I remember it like the moles sprinkled just below my left eye on my left cheek. I lived with my grandmother at the time. We were always in that old Thunderbird making stops for food and liquor. Lynn, my grandmothers husband pulled up along side the curb on 45th and Lancaster Ave Philadelphia Pennsylvania cross the street from Penn State Beer Store. Grandma finalized her order, a pint of gin, Lynn opted for a 5th of vodka and he got out of the car.
I could always tell when she was in a good mood cause she would get to buying stuff and throwing money around. She would be extra nice to Lynn, even gave him a kiss on the lips. She turned toward the backseat where I was sitting and said here Rabbit. Rabbit was a term of endearment she used toward me and my siblings. She continued, take this here dollar grandma got for you as she waved it around. I was so happy and was smiling from ear to ear cause the sun was so bright outside and I thanked her. I thought for a second with the Jamaican candy story adjacent to my left and in plain sight as any kid would about all of the snacks, candy they could buy if they had just one more dollar and since she was in such a good mood I opened my mouth with wide tooth smile and asked in the sweetest voice I could muster if I could have another dollar. Actually I said, “Can I have another one Grema”.
The instant she turned to me, a raging bull, face stern with that evil darkness in her eyes and menacing half smile I was so deathly afraid of and snatched the dollar out of my hand, tearing it in half in the process. She smacked the blood out of my face and blamed me for the dollar ripping. She yelled at me that I better not EVER, EVER ask no adult for no motherfucking money after they already gave me some. She followed by saying, “See what you made me do”. She always said that after beating me badly or when something went wrong. She called me an ungrateful little bitch. I cried in silence with tears rolling down my face and choking on that lump of sadness you get when you just want to scream it all out, but can’t because if you did it would be so much worse.
That was the moment I learned never to beg for money or anything for that fact. To be satisfied with what was given to me. To settle. To never aspire to reach for anything more than what was in my view. To never overstep my bounds even if I wanted something on the other side. I was meek and solitary and confused at how much, me simply asking for that extra dollar made her mad. How angry she was at the very notion of me making that choice. How much control she had over all things in my life. How that one moment debilitated my self-worth and drive that affects me deep down to this very day. How I will often suffer alone instead of asking for the help I need out of some secret fear. She always wanted to break me, every chance she got. -Gracie Berry