“Shhhh! Are you crazy? They’ll hear you. We never speak English. You know the rules. You’ll get us all shot.”
“But Momma, don’t you see? We need to keep our language alive. I’m tired of everyone having the same color hair, speaking the same language, and we never sing anymore. Don’t you remember before the Great Cleansing? We could sing at the top of our breath at church on Sunday. Now we can’t even talk about God. We can’t speak English, or French, Japanese, oh all the different languages there used to be. Now everyone is the same.”
That’s when she slapped me, hard. The sting on my face matched the sting in my eyes, as the tears started to roll down my red cheek.
“Don’t you ever say that again. I’m telling you Rosa; they will take us all into the street and shoot us down like dogs.” She grabbed my shaking shoulders and drew me close to her bosom, hugging me tightly. “There there, don’t cry. I don’t like it either. We lost all freedom that cruel day and I hate that you can still remember the old ways, but you must get those memories out of your head. Do you hear me? Out I say, now you get cleaned up. We will meet your new father today.” She grabbed my shoulders in her strong hands and held me at arm’s length, and shook her head at the tear stains on my face. “You know crying or the appearance of crying is forbidden in public.”
I nodded, sniffed a couple of times and got control of myself. In the washroom I looked at my image in the mirror above the sink. I pulled my long blond hair back, and pinned it with a cheap plastic clip. I would have to do another dye job soon, as the brown was clearly starting to show near my scalp. At least the dye was free, supplied every month with our box of ‘complimentary’ staples given by our most gracious government, the same government who took my father away several weeks ago. When I asked my mother why my father had not returned after a couple of weeks, my mother told me he was dead. I knew differently. He was most likely working in a government owned mine, or in a warehouse, perhaps packing the very boxes we received. She didn’t think I knew, but I did. I also knew he was caught buying a roast of beef at the underground market. He was seen walking down the street, holding his coat in an unusual way, the bundle hidden beneath. There were no shortages of people willing to trade such information for a packet of cigarettes, or a roll of toilet tissue. I was told he was taken just two blocks from this very dwelling. We never saw him again. As is the way, a new husband was ordered for my mother. She was still of child bearing age, and she was a natural blond.
I would never know the pains and joys of childbirth. I was not ‘right’ for the protocol. I was neither blond, nor blue eyed, and that set of parameters banned me from every having children of my own. Oh I could have a beautiful blond haired blue eyed baby, and I will some day, but it will never be my flesh and blood, my genes. I wonder if my new father will be as handsome as my real father. I already know he will likely be fair skinned, definitely blond haired and blue eyed.
My thoughts turned to my mother. How strong she was to be facing this total stranger, to welcome him into her bed, probably tonight. Would she ever love him like she did my real father? Would I? I shook my head to rid my thoughts of such images. I put my blue contacts in, checked my image once more, and slowly walked down the darkened hallway to get a final inspection from Mom. Maybe someday things will change.