Thursday, March 26, 2009


“I miss my mother,” Nola whispered, concentrating hard on the pitiful way it sounded, trying to let that feeling of primal, childlike longing well up from deep within her, willing the tears come. She wanted a flood, an unrelenting flood of sorrow to engulf her, hot, salty tears streaming down her face. “It’s not fair” she softly moaned, rocking, chanting the words ‘I miss my mother’ over and over again, like a mantra, goading herself, trying to provoke a state of anguish beyond her ability to control. She wanted to set that anguish in unstoppable motion so she could float away in the raging sea of it. She needed to get lost, to find release; she wanted to cry, to mourn, and to yearn for her mother. It might be her last chance.

But try as she might all she could feel was the anger and frustration she always felt towards her mom. The feelings of betrayal, of being ripped off, of not getting what she deserved. The only emotion she could muster for her dying mother was utter disdain.

On some level Nola wanted to give her mother a break, wanted to let it all go, especially now as her mother seemed to let go of life itself. But she was overcome by the need to hold onto to all that anger as punishment, to forgive Kate would be to let her off the hook. She needed to hurt her over and over the way she’d been hurt by her whole lousy life, to make her finally see how horrible she’d been.

Nola’s silent chant spontaneously changed now from “I miss my mother” to “How dare she.” How dare she lapse into this state of legitimate unconsciousness, how dare she find release, how dare she be so ultimately unreachable. So un-punishable. How dare she disappear yet again.

The realization that she could no longer love her own mother hit her and she felt all the air sucked out of her lungs. How could that happen? Am I really that pissed off at my comatose mother for being stupid, careless. Yes, that was it. Kate was, above all else, careless. And now it was Nola who couldn’t care less.

Am I a monster? Wouldn’t anyone think that, wouldn’t anyone find me despicable for feeling this way? What had she done that was so awful, really? Certainly her crimes couldn’t be considered as bad as her father, could they? He was mean, cruel, purposefully wretched. All her mother did was…was…not much. Not much of anything. She stood by, watched it all. She didn’t see it. But she could have. That was the difference, the fundamental difference. Knowing that her mother’s blindness was a conscious choice is what changed everything.

Her father didn’t know he was the way he was. He wasn’t innocent, but he wasn’t responsible in the same way. He was a product of his own nightmare childhood. In his deepest, darkest hour he faced his demons and took some responsibility, at least some. He definitely felt remorse. Not like Kate, Kate knew, she had moments of clarity and regret but instead of facing them she turned around and denied it all, made the conscious choice to close her eyes again and again.

Her mother made promises and offered pipedreams, over and over she offered hope and then let that fragile hope shatter. She made excuses. She made claims. She twisted reality out of shape until it lost its elasticity altogether; lost the ability to contain the concrete form of Truth and instead liquefied into a puddle of vague platitudes and broken promises.

How had this happened? Just a few short years ago Nola would have said they were close, would have said her mother was her best friend, it was two of them against the world, against her father for sure. But now Nola could clearly see it was only because that’s the way Kate always said it was, it was merely a depiction, an attempt at revising history. She said they were close, that they were more than mother and daughter. She said he was the enemy. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the truth either. Somewhere in between; somewhere in the gray; so damn much gray.

And what of Ethan? Would he have been here with Nola, understanding how she felt, commiserating with a similar experience? She imagined the sweet little face of a boy who loved his mommy as all children did. Would he see Nola as the betrayer of his perfect life, or the savior come to free him from a mother’s neglect. Was Ethan even all her mother had said, or was he just a little boy, a regular little boy adored by his mother. Or worse, what if Kate’s ability to love wasn’t dead and buried with him, but nonexistent in the first place, what if Ethan suffered for his mother’s emptiness too?

But thinking of Ethan brought Nola comfort, because no matter what Ethan would always be perfect since his story was over before it started. He never made it into the messy guts, the flawed chaos that is life. His beauty would stay eternal by its brevity; the perfect flower only remains possible within the bud. And whether she did when he was alive, his mother loved him but better after death, the point is she did love; if not a child in the flesh than one in memory.

And maybe Kate’s maternal failings were simply because Nola’s presence in her life was a constant reminder Ethan was missing from it, the crime she committed wasn’t being imperfect, it wasn’t being less than Ethan, it was being. Or maybe it was reminding Kate that she was only able to love a dead child and not a real one. Kate was defective, not Nola.

Perfection isn’t sustainable. Perfection is only possible at beginnings and endings, birth and death. Nola wanted the middle. Perfection was a state to be transcended, moved through and gotten beyond. It was a stage in the process, a phase of the journey, or perhaps the end of the road, but it was not in the middle, in the heart, the center.

Just then a nurse came in to check her mother and Nola realized she’d stopped her rocking, stopped trying to evoke emotions that she no longer carried within her. Empty and tired she stared at her mother’s near lifeless body lying in the bed. The machines breathed for her, steady and precise, no chance of a missed breath, no chance of a mistaken heartbeat. Her mother didn’t even have the responsibility of breathing now. Nothing was required of her anymore, not even living. She had retreated into her own, tightly closed bud, safe from facing her own imperfection. At that thought Nola found peace. Not forgiveness, but peace. The middle ground.

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