Mouse Skin

Mouse Skin - student project

One day in September before the first rainstorm of fall, my grandmother was taken. She went out into the garden, and when she returned, She had been replaced with a woman who was, and who was not, herself. She had the same face, the same silvery-black hair, the same trunk-root veined hands—but she was not my grandmother. This woman called me by an old, dead name and told me “you need to find somewhere else to live.”
What had I done? What offense was taken to my tip-toeing around the house, trying my best not to be noticed, completing all of my chores secretly by night, well-practiced in the art of making very little noise?
Maybe it was this offense: she must have been shocked the day I stood up for myself for the first time, for all my crippling fear turned my voice to a whisper. She told me, “weak.” She told me “stupid.” I neglected to play the timid mouse for once, and she found it wasn’t to her liking.
Then came the quiet panic of finding a place to stay—and when I did, I kept myself contained in a waking dream. Quietly I waited. This was how I survived. My new home was far from ideal; I made a pantry from plastic storage bins and tin cans, a desk from spare cardboard boxes full of carpets. I waited and slept.
But something was different. I now knew I had been misused, you see. I was young and vulnerable and without many resources. What I felt then was the knowledge of my own power. Away from my grandmother’s critical eye, her sharp-tongued condescension, I could remake myself with my own name, which she thought she could take from me. But it always belonged only to me.
There was someone beneath the mouse, the meekness: someone who wanted me to shed my skin and let them out—someone beautiful and dangerous. What could another’s words do to me then? Those spiteful words masked fear—they meant nothing to me now that I recognized them for what they were. I turned my back on them.
I was not the type to seek retribution, for I was gentle—a flaw that I learned to accept, which made me stronger. My revenge was to live on my own terms—a sort of life my grandmother would never have approved of, but it was one that I approved of.
I do not hate the woman who replaced my grandmother. I have cut her negative influence away in a jagged split like a tree felled by an ax. The edges still hurt me sometimes.
Recently I heard that she spends her days praying for peace, and thinks of herself as a sort of martyr. The people around her think her mind is going. She must know by now that no one is on her side. What is she left with except unanswered prayers and an empty garden?
For myself, I craft a new life from the ashes of the last. A new me has risen. I welcome it with open wings.