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Grey

4 juin 2010

P1000700

 

Your mother looks like nothing. Her hair hangs like her stained clothes, she doesn’t notice, she doesn’t care. She doesn’t see herself in the mirror anymore, she feels invisible and doesn’t think the world sees her either. Of the reasons of her sadness, her refusal to be, to interact and get involved, you do not have the key. You are old enough to know that this is not right, other mothers do not act like this, other mothers laugh and hug and growl and scream, other mothers have voices that sing and a spring in their steps you have never seen in yours. 

You mother is stuck in winter.

You are ten. You are old enough to know the difference, and yet too young to learn that this is not your fault, that there is nothing that you can do that would change her, wake her up. 

You have pictures of her, before. She looks good and confident. She holds her chin high, in a playful and defiant way, she has sparkles in her eyes and people around her do see her. Immobile on the glossy photos, people’s eyes are drawn towards her, her shinny black hair, her white skin and very green eyes. On these pictures, your mother is strong and powerful and eager. She is like someone that you could want to become, someone alive and dancing her own way through life. You do not recognise this person as your mother. She is a stranger, she is an explanation as to why your father fell in love with her in the first place. She is someone you wish you had in your life. 

She doesn’t get up easily these days, your mother. You hear her clock ring, you hear her hand searching for the snooze button. She finally hits it and rolls in the blankets to face the blank wall. Your father is already at the office, it is you who gets up, checks on the weather, chooses your eight years old brother’s clothes. It is you who takes the bowls and cereals and milk out. You work the coffee machine and bring a mug to your mother. She sighs and struggles to open her eyes on you. Sometimes her face is wet, as if she’s been crying, her face away from the world, her face hiding under a pillow and her hands clenched. She gives you a smile, her sad and tired stare fills with light long enough to let you know that she loves you, she loves you so much. She props herself up and takes the mug and wispers. 

– Thanks hon’, that’s very sweet. I’ll be down in a minute.

You know that she’ll get up and turn the shower on. You know that sometimes she gets in the shower and stays there a long time, letting the water remind her of the existence of her body and making you late for school. You know that other times, she stays on the side and watches the water glide on the white tiles : you know that sometimes she doesn’t shower. She picks up whatever clothes is laying around, comes down and walks you to school. 

You make sure she has clean clothes piled up on her shelves, you work the machines, you don’t iron but you fold and put away. There is a semblance of normalcy in these clothes even though the colors are faded and there are a few buttons missing there and there.

You make sure your brother and you have snacks and that all your notebooks are in your back pack. You imitate your mother’s handwriting and signature well enough now that your teachers don’t know that your mother never reads or knows of anything regarding school. Even your father cannot tell the difference. 

Your father comes home at night and the house is almost tidy, there is a somewhat cooked dinner waiting for him. His wife is already upstairs, in bed, his kids are watching cartoons on TV. There is not a sound, everything is falsely peaceful and quiet. He has a lady come every week to clean the flat and iron his shirts, he goes to the supermarket on Saturday mornings and gets the things his daughter wrote on the shopping list with his wife’s handwriting. 

Your father used to hold the arm of a beautiful glamourous lady. He fell in love with this successful lawyer he’d never managed to beat in court, he courted her consistently, they married, after a while they moved to the suburbs and had children. Nowadays, he forgets who she used to be, how his heart used to beat a little faster, how air would become scarce all of a sudden when she was around. She started to scream, at first, and yell and be unhappy, and then one day she stopped. She gradually faded away, she became quiet and grey and he didn’t notice the change. 

He hasn’t realized his wife is stuck in winter, he doesn’t know of the dormant volcano hiding in her, he doesn’t know of the quiet tears and the sadness. Most of all, he doesn’t know of the suitcases she almost used a few years ago, her mind was set and ready, she couldn’t breathe anymore, she felt like she was going to die of boredom or of a mental breakdown, she didn’t know why she was unhappy, she didn’t have the words, she only had this grounded certainty that something wasn’t right. Your mother had her suitcases ready and by the door, she was writing a note. Then her little girl, you, came running with grass in her hair and mud on her shoes, you came running to her and threw yourself against her, your small arms circling her neck, holding her tight.

– Youzare my prizoner, I lovez you mummy. 

Yes, your mother loves you, too. She’s quiet and looks like nothing, she’s stuck in winter, it is not your fault, she made her own choices.  But who knows, winter cannot lasts forever you hope, spring might be around the corner… Life doesn’t have to be grey forever. 

In the meantime, you hear her clock ring, her hand searching for the snooze button. It is time to get up.

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