Do you remember how many times you had to tell me to shut up? To be quiet? To shhhh? Do you remember the nights which you’d put me to bed as soon as the sunset and you’d tell me in your mommy-is-serious-voice, “No singing, no
talking, no getting out of bed, all right?” And you would tuck me in, kiss my brow and leave the door half shut. (Because I was afraid of the dark.) But your words never made it through my head as I lay down in the half-dark and began dreaming of things from other worlds and other places, or playing out scenes in my head of things I’d wished I’d said or had happened. I’d talk and tell a story with my hands barely seen before my face in the glow of the half open door and see magic, see ghosts, see lands–I would see stories.
I always had words. I had too many words. When I grew up to me a teen I learned the wrong words, too. I learned the hurting, the angering and the cutting words that broke a parent’s heart and scarred a fellow child for life with their cruelty and heartlessness. I learned bigger words and newer words to hand-write into a drawer full of plastic binders packed with stories that (thankfully) would never see the light. And, I had a lot of yelling words. Between us, there was a lot of crying words.
It wasn’t until I grew older that our words softened and we began to speak–if not the same words–words that pretty much meant the same. We spoke gently, with smiles on our lips and apologies in our eyes. We learned to use these words to know one another. Years later, there were no more cutting or yelling or hurting words. They were just noises meant for mother and daughter.
And then you died.
I lost my words then. I didn’t know where to find them anymore. I lost more than my words, actually, and did not think they were important in the face of losing you. At least, I didn’t think they were important until I tried to tell the wo
rld about you, about us, about the things we said and where we were and what had happened. I realized that I had lost the words when I lost you. They quietly took up their skirts and made a funeral line to the back of my head and sat. They would not move.
You were my words. You were the reason why I wrote them. Yes, I wanted the world to read them–but I wanted the world to read them and understand that my words were for you. For my mother. And I wanted you to be here to read them and love them and be proud of me. I wanted you to open a book and cry happily when you first read the words, “For my mother, for all the stories she told me and all the words we’ve shared.”
But you were gone. And so were the words.
For a very long time, at least.Now I hear them. They are buzzing quietly at the back of my head. They want me to hear them but I do nothing about them. I don’t write the things they say and I don’t capture the imagines I daydream about. What’s the point? I think. You cannot hear them.
At night, I always dream of you. You are always chiding me for something: I didn’t do something–fold the laundry, wake up in time for the bus, clean the floor right–every dream you are chiding me for not doing something and I wonder if these are your words. Your last words to me–to listen. To listen, and to write.