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The Forgotten One
My mother is just a bathrobe, a stock pile of tears, and sagging skin. Her face has turned the color of urine, her mouth is blue, and her eyes have bloodied rivers running down the murky grey. She sits, stares at walls, and waits for someone to wake her up from reality. But she waits in vain.
My brother died on November 7 from cancer.
It spread through his body and ate his life greedily in a matter of only a month. His body collapsed inside of him, leaving us only skin and bones to bury. It was just the costume of my brother. It was just the mask he wore.
And inside sat the fat, happy killer sighing from contentment as its victim was tucked underneath the soil.
I think my mother died on November 7 too.
It’s been a year now, and I am sure she has said no more than twenty words to me in the span of 365 days. It kills me as she turns away food and water with her nose scrunched up in disgust, her palm facing outward in denial.
She cries some days, but that’s usually only the good ones. I have come to like the sound of her muffled wailing, locked but not quite contained inside the cage she has created for herself in her room. The screams are signs of life, and the tears are signs of recovery… at least, I pray they are.
The quiet has swallowed my family. Our eyes have grown accustomed to the dimly-lit rooms. Our hearts have grown frigidly cold and numb to any signs of life.
They say time heals a heart. But did they tell you that it only turns into a scab so that when you pick at it, it bleeds?
Today I sit on my brothers grave. I feel the cold stone run beneath my fingertips, and I shed maybe a tear or two. Then I stand up from my kneeling position, tuck my hands under my armpits and walk away. I even smile at the memories that run through my mind….
Until I see my mother. She is staring at me with the strangest expression. Her eyes quiver in their sockets, and her lips tremble on a word they are fighting for the strength to release.
“Who…” she murmurs and her voice fades into the sloppily thrown wind around us.
My middle finger twitches. I suck in a deep breath that stings my lungs like acid. “What is it?” I ask. I hand the words to her, place them in her glove-covered palms and wait to see what she does with them. It’s all I can give her now.
“Who…” she starts.
“Who are you?”
I stand there with my lips pressed firmly together in a line. My tears bubble on the bottoms of my lids, but I don’t dare let them go. In many ways, I am not surprised to hear this question. In many ways, I am shocked.
In many ways, I could ask the same question back to her.
But I don’t. No, she couldn’t handle that kind of retaliation. Her face is chipped away and cut up into a puzzle that is put together in all the wrong places, forced to all the incorrect crevices.
I can read the image though.
It’s genuine curiosity and unmasked confusion and heartwrenching loss of recollection.
Who am I?
“Your daughter,” I choke out. The words taste funny in my mouth.
Silence. Her face has turned cold.
Something that can only be called anger bites at my chest. “You are my mother.” I spit it at her like an accusation. The fog from my breath sends a cloud over her unchanging face and then fades into nothing.
“I was my son’s mother,” she whispers. Her eyes quake and turn to the direction of my brother’s deteriorating body. “But he’s gone. And he was such a good boy. Such a good boy.”
She begins to walk away. One foot plants into the snow, leaving an empty footprint in its departure.
“I’m still here.” The word grabs her shoulder, turns her around to face me and the tears running down my face. The anger pulling at my heart. The sadness freezing my blood. “I… You could love me. I’m not such a bad girl. I’m still alive, Mom. I’m still here. I didn’t die.”
A miracle happens. Her lips, still chapped and leathery from lack of use, turn upward into the most peculiar smile. A hand forms against my cheek, caresses my face so softly and tenderly, and catches the tears with its thumb.
My heart pounds softly in my chest. I wait for the words that will erase the past year and the gap it has formed in between us. I wait for the beautiful security I find only in her arms. I wait for her love to allow me to breathe again, allow our family to be together again.
“But I don’t know you” is what she says.
And I stand there and watch as a woman I don’t even recognize collapses on top of my brother’s grave.
Almost like she wants to be in the ground with him too.