You know what I am trying to do for you, Night, she says. I am trying to make life easier.
Phase 1: They slather my face in it for what feels like an eternity before making me sit under a lamp. I don’t like the lamp. It goes in my eyes, causing the liquid on my face to get cakey and fall everywhere. They say they will have to do it again with a less severe light.
Phase 2: The less severe light makes it less cakey, but it doesn’t get the job done. They curse as they watch me lying down, skin not cracking as much but nothing else working. They tell Mom they aren’t sure what to do. I pipe in and tell Mom it looks like it can’t be done, and she glares at me. You know what I am trying to do for you, Night, she says. I am trying to make life easier. A mother knows what’s best for her child. She’s teary-eyed, and I look down. They tell her they’ll take the week to brainstorm something new.
Phase 3: I try to run away through the kitchen window, but Mom is prepared as soon as my feet touch the ground. One foolish girl you are, Night, she says. You are one headache, you understand? Do you know how much money it is for me to do this for you? Your sister would be alive if she was able to do this, you know that? You want to cost me another child, Night, she asks? I mumble an apology. I pause for a second, wondering if I could bolt around her, but she puts a hand out and drags me to the car.
Phase 4: They say they have a new idea, that they would try to do it the old-fashioned way. I ask them what that means, and Mom slaps my hand. They fluff powder on me that resembles flour. I cough, and they tell me to hold still. When they are done, my eyes are watering and I choke on the powder. They ask Mom what she thinks, and she calls them idiots. You think I paid you for something I can do at home, she asks. They try to respond, but she grabs my hand and begins to lead me out. My wrist hurts as we walk. Before we leave, she turns around and says, You did not make her fair, you made her look like a dark girl covered in baking powder.
Phase 5: The powder does not come off my face. Mom orders me to stop being dramatic and to stop coughing. She dunks my head in a bucket of water when we reach home. The powder stings in my eyes as I feel myself under water. I cough and cough.
Phase 6: I wait until I am sure she is asleep. I sit outside the door for hours. I can not hear much after three hours. She must be asleep, I tell myself. I pack a backpack. I would find some place to go, I know I would. As I get up, noise from her room emerges. Small sobs had restarted and soon turned back into wails. It’s not working for Night, my precious girl, she says to herself. It’s not working. I don’t want her to be killed too. I don’t want her to be killed too, she repeats. I go back to my room.
Phase 7: Mom is whistling the next morning. They called us, Night, she says to me. They have something they think will work. I say nothing. She tells me she is so happy. You get to live, she says to me. You will not suffer like your sister, she declares. No one has ever killed a girl for being fair, Night, she says before telling me we had to leave.
Phase 8: I do not like what I see. There is a large cylinder. They tell me I would just need to spend ten minutes and it would do the trick. I feel nervous, but Mom pushes me forward. Do it for me, Night, she pleads. For your poor sister. I shake my head and she grows distraught. Are you going to make me bury another child, Night? We won’t call you Night anymore, she says. I’ll tell you your name if you do this, like you’ve always been asking, just please do this for your own safety, Night. I have no choice but to go into the cylinder. She has not mentioned telling me my real name since she admonished me for asking as a two-year-old.
Phase 9: I stand inside. The cylinder is small, perfectly matched to my height. I feel claustrophobic. They tell me to just wait and let the solution do its work. There is no warning before the liquid comes running down. It feels like glue, thick and white and eating me up. It gets in my mouth, and I throw up. By the time I part my lips to gasp for air, another layer comes down. It is up to my waist. I lift my arms up and look. It is working. I did not look like a dark girl trying to be fair. I look like a fair-armed girl. I scream as the solution engulfs me and I can not tell up from down.
Phase 10: I try to find air. I swim as fast as I can before it gets dark, and I begin to let go.