“You think that’s what I want?” Kak said. “Anti-aging cream? Perfect hair color and tennis lessons? A face without wrinkles?” She moved to where her knees just touched Stammer’s. “Expression lines. Isn’t that what Evelyn calls them?”
Stammer touched Kak’s chin with her fingertip. “You. Look great.”
“Well. You look awful.”
It was cruel but it had always been cruel. Stammer said nothing.
“Did she call attention to your age spots?” Kak asked. “Is that how she got you so shook up? Except she called it hyperpigmentation. Didn’t she?”
She knew the word exceeded Stammer’s range by two syllables, even on a good day.
“Say it with me, Stammer,” Kak said, mustering all the venom a daughter could for a mother. “Hy-per-pig-men-ta-tion.”
Kak didn’t care how deep the verbal daggers struck. “That’s what they do to you,” she went on. “They get you thinking you’re not good enough. Not perfect enough. And that’s where they come in. To save you from yourself.”
Stammer opened her mouth as if to answer but thought better of it. Kak remembered the embarrassment of having a mother that couldn’t speak like the other moms. A mother who sounded slow. Stupid. Now Kak’s tirade exploited the one advantage of having a mother with a speech impediment. Winning an argument. Stammer couldn’t possibly match her pace.
“And you swallow it,” Kak said. “You know why? Because you believe it yourself. Inside you know you’re not enough. That you’ll fail. And it seems like an easy way out.”
She took a gulp of the Malbec. “So you settle. You smear on the anti-expression cream. Because you aren’t supposed to show any evidence of ever having had an expression. If all goes according to plan you get through life with no expression at all.”
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