Down from the hills, round aching bones to my restless heart

1st Syawal

One of the worst things about losing my mother at the age I did was how very much there was to regret. Small things that stung now: all the times I’d scorned her kindness by rolling my eyes or physically recoiled in response to her touch; the time I’d said, “Aren’t you amazed to see how much more sophisticated I am at twenty-one than you were?” The thought of my youthful lack of humility made me nauseous now. I had been an arrogant asshole and, in the midst of that, my mother died.

– Cheryl Strayed, Wild

I have always felt this way since my mother died, and I berate myself for it on a daily basis. But to see my private thoughts expressed in words felt like a proverbial kick in the stomach. Reading it on the train the other day, my vision went blurry as tears flooded my eyes. So this is what it looks like in black and white.

I used to ask her a lot of questions about what happens after you die. I actually phrased them in such a way like she was already dead, like I was asking a dead person. “I don’t know,” she would say. “How could you not know?” I would exclaim in exasperation. Mothers are supposed to know everything! “Well, I’m not dead yet, am I?” she retorted. “When I’m dead I’ll come back to you with the answers to your questions, okay?”

I laughed. She laughed. The idea of her being dead was improbable then. How were we supposed to know?

Two nights ago, laying on my stomach as I watched tv on my laptop, I could’ve sworn I saw a figure peek at me from the darkened living room. As soon as I lifted my head to see it, it disappeared in a flash. I mean, I saw it actually run off. Not that it’s ever happened before, but I’d like to think it was mum. I’ve been thinking about her a lot. Maybe she came for a visit.

The next morning, I don’t know whether it was sleep paralysis or it was an actual dream, but I awoke (?) to find a familiar-feeling arm draped over my stomach. Unlike my usual sleep paralysis episodes, I wasn’t alarmed. I knew right away whose arm it belonged to; who it was that was in my bed. After all we used to lay in bed together all the time as we watched tv, her arm on my stomach, my leg over hers. Instinctively I reached for her arm and tucked it closer to me. I searched for her leg but I couldn’t find it.

The Ramadan just past wasn’t just any other Ramadan. It was the tenth one without her, making this the tenth Eid without her. The tenth. How am I even still surviving?

She used to sew my and her clothes for Eid. She would not go back to sleep after eating the pre-dawn meal at 5:30am. She would start sewing right away. The sound of her scissors cutting through fabric, of her sewing machine going, I used to hate it because the noise prevented me from going back to sleep. But now I would gladly be wide awake at 5:30am if I could hear it again. The fabric she bought for Eid 2004 never did get cut…

Since she passed away I have sent my Eid clothes to be tailored by a relative. This year I decided that I didn’t want to wear a baju kurung that wasn’t sewn by her. This year I felt like I needed to keep her close – literally. And so today, when everyone else donned new, stylish baju kurungs, I was wearing a green baju kurung from 2003, the last one she ever sewed for me. I had barely worn it again since the first time but putting it on gave me such comfort.

I miss her so much.


2 thoughts on “Down from the hills, round aching bones to my restless heart

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