A Raining Face This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 14, 2011
Mother. Mother! I know each time I feel the rough cloth on her soft skin that I am safe. From the woman with metal eyes, from the furrowed brows on Papa’s face, from the vibrations of my own feet pounding against the walls. Sometimes I hold the doll with soft hair and real eyes, who feels just like me, but then I realize the comfort I feel is a shadow. A shadow that is not the real thing. What I seek is the feeling that comes from being in my own mother’s arms, as her cool hand rests on my hot one. As we lie in the smooth strands of life in the yard. As I touch my cheek and find not a consolation but a beat within a chest. This comes scarcely anymore, now that the strange guest has come. She tries to hold me, close to her warm breath. She wraps my hand around hers, day after day. But I fight because she is all wrong. I know that she wants me to need her, as I do my own mother, but she is an impostor. Everything-the way her hair is wiry, spun in little circles from her head, the way her harsh skin smells and feels, like small scales, goes against what I have known. Each time she tries to get closer to me I am reminded of the painful differences between the woman and my mother. My mother is the soft, silky hair of the present from the stranger. My mother is the arms that protect me from myself. She is the lump of grainy sweetness that dissolves in the corner of my mouth.

But still she keeps secrets from me. With all I know about her, her smell, her feel, there is something hidden behind her lips that I cannot understand. I know her pain when she does this, forcing vibrations from her mouth. I feel her arms tighten about me, trying to make up for the injustices she sees. While she tries to help me understand, she wishes somewhere deep inside that I won’t learn this secret she is hiding, won’t know its value. Won’t feel the pain that comes with the inability to do this, this shared talent that connects all people. And this makes me try even harder. I tolerate the visitor, I play her games. Not because she wants me to, not because I am afraid of the strength she has, the fearlessness in her that I have never seen before. I do these things for my mother. I have felt the wetness that drips down her cheeks, tasted the salt on her lips, known her face to crumple with the weight of her sorrow. With the weight of me.

I do not understand what the woman does to me, or why she does it. But my mother does. Every time the stranger’s boots shake the ground, her face changes. It is clenched with hope, with passion. Her eyes widen and her lips stretch upward. She grips me tighter, bouncing me on her knee. It is when I feel her like this that I know I must continue to tolerate the guest. I don’t want to feel the heavy sensation of my mother’s raining face again. I don’t want to know that I made her be like that.

Yet it is in the moments of battle that I forget these feelings. They are lost in the whirling motions of my extremities. The space they occupy in my mind is reduced by sudden bursts of itching anger. The woman wants me to bend to her expectations, to crumple. And this is the one thing I cannot do. I have no advantages, nothing that could possibly set me apart from another. I live in solitude, knowing nothing of this secret world that my family has access to. I have only my power, my unbreakable will which allows me one thing, this one sweet sensation of control. As I stepped across the long platform, the trivial objects succumbing to my body’s weight. I was invincible, glorious above the stranger’s hard eyes. But too soon I was returned to the cold, hard chair. Again and again I pleaded for my mother, and again and again I was pushed back down into a seat. And then I have no choice but to remember. I remember how her face had felt, how she had curled into herself. And then I give in. I give in to the woman, but stand up for my mother.

But now, with my face buried in her warmth, I feel the visitor approach. Touching my mother’s face, I meet the wetness again. I caress the slick beads, like the buttons I snatched so long ago. I touch the tip of my tongue to my fingertips. Something feels different. My mother clasps my hand, pressing it into her cheek. Her mouth turns upward, her cheeks plump. Pulling me close, she breathes into my hair, rustling it. I touch her eyes again. This is not what I remembered of her raining face. This is a different type of wetness, I realize. This is joy.

Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

ArtLover said...
Feb. 22, 2011 at 10:28 pm
This is definitely a Five Star piece of writing - I might have accidentally changed the rating from 5 to 3, but am not able to undo it and so I apoligize!
RightWriter said...
Feb. 22, 2011 at 9:32 am
I had already read this on the bus :) but I read it again and it's so good!!!! I like it because it can potentially apply not only to Helen Keller but also to any very young child.
ArtLover said...
Feb. 21, 2011 at 10:04 pm
What a powerful and insightful description of a child's thoughts and emotions!
Site Feedback