I woke up from a nightmare, sobbing,
smothering my cries with my blanket,
I never dared call for Mum.
I never dared tell her some girls on my school bus
ganged up to taunt and scorn me.
I never dared tell her, one of them was a neighbour’s kid,
that neighbour she smiles and greets in the lift.
I never dared tell her, a teacher chided me to reflect on my character
in my unsuccessful attempt to borrow a piece of craft paper from my classmates.
I was only eight, did I deserve such hate?
I never dared tell her about her colleague,
“She lied! It’s not about the candy, I’m not greedy!
She said she wasn’t going to friend me, and she was your friend.
I never dared tell her why I acted out on one of our road trips,
jealous of my cousin sitting on her lap those few hours.
I never dared tell her how shocked and afraid I was
when I encountered the flasher, and how much I wished
she’d pick me up at the bus-stop after that event.
I never dared tell her many things, afraid
she wouldn’t take my side, afraid
she’d shame me or be ashamed
Then, she left.
Like me, she never dared tell
or ask for help.
I never dared cry to Dad.
I never dared tell him the first piano teacher I had gradually idled away
during our lessons, and wasn’t teaching me much.
I never dared tell him another neighbour asked me to stop my piano practice
so her daughter could get her afternoon nap after school.
(Oh wait, I did let him know, jokingly,over a decade after I parted with the keys)
I never dared tell him of the nights I was trembling under my blanket, traumatised
by the presence prying and staring in through my window slits.
I never dared tell him of the accident I was in, where the car was flung
across four lanes of the highway, landing on its top.
(With God’s mercy, I was carried out of the smashed metal, unscathed)
I never dared tell him how terrified I was of whom I was once engaged to
and why I broke it.
I never dared tell him how upset I was when he disregarded my offer
to invite his friends to my wedding.
(I had wanted him to share his joy and pride.)
I never dared utter a word
when my heart shattered,
when I screwed up in life.
I wish I had.
I wish I felt safe.
I wish I was assured.
I wish it was different, and I
will make a difference, starting
from this piece—