divisionary movements: riddles in the form of posited truths
A photograph taken from inside a car of a road. There are power lines strung up to the side, and the main focus is the big blue sky ahead, filled with clouds.

My mother and I have a strained relationship. I do not know if this is a byproduct of her years souring her moods, or my own growth curdling mine; but it seems we are always at odds with one another nowadays.

I used to have two pet goldfish I kept in a tank far too small for them and that I cleaned far less often than I ought have. I was very young, but my ignorance killed them in the end, one right after the other during the dark hours of the night. When my mother came into my room to wake me up for school that morning, she saw the tragedy and fished them out of the water even though they had always disgusted her. She wrapped them in a triple-layer of ultra-strong paper towel and threw them unceremoniously into the garbage bin. She woke me up and told me that they had swam away into the river, and that I should be happy for them. Being so young, I guess I was happy, and shortly after when my father informed me that they had in fact died, I could not sift that happiness completely out of that grief. Children do not have a very good handle on grief anyway.

Consider the point of two trains, passing one another by on parallel tracks headed opposite directions. Consider looking out the window at the snaking contraption of metal and wire and registering in the recesses of your mind that it mirrors your own vessel, and consider trying to peer into the windows of that passing train, your fingers curling around the gutter rails as you inch your shoulder close to the glass, peering, peering, catching the hint of colour and shape that suggests a similar interior to yours but being unable to quite pin anything down, in the way of a scientific to a moth that wants very badly to stay alive.

I love my mother badly as that moth. There has never been any room in my head or in my heart to consider a shade smaller than love all-encompassing; the concept is as foreign to me as the sun rising from the opposite horizon, or the moon running its cycle in reverse. The scary thing is, though, I do not know if this love is truly my own or just what I think it ought to be, and the scariest thing is that I will never know the answer. Children never learn or make the choice to love their parents as human beings. I love my mother because she is my mother and that sort of love is the filial obligation expected of me. It’s all I know how to give. Children do not know how to love despite complication and iron-fist and the all too human blisters on any person’s shell. They have to be taught. They have to be chewed up and spat out by the trial of processing all of this, and only then can their skins toughen and calcify; but shrouding this judgment remains the poison of lineage eagerly traced from face to face, watching features branch out and convalesce. Once all of this has happened, there comes the wariness, but still. But still.

I do not actually know what any of my great-grandparents looked like. I barely even know the shape of their graves. If asked to say their names, I could only scrounge up a few syllables. I wonder what it takes to be remembered unobtrusively. With the act of recollection comes the burden of remembrance, and with no concrete touchstone there remains no point at all. I trace back the family tree as far as I can see and I wonder at the names of those interred bones and what they might have hoped for from their lives, what secrets they took with them when they were put to sleep. I wonder at what my own might be, and what my descendants may think of me. The family tree, of course, is an impartial thing and does not exactly care for anything beyond simple ticketing: name, date of birth, date of death, ameen. I wonder, if I traced back those names and those faces — I do not have any faces; there were no cameras to record them — if I might see something I will recognize. This is another frightening truth, that inevitably there will come a nose that turns down at the same angle as mine, or the same freckle at my wrist, or the same hardness to my eyes, and I will recognize that piece of myself outside of my body.

I have never been to a funeral.

Consider again, the train. Consider traversing into a mountain pass, the gaping maw of the stone ready to swallow you whole. There is a trick of physics and human cunning that keeps this from happening, of course, and the tunnel explodes out of blackness and into light within a null-point. Consider cranking open the window and running your hand against the rock, if you could do such a thing without running your palm ragged. There is something very intimate about this notion, about touching a place no living thing was meant to touch.

I have never been to a funeral. I have never seen someone I know being laid to rest. I have never worn white mourning clothes. I have never read the Istirja for a meaningful reason. Sometimes, when I am sick and awfully congested, I rip a Kleenex in half and roll it up and shove it up my nose because it’s easier to do than blowing over and over. My mother hates this and always has, and she makes me stop every time she notices. I always thought it was because it was a disgusting thing to do (it is, objectively). It was only later in life that I learned cotton is used to plug the noses of the recently dead, to prevent fluid drainage from ruining the mourning party.

My mother often laughs at me because she says that we don’t look much alike. She says that I have my father’s hands, and my aunt’s face; she says I have my grandfather’s wit and my grandmother’s humour. What she claims as her own is this: her temper in my balled hands and my curved mouth. I often wish we would fight less, but I know that this is impossible when my pride and my ego, my indiscretions and my reservations are mirrored in her. Two magnets will never connect anything other than opposite poles; they can lie on the same workbench, but at a distance.

When we have fought, I think about going into my mother’s room and using the floral lotions I got her for her last birthday as she walks around the room going cross-eyed, lamenting the misery of her weakening eyesight. I think about her hemming a dress, her pinched expression, the glasses firm on the bridge of her nose, the knot of her hair shockingly reminiscent of my grandmother. This strange and familiar scene makes me wretched. I miss my mother, even though she is just down the hall, even now; I can hear her rooting around in her closet. When things are good, I thrill. The world feels like a beautiful place; the sky is as blue as it ever will be; I am staggered by the breadth of possibility lain all at my feet. The issue is quite simply the categorization of good and bad in the first place. It wasn’t always this way.

I miss being ten. I miss feeling so sure of myself. I miss my dreary pre-teens, where I believed that whatever happened, I would wrangle my circumstances into something bearable. Now, I feel as though my life has branched and branched into a hundred thousand minute decisions, and I am incapable of making a single one. I only ever fall into them, eyes closed and finger pointed crookedly in some cardinal direction. All the while, there is this one repetition: When will it become more? This cannot be all there is. Looking up with fresh eyes, I see all these people, I see my mother, all of them limping through their days, and I shy away from the possibility that perhaps all that was meant to be now is.

Consider the train. Consider disembarking. Consider the mountain, top to bottom. Consider the headstone. Consider the lotion. Is this all there is?