Dear Mother, from Exile

“Where’s the first fold?”

“I think it’s here.”

“Here?”

“Yes.”

The map is folded skillfully before my unskillful words leave an awkward residue on the table where your long, thin fingers place the map.

My small, but muscular hands shake, propelled by their own courage to break something large in half, to represent the grief I can’t allow myself to experience.

I come-to as you’ve just finished a story about losing your mind to a spiritual experience, and I imagine you there in that small cold room where I’ve been too, waiting for the doctor. 

I recognize your hurt, but in this moment we’ve become two stars now separated by darkness where our light is not shared, and our darkness is vaguely recognizable to the other.

“So you understand then, why I can’t go?”

“Yes.”

“I hope it’s not misconstrued.”

“You could send a card.”

You must be folding papers, or shutting down the computer when I disappear to the basement to find a card, and visualize what it might say. I return empty handed. I’m trying to find a different way to say, “I didn’t come because I was terrified to come, but terrified not to come, and that was a good sign that I wasn’t invited.”

Things move fast in the moment, but in slow motion, remembered. I want to hit the reset so we can try this again, and I can slip away, slightly alienated, but not completely unsure of myself.

You say goodbye, and I’m right behind you. Suddenly as I feel the heavy door hitting the rubber trash-can, I ask, “do you want me to turn off the light?”

“Yes. And we will find the Rio de Flag yet,” you say laughing, nearly returning things to a state of normalcy, but grief is nearing escape, everything is happening out of order.

I end up in front of you, a conversation I may have had, pushing past the soda machine, rounding the corner right, now aware that perhaps things have turned awkward, I reach to fill the water bottle to slow things down, then stumble back into confusion, into the hallway, and out into cool air, and even lonely can’t touch me wherever it is that I’ve gone, and regret won’t find me for hours.

Left in exile the whole of the next day, I finally reach to touch the pain late in the evening. It has been crying, hungry, all day.

“I miss you,” it says.

I can’t imagine, what she must be feeling. My body may act as a shrine for my pain, but it was out of necessity. Not with intention did I bring it to life. Not with joy, did I keep it alive. It was a war, between us – mother and child.

It is then, if I had a pen –

“Dear mother, I’m sorry I couldn’t come. I was afraid to see you, afraid you’d deny me, as you’ve done before. I’m waiting in exile. You’ll know me. No matter how long it has been. Forget about the compassion you thought I had. Look at my eye lashes.”

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