The Art of Locomotion

Are you sure you’re moving with us?”

The world lost its blinding glow as I took a deep breath and thought of an answer which came to me almost too suddenly, mechanically. It was as if darkness swallowed me whole and kept me alive in its belly to prepare me for this dreadful moment when Mom will finally ask.

It was past 8 in the evening in a place where Mom and I were already too familiar with. The sound of her voice was cold enough to freeze whatever was left warm inside of me, but still warm enough for a space for breathing. There were five of us at the dinner table: Mom, Mom’s half-sister, her half-sister’s mother, Mom’s guy friend, boyfriend, whom for no apparent reason at all I found comfortable to talk with, and then there’s me: Mom’s most pathetic daughter, dressed in ripped-up jeans and Chuck Taylor. Beneath my feet was a sinking sand.

I need to know if you’re coming. The house should. . .”

There was a bomb explosion in my head.

The house should fit all of us. It did not occur to me how many we were in the family. I did the math in my head: so there’s Mom and me plus my brother and sisters subtracted by the apparent absence of Dad, multiplied by zero, by which we get the product of the same. Then we add the unnecessary variables in the family multiplied by the exponential sum of Mom’s extravagant mistakes, of Dad’s silent withdrawal, of my frail indecisions, and we get the equivalent value of a house that is not home, divided by the shattered pieces of our inability to ever calculate the equation.

The house should fit all of us. I imagine Mom in the broad daylight, cruising around the town in search for a new home: a two-storey house with three bedrooms, four. A nice large living room, nice kitchen, nice floors. The bathroom must be perfect. Verandas and balconies are unnecessary. No traffic jam, no flooding. The first thing Mom will look for is a garage.

I imagine Mom moving boxes, stacking them one after the other until it was high enough to come crashing down on the ground. I imagine Mom looking at her scattered stuff and blaming gravity for everything that has fallen in her life. She would scream for us to help her with her things but my siblings would be too busy saying goodbye to the almost empty house. She would turn to me, almost too unwillingly, and ask me to carry the boxes.

Carry me, Mom.

Carry me like when I was a child. Carry me like I was crippled. Take me from point A to point B and demonstrate the distance like you would demonstrate your fears. Teach me how you do this: this masterly mechanism of moving from one place to another in search of nothing.

I remember Mom that evening, and how her hopes glimmered like gold in the midst of the dinner table. She spoke like moving was an all too easy thing, as easy as moving a piece of stone from one side of the table to another. She spoke like it didn’t matter at all. And when she asked me if I was coming with her, I cringed at the thought of my own fear.

We moved hell of a lot when I was a kid. We moved for no apparent reason at all. It was always because Mom wanted to. There was no room for my protests. And even if there was, she would never listen. We roamed the country like nomads. And at night when we’ve finally settled at a new place: the smell of fresh paint still reeking from stranger walls, luggage bags and moving boxes still lying lifelessly by the front door, I would hear Mom scream about it: the rage, the madness, the incessant itch to run far far away—the hopelessness of it all.

When Mom and I met up for dinner that evening I knew at the back of my head that she was hoping for it. Hoping for her pitifully lost and neglected daughter to come home again. But I never knew home. I grew up in the strangest places in one of the most promising decades in the history of civilization but never did I ever understand what that fucking word meant: home.

She talked ever so enthusiastically about the new house and asked me what I thought about it. But when your mother asks you for your thoughts, you brush them all aside and invent new ones: ones that are more acceptable, more conventional, than the truth of things. So I said, my hands clutched a cup of sundae, my lips oozed with hot caramel and betrayal,

Yeah, I’ll go.”

Go is a word that commands movement. In the army, in the race track, in the loud crowded corner of the intersecting street. Go stands for action. Go is when I close my eyes and imagine myself running away from my Mom.

We parted ways after dinner. We agreed to give things a little bit more time, like how she would give me until the end of the semester to decide. But time, I figured, was not the answer to it. Because whether it is the 18 years I lived with her, or the past two years I lived without her, it does not reverse the inevitable fact that time runs on without waiting. The damage inflicted in my younger years will only remain just as that. No amount of time could ever heal the irreparable assault on my childhood just as no amount of eulogies could ever wake up the dead. We tread on unceasingly through life with these damages. We move from one place to the other, but remain unmoved just the same.

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