell her to give back what she had taken. I wanted her to at least return
what we all knew she had taken. But my father said nothing, she, too, said
nothing, and disappeared.
The second would tell us stories about how men forced her to have sex. I
didn't want hear them but she would follow me around, telling me about lubrication,
how they bloated and bloated. She would pin me down and cut my hair to the
scalp. I remember Wyndham looking on, laughing. This cruelty, in turn, made
me scream hysterically. I began stuttering. She too was fired after two
months. But my stuttering continued for fourteen years afterwards. My father
hadn't known it was a correctable condition.
He hated listening to me. Often, he would tell me to take a couple of marbles
in my mouth; it sounded more bearable.
I remember he hit Wyndham once when he was mimicking me.
And, of course, Wyndham hit me several times once my father had gone.
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