She doesn’t know me.
The street was bustling with life, not at all resembling my world crashing down upon me from one single revelation. She turns, a still figure in the people going to and fro, and waits for me to catch up as I stand with my feet melded to the ground.
She doesn’t know me.
The thought reverberated through my skull over and over until the words ceased to make sense. Until every thread that made up the tapestry before me unraveled along with every single thing that threaded me together, made me what I am – and in that moment, I hated her. I hated her in a way you can only ever hate someone you love.
Sometimes I think it would be easier if she died. I wouldn’t have to feel so bad; I wouldn’t have to face this. I would play the mourning daughter with such grace and sadness and go to my grave hiding that bundle of relief away from the world. But then she smiles, laughs and jokes and plays along and I think “I never want this to end. Stay with me, mom. Don’t leave.
Keep me from myself, mom.
Don’t make me exist outside of this moment.
I was always afraid – even when I wasn’t. A hesitation lingered in the back of my mind, a step never to be taken, words never to be spoken. A small box where I shove and smash in all things even the box can’t fit anymore. Cracks appear on the burgeoning box, but I maintain my resolve and keep filling it until one day, it’ll turn into a black hole, maybe, I hope. My brother is a familiar stranger, the only words to pass his lips are ones from forced discomfort. Questions my mother made him ask as he walks in the rooms of our house like a landlord might. My father is similar, domineering but only as a facade to hide an interior that can never be filled. The times I see him, brief as they are, can be played like different takes of the same scene. If my brother was a what if, a question of what I might have had, my father was a fixed point. He’ll never change, not by the force of the world, but he’ll go to his grave convincing himself and everyone else that he had.
My mother…what can I say about my mother? Womanhood looks good on no one, the shackles tightening as you grow – I know as I feel them now. There is so much hate for her, so much love. She is not a what if, nor a fixed point. She is both and neither. She showed me the world and ripped it away from me the second I held it close to my chest, cradling it like I would my child. A part of me is thankful though, by taking the world away from me she showed me the world. I love her. I hate myself. So many lies, so many hurts, all understandable, none vanishing. I wish, I yearn, I cry, it never goes anyway. She never goes anyway.
A daughter and her mother – we were never given a chance, I think. As my blood streams down my arm, I wonder how I got here from the stories I used to read as a child. Of unconditional love, of warmth and heart. Now I am numb and my heart is as the stone of the table I am bound to and all I wish is for my family to be. All I wish is to exist simply and not fight and lose against this ravenous beast that has me stuck in its teeth. I am afraid of you, my mother, afraid of your stinging hand and the shrieking pitch of your voice. Afraid of your soft eyes and the loving stroke of your hand down my back as you envelop me and I feel like I am home. I am home and my house is falling down around me as I try to cling to its pillars. Nothing but heat reaching me, burning me from within, or perhaps from the outside in – I can no longer tell. All I feel is fear and desperation. Longing and anger. Hope and exhaustion. All I am is your daughter.
Her eyes burned as though staring at the sun. She might as well have been, given the glare of the bright white light reflecting on the stainless steel. She moved methodically, turning on her heels, so the loupes on her eyes stared at the selection before her with consideration. The right instrument must be picked.
People are often shocked when they learn she is a mortician. A girl like her is naturally far too pretty and fragile to handle corpses after all. It used to amuse her at first, their reaction. Now it’s just banal and boring.
After a moment of thought, one gloved hand reached out and picked up the curved scalpel of her choice. The belly of the blade was cold and heavy against her fingers. She turned the edge of the scalpel downwards and carefully started slicing her way through the skin, marking the top ends of the Y- incision before moving downwards. The white cloth spread over the body’s face and legs reminded her briefly of the tale of Snow White, as a drop of blood touched upon its inner edges.
Placing the blade back down, she grabbed the scissors and went through the same path as her scalpel to be certain the body would yield to her hands. And yield it did, as she grabbed the flaps she created and pulled back to reveal the inner machinations of the creature before her.
Her smile pushed the surgical mask on her face to press up against her skin.
The human body is a curious thing. It is simultaneously the most simple and complex thing one can consider.
…Until they remember the existence of literally anything and everything else.
The inherent arrogance in the devising up of existing, of what is and is not worthy of living, is a feat only accomplished by Man. As the mortician observes the amalgamation of millions of years of evolution before her, she noted in mirth how the flaps of the torso spread like wings, almost in scornful amusement.
But despite the vast number of organs and stretches of vessels, flesh and bones, only one thing caught her eye. Located at the bottom of the abdomen, a small organ of seemingly insignificant value lay dormant in her pelvis. The twin ovaries painted a sickly color of white.
