How strange it feels to see two unfamiliar faces in a picture of myself; how odd that after all this time I still have nothing to say. Nine years is a long time; nine years of silence feels all the longer. When you died, so suddenly, all those silent years ago, my youth fractured. My childhood rained down upon me in all of its brilliant stain-glass hues, cutting my soul into uneven slices.
Why, then, Mother, did I not bleed? Where were they, those tears, hot and salty on youthful faces, to baptize me in pain when I needed them most? I could have sworn I loved you so, even if I never knew you. We can chalk it up as maternal intuition, I suppose. To this day, I cannot conceive the lack of pain I felt. I have always prided myself on my ability to conceive, to understand, and yet the riddle persists: me, the prince of sentimentality, ruled by emotions, suspended in darkness at his mother’s funeral.
Is the pain of today simply penance for my crime, for my numbness? Purple waves roar upon my psyche. They are polarized by the moon above; they are harbingers of rose-tinted glass. It shines too brightly, Mother, and it blinds me, that blood-red glass amongst my shore. Nine years of blindness and still it has not dimmed.
Sometimes, I wonder if my mind is smarter than I am. It could be, Mother, that it was my precocity, my anticipatory nature that saved me from utter devastation. Was that it, Mother? Was it all a veil or a wall, rather, built by my subconscious to save me from the flooding rains of grief? The soul senses these things, I think. It takes out most tender flesh and whisks it away into the darkness, preserving it within the deepest caverns of ourselves.
You look so happy in this picture. They tell me you were radiant. This the annals of my memory confirm. I do not recognize myself; I had forgotten I was capable of contentment, of such joy. Joy is a funny thing: it is fleeting, youthful, a memory from our ice-cream, sidewalk days. The frigid winds of adulthood come suddenly, though, and they preserve us in a glacial sort of stoicism.
We write it off as life, as maturity, as reality, even. We have been trained for this our entire lives; we have been conditioned to see this as an inevitable conclusion, one as natural as the wind or the rain or the sunrise. If the sun can rise again, Mother, tell me: why can’t we? Why can’t I? There is always hope, you know, far beyond the foothills, illuminating the horizon.
Please don’t cry for me, Mother, if you can. Do not mourn the pseudo-martyr, the willing shoulder of some half-real cross. The wood is splintering, my dear. I am no Atlas; I cannot carry our world forever upon my back. I’m laughing as I write this: isn’t it ironic, Mother, this spirituality of mine? I can remember so vividly those Sunday morning arguments. I’m sure you meant well. I know you meant well. I had always thought I knew you to some extent at least. I have slowly learned I was wrong in this regard.
This revealed itself in a passing anecdote at a family gathering: when you were younger, you and your sister would skip mass to eat donuts in the parking lot. You’d slip in just to grab a program for your parents, who were none the wiser. That sounded so much like something I would do; it sounded like something I never thought you capable of. It went completely against everything I had thought I knew about you, and I think that is the greatest tragedy of it all.
As we progress in life from children to adolescents to adults, our relationships and perception of our parents changes drastically. They humanize, slowly, stepping down from the pedestals we had placed them in our earliest years. We begin to see their flaws and we learn the details of their history.
It makes me so profoundly sad, Mother, to know I will never truly know your flaws. It pains me to think you never had a chance to humanize in my eyes. There is much uncertainty in my world and in my mind, yet still I know one thing to be unyieldingly true: we would have been such great friends, you and I.