Awake, thinks my mother and my eyes open with a jolt. I push her thoughts back; I feel her in the kitchen. I close my eyes again and revel in the silence; such a temporary blessing, the silence that follows when you push back another’s thought.
The door opens and my mother storms into the room, into my mind, angered that I would dare push her out in such a manner. She says no words because she’s loosing her language, but I feel her thoughts as if they were my own: Get out of bed, the day is bright, you must get out of bed.
I swing my legs onto the floor, and lean over with my elbows on my knees; my hair reaches for the floor, curtains my face. My mother stands before me and although my eyes are quite intent on staring at the floor I see her face perfectly, because it’s all she wants me to see right now.
I stand, resigned. A sense of approval exudes from my mother and she turns to leave.
I dress, slowly. Preparation for the day. I keep my mind from wandering; I do not like mother feeling my wandering thoughts. But she does not pry. She is only a good listener.
It is breakfast and I am silent.
Our kitchen is a light blue box; it smells always faintly of fresh bread and garlic from the night before.
Eat thinks my mother and I oblige. She sits across from me with her scrambled eggs, toast, assortment of fruit.
“Anything in the mail?” I ask out loud.
I can sense her reviewing what she saw earlier this morning; bills, a TV guide, nothing.
I rummage for something else to say, anything to talk about. She can’t tell yet that I am trying to get words out of her.
“What are your plans today?”
I am flooded with a vision of her taking a walk in the neighborhood, driving to the grocery store because we are out of milk and anything to eat for dinner. There is a measure of certainty underlying these images, as if these were visions from the future, not my mother’s plans.
My eyes shoot to the framed picture next to the coffeepot of my grandparents. “Why don’t you call grandpa?” I ask. I look at her face and drive the question into her mind, suggesting how nice it would be if she talked to her father.
She is silent for a moment, quietly spreading butter on her toast. She seems incredibly fragile, now, in this moment. I am unable to sense her process of thought; she is too busy focusing on spreading the butter evenly across the landscape of the toast. I keep my eyes on her, my mind open, waiting for any sign of response. For an instant I believe I would not get one.
Then she stops buttering, places the knife next to her cup of coffee and her eyes meet mine. She sighs, almost inaudible as her communication; I realize this is the only sound that will come out of her mouth as she finally responds with a simple word, enforced with a concrete thought that weighs like a small pebble, a tumor in my skull: can’t.
I feel a break in her thoughts and I think I see her physically crumbling—then I can’t sense her anymore as she shields up within herself and pushes me out. She returns to her food.
It is breakfast and we are silent.
Once I couldn’t take it anymore. Professors pounding formulas into my head, strangers pouring their lonely desires into me, groping for sympathy, for a sign of life. I didn’t want any part of it.
I put a gun to my head and my mother heard my plea. I said delicately, it’s much easier to just give up. We were miles apart, then, but she was right there. I could see her face, crying, begging me no. And then I saw a much younger version of herself, holding me as an infant; she had me when she was in high school, and she never gave up. She showed me the aches; caring for your child, doing homework between changing diapers and breast feeding, staying in school. No money to barely buy more diapers, let alone food for herself.
I felt ashamed, lowered the gun. And I cried, not bothering to hold myself back any longer; I don’t know who heard me that night. Thoughts are easily heard when there’s emotion, when there’s enough force behind it to project, an archer’s arm drawing the knotted arrow to his chest. My mother heard; maybe that’s all that matters. She is the strongest thing I know.
To be continued.