My mother has a habit of staring intently at reflective surfaces. When alone, she will look directly into mirrors with a vacant look in her eyes. I am not sure what she thinks of while staring. She doesn't seem natural when she does this, she sits up straight, and places her hands gently on her lap. Her posture is forced, but I assume that stiffness, contradictorily, allows her to release tension in her body. When she takes up this position, the clocks tick away and the sun sets in the horizon, and yet she does not budge. My father thinks she just admires herself quietly, but I think she doesn't look at anything at all.
Some may assume she is easily crippled by her daydreams, but her apparent lack of focus on her daily deeds does not take away from nourishing her talents. As all mothers do, mine has many gifts – the most astonishing of which is her voice. I don't religiously listen to her singing, but her voice catches my attention even when I am not listening. It announces its presence every day, at dawn, when the light is just peeking through the dark skies. Her incredible modulations, tone and timbre creates an aura that is heavenly. As the riyaaz ends each morning, I find myself eagerly waiting for the next dawn.
But before dawn comes, the night emerges - and I have spent quite a few nights laying in my mother's lap listening to her lullabies. When I was very young, the tune was simple, and the words made no sense to me. As I got a little older, my mother started to share with me songs with a story to them, most of them tragic. One time we sat on our patio and sang together, a song where a child asks the moon to bring her mother back to her. She says that her mother had left her when she was asleep, and must have gone to the moon, because that's where people end up eventually. It was a full moon that night, and I remember looking at my mother as the moonlight reflected off her face, in awe of the perfect glow that she exuded.
This morning, I found myself waking up without the usual melodies acting as a trigger. Once I shook the weight of drowsiness off me and got up from bed, I felt quite queasy, as if there was an unknown spectre hovering over my body and imposing thoughts onto my mind. That sudden burst of intuition, the one that almost always forms a knot in your stomach, hit me hard. I dragged myself up the stairs towards my parents' room, anticipating the encounter with a truth that I might not want to meet face to face.
I quickly entered the room, not really caring about waking anybody up. I identified the figure with the ability to create the more soothing sound, and shook her gently. Within a second, she opened her eyes. With keen focus, and a perplexed facial expression my mother looked on until I broke the silence.
"Ma, why couldn't I hear your voice this morning?"
My mother tried to smile a little, but gave in to her rigid facial muscles. She got up quickly and said, "Didn't feel like practicing today," and turned away from me. I didn't say anything, and walked down the stairs and back to my little room.
The rest of the day unfolded as it always does, only today I did not let my mother escape my periphery. I noticed something was off - her glow, that wonderful aura that usually surrounds her was gone. I wanted to let my father know but he was busy, the only word that fully described him. Today, however, he was busier than usual. He called home early from work to say that he wasn't coming home tonight. My mother waited for an explanation, but my father wasn't one to give any. She was visibly distressed by this new information, but she was calm. She kept her voice low, and I could just make out two words that left her mouth before she hung up the phone – "her" and "why."
The two words haunted me for the rest of the day, and I didn't know the reason - I felt like they appeared everywhere I went, like that spectre that had its power over me last night.
At dinner, I saw my mother staring at the stainless steel bowl that held rice for quite some time. Again, she was in her usual posture, which embodied constraint and grace at the same time. I wanted to feel bad for her today, but something told me not to. I felt this sudden urge to be selfish - to not care about how she felt at all. As these thoughts raced through my mind, I felt a sudden rush of pure bliss. My face must have lit up as a reaction which distracted my mother and caused her to look up. She looked at me as if she didn't recognise me at all. After a few seconds, she smiled.
"Do you know something?" she asked with her lips still stretched out.
"You look exactly like your father."
After dinner I went back to my room, still embodying the blissful energy. It must have affected my mother too since I noticed she hummed a tune while doing the dishes. When I was about to walk upstairs from the kitchen, my mother rushed toward me and hugged me from behind. I let myself relax in her arms, and when she finally let me go, she touched me lightly on my head and asked me to go to sleep.
I did as she had asked me to do right away, I did not toss and turn. I slept so peacefully, that even dreams did not dare disturb me. As dawn came, however, I realized something was unusual. I heard a tune, but not the usual intricate melody, but a simple tune, the lullaby that my mother sang to me when I was a little girl. I wondered why she started the day with a lullaby, and as my curiosity was piqued, I ran upstairs and barged into my mother's room. I reached the bed and as I was about to yell "Ma!" I stopped in my tracks, dumbfounded. I could hear the lullaby, loud and clear, but my mother was still sleeping. Her smile from last night never left her lips, and she looked as beautiful as I remembered her to be. With the tragic tune as a background score, I tried to shake her awake, for I was scared, so very scared of what I was starting to realize.
I stepped back from the bed, and followed the words of the lullaby in my head. It comforted me, just as my mother did when she would put me to sleep. I felt the tune all around me, but as I stood there, the tune started to converge at a point, at its source. I could hear the booming sound from the right, and as I turned to look in that direction, I caught myself looking at a reflection.
I was looking at a mirror, but the reflection was not mine. The figure in the mirror was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on. As I looked at her I suddenly felt something pulling my legs, guiding me to take a seat. I felt as if I was not in control of my own body, but I went through with the motions. Shortly, I was stiff all over, my hands fell onto my lap and I couldn't take my eyes off of the alluring woman sitting right in front of me.
Since then, my mother and I have been separated by just a piece of glass. I am forever bound to her, bound to her reflection.
The writer is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College, USA.