The mortician picked up her blade and began her true work.
There were days when I fantasized about what my life would be like if my father stayed to see it. I would try and picture him and my mother embracing, words flowing freely between them, soft and tender. The picture would never form. I’d imagine how his hand would gently hold mine, caress my hair when I’d have a nightmare. But all that I could recall was my mother’s harsh grasp.
What I do imagine is that the bitterness of her womb trickled through me. Replaced my blood with its poison until all I could feel is sharp resentment. I don’t need to imagine very hard, after all, abandonment is the antithesis of panacea. I am my mother’s daughter. But I wonder what it would be like to be my father’s daughter. It is an ineffable feeling, a mixture of love and hate and understanding and ignorance and indifference and shattered hope. It is subtle and all-powerful and consuming and gone with the wind only to return with a storm. It’s horrible and I hate it with a burning passion.
The sun shone with a vengeance that one afternoon. I don’t remember the day or the time or even the road we were on, just that it was too loud and too bright when my mother apologized to me for the first time in my life.
“You never had a father,” she said, eyes fixed on the highway. “And that’s one of my biggest regrets in life. I’m sorry, I know I wasn’t enough.” If I remember one thing for the rest of my life, I’ll remember how I felt at that moment. She never turned to look at me, but I remember looking at my mother, whom I’ve both resented and loved for so long, the person who would hug me when I’m feeling down and knock me to the ground when I reached back up to take her hand. I finally saw her – not as a failure of the indestructible archetype – but as a person. You’re never taught that your parents are people too, that you are the addition to their lives and not the sun that they revolve around. I looked at her and I saw myself, a young girl too dumb to understand the world reflected in my mother’s irises as her hand rose above my head to strike down the rebellious angel before her. The red mark on my cheek an emblem of her rage with her life. I never dreamt about my father after that, only about my mother and what might have been.
My mother was always either sad or angry. Every memory I have of her, even the joyous ones shined with her sullen eyes and a melancholic twist of the mouth. She would slump when seated, and retreat into herself when in public. She’d barely eat and every movement she made was sluggish. My mother lived to become a shell.
The only recollection I have of her being happy was on her deathbed. There were no tearful goodbyes, no pearls of wisdom. Only the ghost of a smile on her face as the tenseness in her body finally left her. The day that we buried her was my birthday. There’s a metaphor in there about death and life and their cycles, but I’m too tired to think of it. I’m always tired now.
The relief I found was temporary, the role I played sliding uncomfortably against my skin. In all my fantasies, I did not expect it to be so utterly wrong. I hate it.
I hate that I understand her now, on the precipice of the cliff she isolated me too.
I hate that I love my mother.
“You claimed me to be what you wished, then abandoned me to live up to it,” I whispered to the wind. Her grave looked so large, larger than she ever was. Her name is engraved in capital letters, glaring at me with the truth I cannot escape.
I am the daughter of an object. Sometimes I wonder if that’s even true as I feel more like an inanimate thing with each passing day . But as I sit here, at the foot of her last resting place, I feel that I have found my place at last, here amongst the forgotten and the dead, the meeting place of the past and the present.
Every incision had her heart beating faster, every slice had sweat beading on her forehead. Her hands didn’t shake, but her insides did – they quivered and trembled and shuddered until finally, she had removed the organ from the cadaver. A sharp noise echoed as she took it out. The sound was what struck her the most – this is what a society crumbling sounds like.
Almost an hour had passed from whence she had begun, yet it felt like there was no beginning, no starting point to her actions. She was always embroiled in this, always entangled in the blood and the carcasses. Always, always, always.
She can’t remember how it all came into being. Why can’t she remember?
Suddenly overcome with such visceral hate for the person laying before her, for their very existence. She was blinded and deafened to anything but the pounding in her heart and that fucking white sheet over their face.
And there she was, holding the womb in her hand and the only thing she can experience is confusion running through her. The organ was small. Much smaller than she had believed, almost the size of a fist.
How did something so small rule over her life with such power?
She had no warning as she stepped forward, driven by instinct. The hand that held naught but air and the abhorrence of a thousand years reached downwards and grasped the scratchy coverings. She breathed faster, and with every inhale spun tales of hope and every exhale told a thousand stories of suffering.
The anger was surprising, it pierced through the numb wrath and had her strain every muscle as she was faced with no way to release it. She ripped the fabric away revealing her own face resting in peaceful respite, the opposite to her own image, twisted up in a scowl. She clenched her fist, felt the object of her fury pulse and shift before bursting open. Such a fragile object… she tore it to pieces.