I thought all the years I had allowed myself to take orders and be disciplined by guilt were my duty as a child: adherence to the code of respect.
On many nights I would sit on my couch in my peaceful apartment and ponder life, not so much where I was going but where I had come from. I was finally living in contentment, on my own, with no more fears or anxieties, for I had left those behind. I felt free. Now that I had peace of mind, I could clearly look back and assess my life, and things became so much more apparent when I could step out of the box and look in.
One night in particular, I was lying on the couch, listening to music. I often did this to relax and collect my thoughts, letting my mind take me where it might. I would also write little blurbs or poems about whatever was at the forefront of my mind at the time. That night, the subject, as was often the case, was my mother. I really began to dissect the events in my life starting from childhood. Because I was older now, I could piece together the answers to some of the questions that had riddled me as a child. It was as though I were reliving my life in my mind like it had happened to someone else.
The years of studying my mother began to make sense to me as I filled in the gaps in my knowledge with what I had learned over time. As a child, many things didn’t make sense to me, and some things I never even questioned. I grew to understand how well my mother had orchestrated her life, as well as mine. When I was younger, I had wanted to emulate her, to have her life—and who wouldn’t have wanted that? It was a grand life. We were sent to our grandparents’ home every weekend, and my mother came and went as she pleased. Nobody ever told her what to do or what not to do. She was so beautiful that men swooned over her, and she knew it, craved it, and used it. She was in such dire need of constant attention that she had to be in the limelight wherever she was. She had to have the best of everything so as to ensure that nobody else could outshine her. It was in her DNA. She used her beauty as a weapon.
To my father, my mother’s beauty was a drug. As I got older, I questioned why, for so many years, he would continually want to get back together with her. I just couldn’t fathom what he was getting out of it, as from where I stood, all he got was heartache. I can’t even recall my mother ever showing affection toward my father. He gave her everything she wanted, but she didn’t want him. She had lured him in with her beauty, and I was a premeditated way to get my father to marry her. I could understand that my mother had been poor as a child and that my dad, who came from a financially stable family, had to have been quite appealing for a young, struggling, beautiful girl. He was an opportunity for her to make a good life for herself, and his soft-spoken, meek nature coupled with his attraction to her beauty made pursuing her irresistible to him.
My mother had a knack for expanding the truth and making things appear much more grandiose than they really were. She also had a knack for creating stories and living as though they were actual truths, never backing down from her beliefs. Delusional and narcissistic, she lived in her own denial and expected everyone to believe her. Those who knew the truth never dared call her out on anything, except perhaps my Aunty Sherry. I had grown to understand that the facade my mother put on display actually stemmed from her deep-seated insecurities. I think her unhappy childhood, which she never spoke of, made her determined to make a good life for herself, and nobody was going to get in her way. She came from nothing, with just the gift of beauty, and she very calculatingly used that to her full advantage.
I could never understand why my mother wouldn’t admit that I had been conceived out of wedlock. It was as though the truth could have tarnished her reputation, a reputation she had made up for herself. I had questioned my father for years about why the math didn’t add up, but he always gave me the same answer: He would chuckle and say, “Go ask your mother.” I could see right through it, as I knew my father so well, but he knew whom he would have to answer to if he told me. When I did ask my mother, the answer was just too far-fetched for me to believe, even as a child. Her story was and remained the same throughout my entire life: My parents were actually married a year before their registered anniversary date. According to her, they were so in love that they had a secret wedding before the real wedding, which was two months after my conception. I still laugh at this fantastic story. I confirmed several times over that this was bullshit, but my mother stuck to her story even after the truth was uncovered. That was just who she was.