By Emnete Abraham '19
“Mami,” I whined in my mother’s direction, “I’m sorry!”
“For what?” she questioned. I blanked. She told me to call her again when I figured it out.
Frustrated, I kicked the door stopper and listened to it vibrate, like a woodpecker stabbing at a tree, before it came to a halt. I resumed my staring contest with the beige corner connecting my living-room wall and the front door. I spent many afternoons in that corner, as punishment for various offenses—forgetting a word in Amharic, tormenting my sister, or disrespecting to my parents. My constant mischief made me too familiar with the cracks in the aging paint and every mark, remnants of the time I decided I would be an artist and the wall my canvas.
Hymete—my older sister and the golden child—had her own corner across the hallway that separated our walls. On the rare occasion that my sister and I were simultaneously imprisoned in our cells, we secretly played hand games, hiding our hands whenever we heard our mother’s footfall. She caught us often, giving a pointed look, before returning to the stove. Boredom reclaimed us, again.
After exhausting every daydream I could muster, I took to studying the handiwork of a small spider high up in my corner. The small white threads glistened with the light from the kitchen’s chandelier, giving it a mesmerizing silver tint. I watched the steady legs of the spider weaving a trap for its dinner, its work like that of the ladies at a salon, braiding a young girl’s hair. I searched, willed, for something to distract me. I examined the carpet that probably predated my parents, themselves. Only the same bland burgundy color, with the same coral-reef texture massaging my feet met my disappointed gaze. I inspected the one white cake stain from my seventh birthday that, despite our efforts, never quite came out. Again.
On this day, the wall and I stood face-to-face, again, after a long hiatus. My inability to remember the Amharic word for yellow had brought me back to the place I’d managed to avoid for almost four years. I instantly zoned out, attempting to make my jail time feel shorter. My daze prevented me from hearing the car door slam, my father on his cell phone and his house key unlocking the front door. Only the door’s creaking penetrated the steel wall that was my thoughts. I jumped away from the large metal door with a yelp, catching my father’s attention in the process. He looked at me, “Emu, you’re twelve. You’re too old for this,” he exclaimed. I nodded in agreement; indeed, I was.
I now stare at the corner through sixteen-year-old lenses, taking in the place that figured throughout my childhood. A piano has appeared, shrinking my corner to only a foot wide. Fresh paint, now a bright white, hides the wall’s age marks. Shorn of carpet, the wooden floor—shiny and smooth—chills my feet. I try to reconcile myself with the old prison. It’s not the same one I left behind years ago, but it’s no use. I hate that corner. I always will.