It’s late at night, or maybe the wee hours of the morning before dawn. It’s quiet, the kind of quiet where you can hear the breathing patterns of everyone in the house and the creaks in walls and ceilings like invisible footsteps. Soft, yellow light glows like a halo around my crib. I am crying. I can’t hear myself crying but I must be because then she appears. I can’t see or hear her, her face is a blur, but in the thick fog of memory I can feel the tender notes of her voice, as soothing as honey for a sore throat.
There is the clink, clink, clink, of something being wound up, then the tinkling of music, like the kind that comes out of those music boxes with the ballerinas inside. This isn’t a box though; it’s a teddy bear with soft, chocolate brown fur. I imagine the bear is new, although I can’t picture it. Only the old bear with matted fur and scuffed plastic brown eyes and a black nose round like a mushroom top threatening to fall off. The wind-up key in the back can’t turn more than a half inch before springing back and stopped playing music decades ago.
My next memory is a monster, as elusive as the first but so terrifying I know it’s real. It is the memory of a woman whose walls have crumbled; collapsed from within. I hear her screams as I play with my toys. Do I stop playing? Do I hide? Am I afraid? I don’t know. I’m two-years-old. I know those screams are not for me. It is a sound like floodgates broken by water too heavy and too raging to be held back anymore.
Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared on Alt Muslimah here. Ambata Kazi-Nance is a writer and teacher living in her hometown New Orleans, LA with her husband and son. She is a member of MelaNated Writers Collective, a group for writers of color in New Orleans. She writes for Azizah magazine and is a contributing blogger at Grow Mama Grow (www.patheos.com/blogs/growmama) an online community for Muslim mothers. She blogs about writing and other things at www.aknthoughtsonthings.wordpress.com and you can find her on Twitter @NolaWanderer. Her views are her own.