LXXVII | Mother

I keep

about Rowan’s mother,

what happened
to her,

what Rowan feels,

how she copes with it.

Blindly fumbling around
and confronting it hesitantly.

I come home
after school early

for once.

Do my homework.

Play with my phone
until she comes back.

Since the man I call ‘dad’
is gone for good,

she’s home earlier everyday.

Her mood is better.

She comes home,
humming a weird song
really loudly.

With one high heel in a hand:
‘Clyde? You’re back early.’


I want to shut myself
in my room.

This is awkward.

I remember
how foreign
my own mother’s handwriting looked

on the divorce papers

and keep my feet
rooted to the floor.

I plop down on the sofa.

‘What’s wrong?’

Her voice drifts from her room.

The sound of
          what’s in her bag being poured out.
The sound of
          clothes shuffled inside the wardrobe.
The sound of
          hand-washing from the toilet.

‘I want to talk to you.
‘Are you free right now?’

Something drops to the ground
with a thud.


I feel annoyed.

I go to the kitchen
and make two cups of tea.




She sits opposite me
at the cold dining table
that we still don’t use.

She has more wrinkles
than I remember.

Her hair is wavy,
her braid has been combed out.

She looks ordinary
out of her office wear.

Her wedding ring
is gone.

I slide a cup of tea
over to her.

She drinks it
with a smile
that doesn’t reach her eyes.

She thanks me
with a voice
that doesn’t sound thankful.

‘I’m upset about the divorce,’
I tell her.

She nods.
‘I know you are.’

‘I want to talk about it.’

She stares at me.
‘Even if it doesn’t change

A motorcycle
with an attention-seeking engine

screeches past downstairs.

My mother takes
another sip of tea.

I catch the flicker of emotion
in her eyes.

‘I’ve always pretended
‘it’s none of my business

‘when you and dad fought

‘but it’s painful and
‘traumatising to me.’

A nod.

‘Both of you
‘are really different

‘so I get that
‘you guys disagree often.’

She’s about to interrupt,
so I continue loudly,

‘I should have said something

‘instead of hoping
‘it’d go away on its own.’

I squeezed my tea bag
and put it
on the table.

A pool of brown water

‘You and dad
‘should have talked it over
‘like family should.’

She starts to say something.
I interrupt.

‘It’s everyone’s fault.
‘Not just yours.

‘He deserves some of it too.’

She sighs.

‘Children shouldn’t interfere
‘with adult problems.’

‘I’m trying to apologise,’
I say, bristling.

Another smile
that doesn’t reach her eyes.

‘It’s alright.
‘Of course you’d be upset

‘since we didn’t ask you
‘at all.’

You couldn’t have,
I tell her.

Since I was pretending
it wasn’t my problem.

‘We shouldn’t have gotten married,’
she says with a bitter laugh.

A tear
leaks from her eye.

She wipes it deftly

but I

saw it.

‘I thought you hated me.’

I wanted to phrase that
as a question.

Her eyes widen,
eyebrows rise,
her voice loud,


Her expression turns tender,
wrinkle lines
more pronounced.

‘Without you, I would have
‘given up a long time ago.’

I think of Rowan’s mother.

‘You’re my kid.
‘No matter what,
‘all parents love their children.’

‘And no matter what,
‘all kids look up to their parents.’

She looks like
she might really cry,

so I tell her
I’m dating a girl

named Rowan.

‘You may not believe me,’
I tell her

(I didn’t when she told me),

‘But there is a heaven
‘on the other side of the rowan tree.’

She smiles.

And tells me
that in uni,

Brient’s mother
used to say the same thing.

I ask if she’s ever seen it.

She says no.

I ask if she’d like to now.

My mother smiles
and replies,

‘I’m too old and bitter
‘to experiment
‘with things like that.’




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