Broken Glass and Lemons

Broken Glass and Lemons

Virginia Carraway Stark

I was working for a bad man

He didn’t pay me or feed me

He made me sleep in a basement

underneath the Sternwheeler Restaurant

But it was better than being

In the house with him

And the woman he had taken

As a wife to him

This bad man I called ‘Dad’

I served drinks to strange men

At 3 in the morning after

He and my new ‘mother’ had long

Since gone to bed

I was not even 15 then

I remember one of the men said to me

That I poured the best tapped beer

He had ever seen

I smiled and asked him if he needed

Anything else

Then ran to the kitchen to try

to get my homework done for the next day

I worked seven days a week

In those days of hell

I had only my friends

I fell asleep in class

And they asked about the bruises

and much later the broken wrist

Which should have stopped them from working me

but instead it just took me longer

One day I came home from school

I had a lot of work to do, my resources

Bottomed out

They stopped hiring a dishwasher

In the daytime

So I could do the entire day’s work

When I came home

If I wanted food I had to come back

No lunches for me

They wanted me to come ‘home’

They could squeeze another 45 minutes of work

Out of me to pay for my meal.

Which I never had time to eat

(Shout out to the teacher who let me

eat in class or gave me time to eat

the monte cristo the cook who pitied me

made me to take away)

I was so tired.

They had pushed me too far

Yelling more tasks to do, hurry up

too slow too slow why are you so slow

hurry hurry hurry or else

I was being dressed down

I had missed a spot on one of the dishes

I stood with two glasses in my hands

A rage building inside me

That it was never ever going to be enough

The glasses I held exploded in my hands

I have no explanation for it

but they both exploded at the same time

Blood poured down my hands and arms

I looked at my Dad

Who watched the blood streaming down my forearms

He left while I picked the glass from my fingers and wrist

I thought he would bring back first aid things

hygenic gauze, scissors, tape

He brought back a large square metal container

(The type all restaurants use)

lemon and glass

And a sharp knife.

He put the container of lemons into my bloody hands

still filled with chips of broken glass

“Cut those all, then you can have your break.”

Those were the days when I always obeyed

Those were the days I never stood up for myself

I took the lemons and in

Excruciating pain

I cut them into wedges

Each and every one.

When I was finished my Dad looked down

His eyes as cold and dead to me as a lizards

But there was smug pleasure there too

Dancing far behind the cold

“Wash the blood off of them and you can go for your break”

In retrospect, I don’t think those lemons

Were exactly what the health department

Had in mind.

Lemons, glass and my blood sacrifice.

A part of me died that day.

The part that loved my dad what I had thought was unconditionally.

The part of me that had always obeyed.

To all the Gods and Goddesses who promise

Love and Mercy

Take the offering of that day

Lemons and glass.

Blood streaming off of me.

A child’s trust gone forever.

Let him pay in this life and next.

Evil coward lizard that he is.


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