Hit Him Where it Hurts
When he was seven years old, Samir came home from school early. His soccer match got canceled after a violent storm, and he had arrived home with his clothes drenched in rain. Every inch of fabric sucked up the moisture, growing heavier and heavier, until his twig-like limbs nearly snapped under the pressure of excess weight. He could have shed his clothes entirely to avoid the tremendous task that was walking up the driveway, but the Samir of the past was much more different than the Samir of now. Young Samir had his wits, charm, and good-looks cut in half. Young Samir had a nose that was too big for his round face. Young Samir was stubborn to a fault, so he made the poor decision of trudging up the driveway with his clothes on.
By the time he made it to the front door, Samir was surprised to find it locked. His mother always had the door open when he came home. He figured that his mother had simply forgotten, so he rang the doorbell.
No one answered.
He rang the bell again.
Again, no one answered.
So he rang it again. And again. And again…
The door opened with a WHOOSH and there stood his mother with her silk robe half-hazardly tied around her waist. Her hair was tangled and matted like she had tossed and turned one-too-many-times on her mattress. Blood had flooded to her cheeks, flushing her complexion bright pink like the innocent cherubs painted in the Vatican. Her lips swelled, plump and ripe against the whites of her teeth. She stood, awestruck, with her frightened eyes contracted upon the sight of her son. Her chest rose and collapsed with each laborious breath in her state of panic.
“Samir!” With hasty hands, Ms. Mustafic smoothed out the creases in her silk. “You’re home early.”
A small puddle began collecting at Samir’s feet. “It started raining. Coach told us to go home.”
“You should have called!” Irritation leaked into her voice. “I could have picked you up. What kind of mother am I to make my son walk home in the rain?”
“I’m fine, Mama.” Samir’s voice seemed to shrink on itself in the same way wool sweaters did when they got wet. Rain dribbled down his locks, sliding down his plump cheeks. “Can I come in? It’s cold out here.”
His mother can only muster a half-hearted, “Of course, my love.”
Unsure of why his mother was still blocking the doorway, young Samir craned his head to look at her. “Mama?”
At such a young age, Samir had neither the intelligence or sense to understand the predicament he had put his mother in. He did not understand why his mother muttered Bosnian curse words under her breath or why her eyes would dart in different directions as a product of her rapid thinking. He could only pester her and complain about how cold he was (he really wasn’t) and that he wanted to come inside to watch his favorite t.v. show. When Ms. Mustafic finally cracked under pressure, she allowed her son inside.
He ran in with thunderous footsteps as she predicted. Trails of wet shoe tracks printed the hardwood floor and produced the sharpest squeaks down the hall, second to his rambunctious laughter. He was glad to be home, away from the rain, away from his coach’s dictations, away from his teammates that seemed to point out every flaw in his performance. But all that came to an end when he collided face-first into a man’s bulky thigh. The smell of warm steam and his mother’s body wash infiltrated his nostrils and violated him in a way that he couldn’t explain. Somehow, he felt attacked. The same smell that normally brought him comfort only brought him pain. The pain doubled when he looked up to see a half-naked man smiling down at him.
“What’s up little man?”
Young Samir became mute as a mouse. His senses overpowered him. He didn’t know whether to count the wiry hairs on the stranger’s chest or ask him why he smelled like his mother. Whatever it was that Samir was thinking, the man didn’t want to know. Instead, his thick brows shot high up his forehead, and he shouted to convey his amusement.
“Anna! Is this the kid you were telling me about? He looks so much like you!”
Ms. Mustafic could only breathe a sigh of regret.
“What’s your name, little man?”
Samir balled his fists by his sides. If the man had any sense in him, he would have taken it as a sign.
“Don’t be shy.” The man said in a gentler voice. “I’m Kevin. Your mom and I are good friends.”
The way he lingered on to the word made Samir boil with anger. Ms. Mustafic dug her nails into the flesh of her robe. “Kevin, I think you should leave.”
Kevin held an impatient finger up and shushed her. “Not until I get his name!”
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea!” Ms. Mustafic bit back.
“C’mon little man.” Kevin teased. The tips of Samir’s ears tinged red. “What’s your name?”
Kevin extended his hand. It was as bulky and meaty as the rest of him.
Samir drew back his fist.
Nothing could change his mind.
He hit him where it hurt.
Kevin’s lips rounded into a puckered ‘o’ before his knees snapped on him. He fell harder than Goliath and groveled on the floor in pain. A sinister smile of satisfaction took over Samir’s face as he stood over the fallen giant. Samir wanted to marvel at the giant’s misery and the disgusting way his towel began to unfurl around his waist. The tears pricking his eyes fed Samir’s vengeful appetite, now an expanding void that only desired to consume. In this instance, Samir had learned how to inflict pain...and enjoy it.
“My name’s Samir, motherfucker.”
Samir waited for the giant to get up but he didn’t. Instead, he looked up at him with a wounded look on his face, the kind that cows threw at you before you led them to the slaughterhouse. It was a look of someone who didn’t know what they did wrong.
The sadistic fire that fed Samir’s blackened soul extinguished, and in his new state of humanity he became audible to his mother’s deafening silence. Turning around, he saw her tremble with anger, mostly anger at herself, as she held onto the wall for the fear of collapsing from the stress of it all. It was then that Samir saw his mother for the first time. He saw through her silk robe and the many burnt-in images of her cooking meals for him in the kitchen. He saw through the facade of the woman who nagged him time and time again to stop running in the house and hitting other kids at school. He saw through everything he thought he knew about his mother, from her shallow threats and the occasional beating with a switch.
Now, he saw her for the woman she was. She was a woman tormented on the daily by self-deprecating thoughts, by shame, and her own internalized hatred of herself. Samir saw a lonely woman with her eyes glazed over in fear of her own son, for she saw someone else in his place just then. In that moment, he became the infamous man of legends, the very man that helped bring forth his existence into this world, the very man his mother warned him not to be.
The fruit never fell far from the tree; it only replaced the tree that came before it.
Sick from the realization, Samir fled home with his mother screaming and crying in his stead.