A Black Flame in a Dying Ocean

A mother holds her child -she presses her daughter tightly to her chest- and there in the hospital room a bond is formed, one that is tethered to the child's skin for the rest of her life. The love between mother and daughter is something that can never be replicated or replaced; from that day on your mother becomes your hero, and you would do anything to live up to the paragon of merit that she is in your head.

As the child grows older, there comes a day when the hero falls and becomes the villain. When the things the child once looked at with reverence and admiration -hanging in her star struck eyes- are nothing more than expired supernovas, gone and past the point of their explosive brilliance. When that day comes -when the rope tethered to her delicate skin grows too tight- she can only hang there, quietly suspended in the vacant air of her mother's heroine. And without that hero she is trapped, fettered by the things she was supposed to be, and the things she is not.

"What happened to you?" my mother asks, her hands -with veins protruding out like the ridges of a mountains top- are firmly pressed against the wooden frame of my door. "It's like I don't even know you anymore," she says, her words hushed and tentative. I want to answer her, but truth be told, I'm not sure who I am anymore either.

I shift in my seat with my head bowed in my hands. There is an ache in my chest, a blight on motherly love that blooms in my stomach and brings tears to sting the corners of my eyes. I feel this way because I had begun to realize something - how I do not want to be my mother- and this cognizance is breaking something within me. A nauseating guilt is born from the revelation, it swims in my head like the sickly heat of the summer, or like a poisoned haze in my hindmost parts of my mind. It feels like these thoughts are painted across my face -my cheeks stained a bleeding crimson- and are born from a red roped scar that is continuously torn open by aching hands, trying to get me free.

I look up from my desk- from nervous hands tracing the patterns in the wood- and see this look spread across my mother's face. I see her crestfallen thoughts in the way her frown falls to the floor, and in the way her eyes shine with a confused sadness. I see it in the way the question, "where has my daughter gone?" ghosts across her lips.

"Mom, I'm sorry," I say, my voice cracking around each syllable. What I want to say is, "Mom, I'm sorry I cannot be you anymore, it's going to kill me to try and be someone I'm not," but the words never come -they sit stagnant on my tongue- unwilling to leave the nest they've made behind my teeth. I feel the dynamics shift between us, like the way tectonic plates shift below the crust of our Earth. I feel myself becoming someone new -someone my mother cannot recognize as her own- someone she can't relate to. She cannot understand that I'm becoming my own person, that the ropes are beginning to fray and the person beneath them is not who she thought they would be.

I hear her sigh with a long and drawn out frustration that slumps her shoulders towards the ground. She looks at me with a hollow emptiness- like I am a stranger to her- and the plates shift beneath the Earth as she walks away.

In my sleep, I dream of a faraway place. Where there is a beach, and a tide that pulls up to my knees. I tread farther and farther from the coast -the ocean swallowing up my bottom half- it takes my legs and feet under, twisting itself around my ankles and reaching up towards my waist. Soon enough, I am merely half of a person lying on the shoreline - washed up and torn apart with heart and lungs still intact- but everything from the waist down has been taken by the tide. When I wake up it's no better, my back arches against the mattress and my eyes burn from salty ocean tears. With deft fingers, my hands fly up to my throat with a shaking urgency, trying to get even the slightest breath of air into my lungs. My bed is on fire -engulfed in the hot wild heat of its flame- and I'm afraid I made it this way. I feel the cool ocean water leave my eyes and roll down my cheeks, soaking my pillow and snuffing out the flames ignited by my own fears. My chest heaves with broken and sporadic breathes, and as I regain my composure, all I can think is how much I miss my mother. How drifting apart from what is normal is scary, how independence is scary, and how not knowing who you are or who you're supposed to be is scary -and as these thoughts and fears are sparking on dying embers- I fall back into a dreamless sleep, dreading how they will sound in my head the next morning.

Strangely enough, when I wake up, I feel no dread. I feel whole and complete in ways I never have before. There is no rope holding me to the expectations of a mother - for the first time in my life there is only me- and there is something so enlightening and freeing in that. Independence is ringing like a clear incantation in my head; I am my own person, and it's time she realized that.

"Good morning," I say to my mother tentatively. She smiles in greeting, and there is light in her eyes again today. She leans against the counter in the soft light of our kitchen -the morning's song of the birds in the trees and the car engine humming in the driveway across the street, reverberating in the air- and when I look at the women sitting across from me, I don't see evil. I don't see a villain who is out to get me. I see my mother, who is strong and proud, who worries about me and cares for me. There is still that love there, there is still that bond that cannot be replicated or replaced, but now there is something different. Now there is me -a whole person- a whole separate being who is not bound to the same values she holds. I must be allowed to be free, to have my own thoughts and my own mind; I cannot live in the shadows of this woman anymore, I cannot continue to suffocate beneath the sheet draped over my eyes that erases my entire entity, that tells everyone in a blanketing statement who I am.

My mother shifts and opens her mouth, her jaw frozen by a stillborn thought, but whatever she was about to say dissipates with her open mouth stare, and instead she tells me, "have a nice day."

She turns down the hall and an unspoken, "I'm proud of you," hangs atmospherically in the quiet of the kitchen. I stand there, with my hand gripping the strap of my backpack, a smile taking the place of a straight line frown. Dust particles are dancing pirouettes along the lambent sun beams in front of me. I feel the rays of light warm my skin -it thaws out the ice in my marrow and the cold in my lungs- and what is left is a feeling of hope. The hope that someday I will grow into a woman that she will be proud to call her daughter, even if I'm not the one she wanted me to be.

The reality is; I am still that little girl, I am still that small child who is lying awake at night and burning for her mother’s approval. Small parts of me will always be chasing those four, sickly sweet words, but now there is a change -a brilliant, shining, difference- full of hope and ebullience. A change that can loom over you if you let it, that can consume and threaten the very hope it brought. But now I know that I am fully ready for this change, I'm ready to take on the burden of independence and learn how to be the complete and unabridged, me.

A mother holds her child -she presses her daughter tightly to her chest- and there in the hospital room a bond is formed; but this time it will be different. There will be no rope and there will be no hero; there is only mother and child, heart to heart and breath to breath. This time, the bond is only in the love that can never be replicated or replaced, and there does not need to be anything tethering her to that. A mother holds her child close in the delivery room -and sets her free.