She only wears shawls from Dubai. They are elaborately decorated, brightly colored, and drenched in the scent of incense. She has the palest skin you've ever seen, so translucent it seems as though you are seeing through her. She paints her cheeks with rouge, giving her the appearance of a porcelain doll. Her eyes are a dirty grey, and when she cries you could swear it was just the rain. I'm not quite sure just what she is. I would say an angel, but that brings to mind something more ethereal than she really is. This is my mother.
In the mornings she makes us tea with a drop of lavender and tells us about our father, who died when I was nine and my brother was five. She tells us what he is wearing today, and how he burnt his toast this morning. She tells us that today, he has an important meeting, and that we better wish him luck before we go to school. She is not crazy with grief, she just doesn't want her children to grow up without a father. So when we get in trouble she says "You just wait until your father gets home" and so we go to our rooms and we wait and wait and wait but he never comes. Even though I know he is not coming, that he will never barge into my room with an angry look on his face there is always a tiny part of me that hopes he will. That my mother's denial will manifest itself as him, live and true.
When I was three, I used to curl up in a ball on my fathers chest, the sound of his breathing and unsteady heartbeat lulling me to sleep. It probably reminded me of being in the womb or something, at least thats what I've deduced from the things I've seen on the Discovery Channel. My mother is too small and fragile though, so after he died, we had no one to rest on. My little brother cries a lot, and even though I am just a kid too, I do my best to keep him safe. My mother always says "It's ok, daddy will take care of it," but he never does, so I do instead.
Sometimes, I hear my mother moan from her bedroom. The first time, it scared me so I snuck into her room with a baseball bat, only to find her all by herself rolling around in the bed naked, doing strange things. It made me uncomfortable so now, I sleep with earplugs. Right before dinner my mother mixes my daddy a drink and sets it on a coaster in the den. At first I just dumped the drink down the sink, and carried the empty glass back to her saying "Daddy's done, he told me to put this in the dishwasher," but now I just drink them myself. It really didn't taste good the first time, and I wanted to ask mother if it was medicine but I was afraid I would mess up her happy delusions.
When my mother goes to the grocery store I crawl into her closet full of shawls and wrap them around myself and hum myself to sleep. The purr of the muffler always wakes me up in time to hang up the shawls and run out to the car and help mother bring in the groceries. My little brother usually comes and helps out too. He and I put the groceries away, and sometimes we take turns hiding the groceries from each other, and days later we will find an orange hidden in a cereal bowl or a pack of pop-tarts in the cracker box.
Sometimes I go days without sleeping, but for the cat naps I take in my mothers closet among her scarves. It's really not that bad. It's kind of like dreaming for days straight. Except for that you're not dreaming and nothing really happens. On nights when I can't sleep I play the old country records I found in daddy's study. I like their slow drawl, they never quite put me to sleep but they offer me some comfort. Daddy used to say "country is good for the soul". That new pop country stuff isn't what he meant though. He only listened to old time country, real country.
During one of those times I hadn't slept for days, I crept into my mothers closet for a few hours while she was away. While I was laying in the dark fingering all of her scarves a questioned formed in my mind. Where did all these scarves come from? My mother wasn't one for shopping, she still wore the same pants she used to wear before I was born. Yet she had piles and piles of scarves, beautifully colored, and I had no idea where they came from. In my sleepless state, when I heard the car muffler I ran downstairs and asked
"Mother mother, where do you get all of your beautiful scarves?"
"Oh, daddy gets them for me whenever he is in Dubai on business."
"But daddy's dead." It really did just slip out, I don't think I had ever even said it aloud before. And with that, my mother dropped the groceries she was carrying and went inside and sat down. She didn't cry, but her eyes were glassy. "Mother? Mother? Mother?" I yelled. She didn't look up. She sat in the chair for days and I prepared her drinks, like she usually did every day for my dead father. She drank them slowly, methodically a sip every five minutes on the dot. After days and days of sitting silently, she finally looked at me and said matter-of-factly "If your daddy is dead and doesn't get me the scarves, who does? Hm?" and because she was in a delicate state and I didn't have another answer I said "I suppose your right."
We never brought it up again, and my mother continued to pretend daddy was still alive. She still commented on his outfits daily and made his nightly drinks. I spent months and months pondering the shawls, I swear they just appeared out of nowhere. Finally, I realized that my mothers denial was not strong enough to bring back daddy but rather it manifested itself in scarves.
Together, we worked to try to deny him back to life, but he had always been stubborn and he never did turn up. I stopped drinking his drinks but they continued to disappear, so I thought we were surely making progress. I started buying him ties for Christmas, telling him "Oh that one will go lovely with your navy blue shirt." I started answering the phone pretending someone was calling for him and running around the house yelling "DAAADDD! DAAAAADDD!!! PICK UP THE PHONE." But it wasn't enough, despite our best efforts our denial was not strong enough to bring him home. My closet slowly transformed into a nest of shawls just like my mothers, I would spend hours just sitting on the floor and talking to them, not because I thought they'd talk back, but for the exact opposite reason, because I knew they wouldn't say anything at all.