We Used to Vacation
My dear mother, sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but I love you so.
You climbed up the last two-hundred-and-something steps that led up to the peak of the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail, counting each step out loud. A wide smile on your face, a massive exhale as you took in the view. And to think you almost gave up at the halfway point. I was prepared to be disappointed, to turn back to lower ground despite fellow hikers telling us that the view was worth the pain — but you decided to keep moving forward. Mother, when you made it to the top, I was so proud of you. Your shoes caked in mud, your knees straining, your hands gripping a tree branch we picked up on the way; all of you.
You made it.
My dear mother
Remember when the last time we were here, you got inexplicably angry with us, my father and me — you ran off. Your tasteful paisley sundress swaying behind you, a pointillist painting of orange, red, and black. You ran off, slipping between crowds of tourists walking leisurely in the balmy night. Your kitten-heeled white sandals distancing themselves from us, step by step. Palm trees swaying their abundant leaves in the wind, telling us, here, here, she went this way. I don’t even remember what it was that made you storm off. We walked briskly, trailing your shadow, wondering how long you’d keep going. Seconds turned into minutes turned into hours. How long did you want us to follow? How long, mother, how long…How long until you fade into the darkness, until you blend in with the others, until I crush you in my mind in hopes that I can erase the figure of a mother who would only ever walk away?
Remember when you used to threaten to slap me because I was so stubborn it made your head hurt? When you would twist my arm and hit me with my bow if I didn’t practice my violin properly? I steeled myself against you, at all times. I promised myself I would never back down, even when my father would take me aside and say, “Just let her have what she wants, you will only make things worse if you do this…” At times you would scream, scream until my ears bled and my heart sobbed and the only thing I could do was curl up underneath my pastel pink sheets, hands clutching my teddy bear — my only guardian.
Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but
Remember when we fought, another night of you against me, tearing each other apart? Words — and effective use of silence — were the weapons of choice. You stomped up the stairs to your bedroom and slammed the door. I was left in the kitchen, my father silently finishing up the dishes. I went into the bathroom to wash my face, already wet with tears.
And then I heard a piercing scream. I heard endless wails seeping through the walls. I heard you screaming with all of your lungs, “I want to die, please let me die — ” from your bedroom, located just above the bathroom I was in. I froze. I ran out and asked my father, “Did you hear that?” He shook his head. “I thought I heard Mom yelling…She was saying she wanted to die…” He looked confused. I ran up the stairs, mind blank, heart pumping, I ran to her bedroom door and turned the doorknob —
You were limp, lying on your side on top of the covers. You looked up. I was too scared to go in, so I reached out to you from the doorway.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry for whatever I’ve ever done to you, I’m sorry I make you angry all the time, Mom, I don’t want you to die, don’t say you want to die — ”
I didn’t know what I was saying anymore; I was desperate, so desperate to keep you away from death. To keep you with me. Tears started spilling, again. She sat up, eyes wide with concern. I cried, helplessly.
“I never said anything like that, Mio-chan, I would never do that. You were hearing things. Mio-chan, I never…Come here.”
I walked over to her bedside and fell into her arms, sobbing. She caught me, embracing me tightly. I buried my face in her chest, making her sweater damp with salty tears. She hadn’t hugged me like that in years.
“No matter what happens, I love you…Remember that.”
I love you so.