At my fifth birthday party surrounded by cousins.
A pale little princess in a shimmery yellow dress of polyester and tulle falling from the spaghetti straps that hang off my shoulders. A Burger King golden crown sits high atop my head on the blur of my straightened, puffy brown hair tucked haphazardly underneath.
Sitting atop a table in the middle of our living room, I smile and fake a curtsey next to the cake. I’m surrounded on all sides: by my cousins, my friends and decorations that scream “Happy Birthday” in the ugliest shades of yellow, green, red and even glittery pink. I am five years old.
My mother has spent hours preparing for my birthday party. Wiping. Scrubbing. Blowing air into balloons. Cutting the ribbon that special way that made it curl as she let it loose. Positioning the dolls in their frilly dresses around the room, the dolls that set the theme for the party. Every party I would ever have would forever have its own special theme.
But the smile is fake and no one notices. No one knows that only minutes ago my mother was beating me across the expanse of the pink and white flowery bedspread on the king-sized bed in her room. My crime? Bashfulness. I was shy about everything: taking photographs, talking to the guests, walking out from behind my mother’s long legs in my too-big party dress.
My birthday wish: That I could die and disappear so that my mother would never punch me again with her fist or slap me again with the back of her hand.