• Neha Satish

Mother

Art by Vivian Le (IG: @levivianart)


A mother’s love is unconditional. This I know, for Hollywood has spoon-fed it to me.

1. Bouquet


a. In my earliest memories, my mother snips the pedicle of a flower in full bloom. A magnolia—her favorite. She reminds me and my little brother that my birthday is in three days. This was an annual affair. Our tree’s first blossom and the anniversary of my first breath collide again and again and again in space-time. Whether this is by fate or happenstance, I am too young to care. Sometimes, I stand next to the tree, atop the hill in my backyard, gazing at the clouds gripping onto my windows. I wonder what would happen if they let go. Would they leave behind an oily residue like the sticky hand toys do? Would their particles collapse upon themselves? I figure it is better for them to be free, even if it leaves our vegetable garden a soupy mess. This hill is a mountain, and I, their valiant knight on a horse. I let out a war cry and run. Looking through the window at ground level, I only see my brother being fed on the scratched up sofa. No clouds.


b. I have discovered a gold mine: a row of honeysuckle bushes in my neighbor’s backyard. Every time I pick a single bud and suck, the nectar paints a glossy sheen on my upturned lips. I run back home to report my findings.


My father paces in circles around the kitchen counter. He only does this when we play blindfolded tag and he pretends he can’t find us. My mother is still cooking. She dips the ladle into the soup and goes back to cutting vegetables.


With a younger sibling in the house, I had learned to tune out noise early on. Yet, hushed tones always caught my ear. They discuss my uncle.


I had only met this uncle once, outside of an airplane hanger. He was in the midst of moving from India to California. The whole ordeal was rather dystopian to a three year old me. Everyone was in a hurry, tuxes on and suitcases in hand. Hugs were quick. The skies were tinged green, hinting at the bad weather to come. I don’t remember any exchanged words. Before he left, he handed me a butterscotch lollipop. My mother liked this uncle. He reminded her of her youth.


I catch the vital words. My uncle has lung cancer. He will be sick for a long time until he dies. With weight in my heart, I go back outside to seek another gold mine.



2. Prototype #1


I hold up my camera to take a picture of us. The camera is broken. She told me later that it was very expensive but, despite being tight on money, my father wanted to have the best. It was only used once before he broke it. My picture was a dupe. An empty click left resonating in my ears.



3. Prototype #2


Violent//Vigilant//In(vulnerability)//Nerve//Nervous [system]//Systemic//Epistemic//Episodic


The line is snapped and the pearls are scattered. Bouncing off of the peachy flesh on which they laid, they begin to flay themselves. My mother walks out calmly as her blood pools under the skin of her exposed neck. The peelings—stamped out beyond recognition. My father’s shoulders slump. Thank god his bloodshot eyes are covered now.


I huddle at the corner wall with my baby brother.


Out of sight, out of mind.

Out of reason, out of rhyme.


I close my eyes and sing a little prayer.



4. Tightrope


A mother’s love is unconditional. This I know, for Hollywood has spoon-fed it to me.

.

.

20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016)

Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)

Brave (Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, 2012)

Mothers and Daughters (Paul Duddridge, Nigel Levy, 2106)

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)

.

.

So say it with me. A daughter’s love is _____________.



5. A Brief Inquiry into Mathematics


Steven Strogatz, American mathematician and author of The Calculus of Friendship, describes calculus as an entity that “insists on a world without accidents, where one thing leads logically to another. [Once given] the initial conditions and the law of motion…calculus can predict the future—or better yet, reconstruct the past.”


Yet experience tells us that life is a haphazard roadmap of discontinuity. Randomization.

Isn’t it ironic? The most logical concepts in this world derive from paradox.


One such paradox is as follows:

In mathematics, the limit of an equation can be limitless.


E.g.


As x(ternal pressure) gets larger, our equation falters, chips, warps, but never to the point of nonexistence.


My mother is not an equation.

My mother is not limitless.

My mother is not an abstract concept.


my mother

CAN’T YOU SEE I WANTED MY MOTHER TO BE THESE THINGS?

My mother breaks the laws of mathematics.



6. A Story I Wrote When I was 8


Yellow moon milk sloshes around my feet, wetting my pant legs. As it drenches its way up, I am enveloped in an ambient glow. A nature giant walks with me. Ivy creeps up his tree trunk legs, encasing his muscular branches. Flowers bloom on his sides. Lilacs, orchids, chrysanthemums, peace lilies, on and on in an endless array. Leaves sprouted out of his head, providing shelter for his firefly eyes. We wade through the moon’s surface until we reached Galaxy Pier. It’s there that our boat is docked, gently rocking back and forth in the great beyond. We step on it and it moves, like clockwork. The scene of our miniature boat cutting through the inky vast is picture-perfect.


We landed on a star covered in golden dust. A spoke with a broken wood sign states DANGER: FLAMMABLE MATERIALS in bright red paint. I shriek in joy. “This will fix us!” Flask open, I run to a mound and grab a fistful. Flask after flask, I scoop up more until a cloud of dust blocks my vision.


I close my eyes and rub hard, even though my mother taught me to not. When the spots have stopped, I gingerly widen my lids. Staring back at me are two empty orbs of dirt. Worms emerge, swarming, clumping, and pulsating till they form spheres. Falling back, I rub my eyes once more. The nature giant drops to his knees. His fireflies flee the wrong way.


As the flames grow, I climb to the fifth point and wait to take the next boat over to the wrung out moon.



7. Apothecary


The worms in my mother's garden are mundane in comparison to those in my childhood play pretend. They merely aerate the soil and decompose organic matter like they are supposed to.


The only being quite as fantastical is my mother herself.


Every day, after making dinner, she fills her metal pail and walks out the back door to tend to her crops. Pushing piles of junk mail to the side, I sit myself down on the corner of the dining table and watch her as she works with her flora. A marigold in her ear conceals the strands of tinsel she makes me pluck out before reunion parties. Cicadas flitter about the fine lines of her skin unafraid, calling out to one another that this human is of the Earth.


Shed leaves are collected for her healing charms. Crushed aloe for vitality, snake plants for cleansing toxins, and gingkos for the soul. A remedy that makes your heart beat once more.



Prototype #3


In my latest memories, my mother cuts my uneven strands

that scatter about tile, giving form to

the antiquated

china that lines our living room dressers.

Cracks that have been super glued together so that no visitor may notice,

yet they are all we see.

I am hyper aware of my dishonesty, so let me tell the truth for once.

If I may backtrack to the day my mother snipped the pedicle of a flower in full bloom,

I would tell you that I clawed out that magnolia’s stigma,

and carried it with me all these years until it putrefied and festered, castrating

my mother’s life force.

A childish error that became a habit,

the toothache I could not stop licking at when the orthodontist

complimented my baby teeth.

The empty spot I cannot stop licking at when I dream of my teeth crumbling

In chunks of gum and plaster.

At the end of the day,

I will be left alone in her white robes, holding a sacred torch

to light her funeral pyre. Finally,

she and I,

will let go of our guilt

like we should have done long ago.



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