A True Story | Anonymous Staff Writer
“We’re leaving”, they said. The door snapped shut. Our home plunged into silent mourning. My mind sealed itself into a labyrinth of words spilt in the heat of anger and the coldness of heart.
Earlier that morning, I had told my mother to let me be. I had told her that my disheveled closet was my own, and thus, I could do with it what I pleased. My voice had risen. My shame had dropped. Now, they were gone. My mother had said nothing. A glimpse of hurt flashed across her eyes, a shooting star that lacked the joy of a star and contained the pain of a shot. My words, my tone inflated with annoyance over a thing so small floated in the room, forming a dark haze over my eyes, convincing me that my annoyance was justified and her silence an act of surrender. How can I tell you how wrong I was? Silence is loud. It is powerful. It has the sword’s pierce and the arrow’s poison. It has the uncontested ability of bringing its victim upon her knees, begging for degrading curses, sorrowful wishes, and fierce punches.
It is the everything of nothing. Tiny droplets of rain pattered against the thin barrier that separated in from out, heat from A/C, and mine from theirs. The silence, however, was still there.
Tiny droplets of rain pattered against the thin barrier that separated in from out, heat from A/C, and mine from theirs. “We’re leaving”, they said. The door snapped shut. Our home plunged into silent mourning. The rain was already crying, the winds already sighing. There are times in life when you feel doom right around the corner. No matter how far your smile stretches or how often you bring your head to the floor in sujood, you feel it there.
That is the power of the word ‘cancer’.
Words blur before my eyes. “Kingsolver uses the motif of birds and animals in order to accentuate…” I lift my fingers over the keys but I cannot unlock the words. My report is due in a few hours. Again, I try. Again, I read. “Kingsolver uses the motif of cages and birds in order to accentuate…”
The hospital entrance had a bird. It was sprawled against the white washed walls, a splash of color meant to enliven the atmosphere. Birds, I had learned, symbolized freedom and life. But this was a place of death. The bird’s yellow may have seemed bright and sunny for someone else, but it was ugly and uninviting for me.
I walked through the entrance to my mother’s ward. It was on the far end of the hospital, probably because hope was so far away. The doctors said she had a few months. I entered the room and she smiled. I returned her smile, my heart knowing this smile was only temporary, a smile that would flip into a frown sooner than I knew. She was only thirty-three. And she was expecting.
I looked up, expecting. I heard the familiar grrrr and crack of my garage door opening. Leaving my computer, I looked to see if my parents had returned. The garage door was shut. The world outside was on a video’s replay, looping forever in the same twenty second sequence. The rain showered on. Our motor cracked away, cackling to itself for fooling me with its sounds.
They had cracked. Her legs were now but shattered pieces of bones. The nurses said she had had a seizure. Her screams, however, were lost in the dead of the night. They had given her pills to lessen the pain. They had tied her legs down with bricks. My father cried. He cried because of the necessity of his absence. He had to work. We children had to be fed. But we did not know any better. My younger brother, a toddler then, would threaten to remove the bricks that kept her shattered body in place. My mother would give him the money he wanted. He would smile and run away.
My younger sister was the only one who was there. She would sit by my mother’s side. She reimbursed the many days our mother had spent changing our diapers. After those days, she never ate with a spoon. She had used it to take the food my mother’s body no longer needed out; now she couldn’t use the same thing to let food in.
I return from the window, back to my computer. The page before me is still white. I read the words about Kingsolver and her use of motifs again. “Kingsolver uses the motif of birds and animals in order to accentuate…” But I am caught in the ellipses. Its dots send me into the past. I remember the times I rolled my eyes behind my mother’s back, the times I lamented my misfortune in having such strict parents, the times I listened but did not hear. The page before me does not seem as white as I previously thought.
They laid the white sheet over my mother’s body. My father would soon follow. Both of my parents had left this world. Mother and father entered. I looked up and smiled. I looked up and smiled and cried and regretted and enjoyed. They laid them in their graves. I lifted the grocery bags from my mother’s arms. I looked in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not spending the time I should have with you. I’m sorry for everything I did and said. I’m sorry that I never got the chance to say how much you meant to me. My mother took me in her arms, the same way she did when I was a child.
Now, I return to my computer screen. I open a new document. My words fly out like birds ready to cherish the freedom of flight. I think of the ayat commanding us to be good to our parents. I think of what they have done for me and what I should do for them. I think of how we never know a good thing till it’s gone.
My parents, however, are here. Their presence renders my house a home. Alhamdullillah. Alhamdullillah. Alhamdullillah. This word tumbles out of my mouth again and again. But one day, they will leave forever. Just as my mother’s mother left. But before they leave, before I leave, I will take every chance, every opportunity to make them smile, to comfort them, to guide them, to become a blessing, rather than a burden for them. Life is too short for garrulous grudges, torturous tensions, and belated apologies.
So now, I write. “We’re leaving”, they said. The door snapped shut. Our home plunged into silent mourning… My mind sealed itself into a labyrinth of words…