"Get a sporty one," I say. "I'll get one like that, too. We can be twinsies."
She gives me a sharp look. As if you are this tall. As if you are this tan, as if you are this young and have the entire universe in front of you to crack open however you see fit. She doesn't say it. She has better manners than that.
She picks a bright aqua.
"It's a perfect color for you," I say. It will be a graduation present for making it through 8th grade. Along with driving lessons in an open field with our old truck (me with my rosary that the pope blessed more than two decades ago; I'm not even a practicing Catholic, but still, you should see how she steers the riding mower).
I went online to order the bikini. It will be a surprise. And an admission that I realize that she is growing up and that I'm cool with that. And that I trust her to make the right choices. And that I think she should be proud of who she is and how hard she trains at soccer, tennis, MMA, school, life. Kid deserves a bikini at the very least.
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I need to stop here, because I can barely think about this. The bile is lurking at the bottom of my throat. I see her lying there, with her head turned, still as death, and I see vividly the girl I taught to swim. The girl I taught to stick up for herself, the girl who is still the most vulnerable child as much as any other child, and I want to kill that man with my hands. I want to crush his wind pipe and kick his face until it sticks to my shoe and he turns to blood-colored dust. In my mind, he will blow away in the fatted wind of injustice with all of the other pigs who wave their guns at children and see the world as dogs see the world.
A few days ago, I took my daughter to a self defense class for women. We have been training in MMA together for 8 months, but even I know that you can't punch the lights out of a 250-lb man intent on doing you harm. I'm an extreme, aggressive, confident woman and even I know this. For a fact. My daughter does not understand.
"Why are we going to a self defense class? We already train? You could kill somebody with your kick."
"Babe, the street isn't a Jackie Chan flick. Besides, you need to know that there are other ways to skin a cat."
In my version of the story, I would be there. I would protect her from this vapid evil that keeps her just a little bit more guarded than her classmates and giggly best friends.
I see the bikini, I try to disassociate it with what I have just witnessed as a mother, a human. She will love it. Other mothers are ordering their daughters this same bikini without a care in the world. They see their gleaming young skin and all of the family fun they will have this summer at the pool and the campground and the ice cream shack.
I see the vulnerable patch of brown skin along the spine that is always in danger of being crushed.