Sometimes blank pages stare back at me like the open arms of an unloved lover waiting for that embrace. That touch and taint that will soothe an ache buried deep under resentment and longing. My fingers freeze over keyboards like a surgeon about to perform a craniotomy. Where did the words go?
I search the dying embers of memory to find that once, not long ago, words were a lover loved, wanted and desired. Lay flat and spread out before me like a buffet or a wedding feast. Words, whole words fell off bountiful tables and overfilled plates. I swam in words and washed my face in them. They would hit me hard like stray birds in the street and I tripped over them when I woke up and held them when I slept. And then, like rain, like dried up rivers in a drought and migrating birds in winter, the words left me. Alone, quietly desperate, silently longing.
And I began to wonder-were those words mine? Had I borrowed them off the lips of my lover while she kissed me? Did the love we made give birth to these words that I treated so carelessly, lying between our soaked thighs and trembling cunts? Did we laugh out words together-her one syllable and me another and now, without her-without us- there is silence and half made words and aborted efforts at completing a sentence. Maybe they weren’t words. Maybe it was her. Maybe it was me with her. Maybe it was me. I tried to step back and watch my life- like a movie or a funny commercial and try to find that moment. That exact moment when words were made. And I could not find this moment.
On cold, dark days I longed for the water that made these words grow into trees and shade me from my pain. On these days I longed for her too. I longed for the magic and witchcraft of her laughter buried in my collarbone like seeds. I longed for the fertility of words she seemed to bring into my life. But these blank pages remain. Flickering and cajoling me into trying something. Anything. That unloved lover that will take a beating because it means you touched them. Because it means you felt something for them even if it was anger.
And slowly-like shy children peering from behind their mother’s skirts, some words returned. I gave in to the taunting. To the slow glow and wink of blank pages that begged for anything, even pain in place of pleasure to be marked upon them because then they became more than just that-empty forgotten spaces begging to be loved or hated into something more than what they are.
These words still play hide and seek with me. And I can’t help but wonder whether she makes words between her thick brown thighs, and if she has some words to spare because there are pages to be filled. There are stories waiting to be told.
You lie in the space between complete faith and unmovable doubt, the space that no words have been found for, or colours given names. That shade of pink and orange and lilac and lavender that cannot be recreated in labs or on computers. The space that even science leaves untouched, because not every bubble we chase we want to burst. Even scientists fall in love. Even atheists need a god to prove wrong. The spaces between yes and no, between here and there, you sit there, like the sun, giving life light.
You think I am a believer because you make me believe. In you. In this. In us. And I do believe, with the faith of saints and the ashy knees of pilgrims kneeling at far away altars. I come back to you, again and again. Each time with more courage, more gratitude. Unafraid to love you in big ways, the sun and stars that you are, you need a sky. You are your own sky, but my love the light you are in my life, you might never know.
And the sometimes magic that your breath in my ear feels like. How the brush of your skin against mine feels like a hundred books I have never read nor will I ever write. In moments of complete doubt, your smile, full lips interrupted by perfect teeth, remind me of far away sunsets and closer sunrises. You make me love rain and cold as much as I love the sun, because, there’s tomorrow.
Touching you is benediction and kissing you catechism. Your hair a rosary. I’d count the strands of hair on your head, but I have better things to do. Like kiss you again. And hold you again. And fall in love with you again. And let the memory of you on my skin soak into my own so that I can wear you in my day, find you in the soft skin under my breasts and the tender spaces between my thighs.
For everything else I doubt, and I doubt a lot, I know, with the sureness of the creases on my right palm, with the guarantee of a sunrise, even if i’m not there to experience it, I know that I love you. In every way love is known to mean. In big and small ways. In scary and sexy ways. You sit in the space between my heart and spleen that has no name. You lie there, inside some unnamed part of my body and make this load called life so much lighter.
Sometimes, we think we can choose what kills us.
Sometimes, we think we can decide how to die.
Mother is a hard word to say.
My own child calls me by my first name, never mother, never mama. Only in the moments when other children call their mother’s mama, does he try and call me mother. Then I call him son. And we both giggle, an untold joke between the softest part of me and the hardest part of him. A curious dance with no music or movement, just careless and careful navigation of feelings, both of us completely needing and scared to harm the other.
But I am his mother.
I saw him pulled from my insides, numbed from the waist down, in a freezing theatre, in the beginning of May. His skin grey, is hands white, his face angry, livid, upset. Disappointed? Is this it? Is this what I’m here for? Are these the people that will watch over me? Grow me like pumpkins in a desert?
He is my child, even though the only thing he has that’s mine is my skin.
Patchy. Ten shades of brown and the odd eczema rash. But he has my smile too. My lust for life. My appetite for people. My brittle heart, easily broken, and mended, and broken again, misshapen, cracked and leaking. He oozes sadness so easily. And love so quickly. Strangers are his friends. Friends are his brothers and sisters. Everything loves him. Until it doesn’t. He forgets pain as fast as I remember it.
I don’t know why I won’t let him call me mother. He knows I’m his mother, I say. This is truth. But what will calling me mother do? Is it an incantation? A spell. A reminder of my own mother, that stands on the other side of a wall of silence that I erected, brick by brick? How do I become a mother without one?
The memory of your love sits at the bottom of my heart, like the dregs of a good cup of coffee, long gone cold, almost bitter and now tasteless.
But still I swirl the coarse remnants, round and round, mixing the now too sweet sugar, water and saliva into something I’m convinced will taste like the beginning.
That this end will remind me of what hot coffee tasted like, and will help me maybe want to order another cup.
So I drink these dregs, I suck them in through my teeth like honey.
Like it’s the sweetest thing I’m having today, and allow the tepid bitterness to sit and swirl in my mouth until it becomes warm again, until the sugar mixes in with the coarse grains of coffee, and I swallow.
The emptiness of the cup before me echoes.
I want to spit the last bit of coffee back into the cup, but it stays swallowed, travelling down to warmer parts of me.
In an hour I forget that I had dregs of coffee.
In a day I forget how they tasted.
In two weeks I swear off coffee completely.
But six months later I still remember what that first sip tasted like.
Imagine, imagine that you never got on a plane, and never got paid, and never made a friend from New Zealand, or never saw the snow, never saw the sea, never moved to the big city,never owned a laptop,and never stood in a room of people you don’t know and spoke about your suffering,never sold a book, or a painting, never ate that dim-sum, never heard of Instagram, never left that hill that sits between you and all those other things in the big bad world. The big beautiful world that you’d never see. Imagine you didn’t call yourself an activist. Imagine that you never owned a passport. Imagine that you couldn’t flee if you tried. Imagine that everything you have on you right now is everything you will ever have.
Imagine that your oppression wasn’t your currency, your suffering your strength.Imagine that. Imagine that you carried your pain like a pail with a hole. A small hole, which dripped a trail in the sand and let the dust die down in just that spot.Imagine that.
What would you work day and night to change? What would wake you up in the middle of the night with a tight pain in your chest and send you into the ten square kilometres called home that you will never leave. What would put you to sleep like a lullaby knowing that on this day I changed that. What is that? That thing you do for no money, for no reason other than to make your neighbour understand. To make yourself understand.To make your lovers understand. To make anyone understand. That even in small places where nothing leaves and nothing comes, change happens, and that you are that change. That you dreamed a different way of being and this difference is you.
Dear activist, imagine that you didn’t call yourself that. That you are change made flesh and bone and that you never had to get on a plane to make us understand.