The Bruises You Can't See

Papa always come home drunk. He told us his business is going down. We may have to sell the house, he said. That got Mom upset. Mom asked Papa where we are going to live. Papa would keep quiet. I know that he had no answer. He would just stay in his room. Then, he would yell for Mom. Moments later, the door would slam. I could hear Papa beating up Mom. I felt helpless. I would stay in my room and use my pillows to cover my ears. I felt terrible and wanted to run away in the middle of the night.

In school, I was often caught sleeping. The truth is, I could not pay attention in class. My mind would wander. I tried to think of the good times. Some years ago, Papa brought us to Genting Highlands. It was our first holiday abroad as a family. I could still hear Mom’s laughter and joy. She hardly laughed now, let alone smile. I would catch her staring at the walls. Sometimes, I could see her wiping away her tears. But Mom would never talk to me about her problems. I could not understand why Papa had changed drastically. But there was no one I could talk to. Not even my friends in school.

Madam Rozy was the only one who would notice my sudden change in behaviour. I had grown quieter in class. Madam Rozy was my English teacher. One day, she asked me to stay back after class. “Is everything alright at home?” she asked. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about my parents. I looked down and shook my head. That day, I went home feeling scared. What if Madam Rozy called Mom or Papa? They would think I had caused trouble in school. I did nothing wrong. I was just hurting inside because Papa would beat up Mom. I was confused. Is this normal? Do all parents fight like this?

My guess was correct. Madam Rozy did call home. When I returned from school, Papa was seated at the sofa, looking concerned. Mom went to the kitchen the moment she saw me. Papa told me to sit by his side.

“Andy, your teacher called. He said you were quiet in school.”

I didn’t dare to look at Papa’s face. Although he had never laid his hands on me, I nonetheless felt scared in his presence. I knew he had beaten Mom several times. Would he do the same to me? I wouldn’t stand a chance. My small body would not be able to survive his beatings. I was almost trembling. Deep in my heart, I yearned for my Papa who was fun-loving and kind. He was a different person then.

I was expecting the worst that day. But it did not happen. Papa just gave a deep sigh and left me alone. He went to his room and slammed the door again. Mom came out of the kitchen and stroked my head gently. I had wanted her to say something. But she was quiet like me. We were both quiet.

Nobody would understand me, I felt. Each time Papa beat Mom, I felt as if he was beating me too. But Papa never laid his hands on me. I did not understand why. Sometimes, I wished that he would hit me instead of Mom. I wanted to have bruises all over me. Then, it is easier for others to see my pain. I would not have to say anything. The bruises would tell their own stories. But the only bruises I have are in my heart. You won’t be able to see them. But they are there. And the hurt is double because I alone have to bear it. Each time Papa beat up Mom, my heart would bleed.

But what can I do – this eleven year-old kid who has no one else, not even a sibling? If I were to tell you my story, will you believe me? And even if you believe me, what can you do? You may not be able to help me. But I hope you can do something else: please make Papa stop hitting Mom. I want them to be normal again. Please?

Yours sincerely,


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