Isn’t it funny how
tough love never manages to
feel like love at all? How
it feels more like hate.
No, not hate, but indifference.
And, of course, the irony of
those thoughts visiting her,
as she watches her mother
stuff her life in two plastic
garbage bags, isn’t lost on her.
How can you just let her leave
knowing she has nowhere at all
to go? The question stings her
like that time when she’d been
riding her bike all evening and
she went to get off her bike
and the skin of her leg got caught.
in the tire spokes. She hadn’t been
thinking about being careful, but
only about moving on.
But the sting, it had forced her
to stop and think, to consider.
What should I be thinking about?
I’m not forcing her to leave.
If only she would just….Just what?
She doesn’t know. Watching
her mother walking down the block,
away. Years of belongings stretching
the inside of garbage bags. Her gait,
unsteady yet determined, beneath
the weight of so many years of
history. For weeks her mother
has been known to live behind
the corner store where she used to
send her only daughter
to buy cigarettes and tall cans of
beer, a note from her mother
balled in her hand. One time
a man lured her behind the store.
He’d stood in line behind her and
followed her outside. She stopped
only because he called her name.
To hear your name on the lips
of another can be dangerous in so
many ways. And that’s why
she never told her mother
who she knew would not understand,
her mother would scold her
for being silly, for being naïve. She
thinks now of the cold
penetrating the old coat her mother
wears and the blood spilled
on the pavement beneath her mother’s
feet in that place where she will sleep tonight.
After all these years, will it still be there
covered in layers of yesterday’s grime?
Yes, she is sure it will. Spilled blood
never loses its memory. And blood binds
across years, across miles, across distances.
This is not the first time they have both
decided to go their separate ways. It’s just
tough love, she thinks, ignoring the tears
on her own face, as her mother once again
walks away. Isn’t tough love walking away
when you really want to stay? Briefly
she considers running after the woman
who gave her life, to stop her, to love her
softly, but she knows she won’t ever
be able to go back there again. And so
she just stays and convinces herself
that love can be both hard and soft.
Peace & Love,