I was an observer—silently standing at the right side of my mother, watching her movements, committing them to memory. With a baggy black zip-up hoodie and worn down shoes, I never spoke out of turn. I was afraid of speaking, terrified that others would think I was odd or weird. My hair was shaggy, overgrown around my ears, swept to the right side of my face. A veil of sorts, covering my sad eyes, shielding myself from the world.
I feared everything: people, socializing, working a part-time job. Afraid of life itself. I acted like a shadow, quietly lurking behind others on the streets—invisible. I didn't know who I was, my dreams, my aspirations. The only think I knew was that I could distance myself from another person so well, I could see what was hidden beneath their expressions. I knew the difference between a real laugh and a fake one. A laugh that shielded hidden anxieties and fear.
I saw my mother in a way she hadn't discovered for herself. A middle-aged woman wishing she would've married a different man. A grown, fragile lady that could never stand up to her own mother; someone who was just going through the motions instead of truly living. My mother told me that the worst thing a parent could do is to bury their own child. I think the worst thing for a child to do is to become their parent.
Behind my cracked smile and weathered mind, I find myself becoming my mother. Soft spoken, kind heart, chronically lonely. I've studied her for so long I've adopted her ways, becoming something not like my own. I spend my nights in front of the television screen. Holding my journal with my left hand, warming a book jacket next to my right thigh. I stare at the screen for hours on end with dry eyes. They close themselves when they are tired, wetting themselves when they are dry. My mind goes numb. It doesn't speak. And, the only thing aching is my heart. A muscle that has tired itself out from hurting so badly. It's been broken many times—unable to heal itself completely. But nothing that was ever broken healed itself entirely on its own.
She comes home from work, tired, exhausted. She slouches in the loveseat adjacent to me. Her brittle collar bones hang, her eyes baggy. Her posture emanates loneliness, someone who's yearning for something but doesn't quite yet know what exactly. I gaze at her quietly, trying not to make a sound. We both are sitting the same, legs up on the couch to the left. Our breathing, simultaneous. Her eyes tear-up the same as mine do. Gently gathering water starting from the left. The only difference is that her face has aged, showing creases and lines like a road map.
We drive in silence. The car's engine distracting the stale silence from our ears.
“How come you're not talking?” I ask.
“I don't know,” she replies. Her mouth purses at the corners like a coin purse after its been closed. I turn my face, staring out the window. I follow the beads of rain with my right eye, feeling cold and exposed.
We eat in silence. A dinner sitting by itself on the stove top, hidden beneath a thin layer of silver. Hours pass until we sit down and eat. Small portions on my mother's plate, barely anything on mine. The air hangs heavy in the light of the dinning room. Forks remain placed on the table, eyes remain lowered.
My mother carries a journal. I write alone. We, together, write in a silence that we've known far too long. It acts like a lover, a companion that only we can understand. Her journal is a white hardback. Mine is a blank sketchbook. Every night we add ink, caught up in the silence of our hearts. Our lives are static, going through the motions to keep ourselves alive.
I go to bed wondering if my life will ever get better. She goes to bed wondering if they'll have enough money. We both are chronic worriers. I strain to make it on time, arriving at places thirty minutes before I need to be there. She worries about my safety, about whether I'll ever find fulfillment and love. I am her youngest, her last. She is my only.