This is one of those memories
that isn’t actually a memory,
but a bunch of stories from loved ones
pieced together over time:
In 2008 a man in a mask
came on the news to confess
that he had been bribed by unnamed politicians
to kidnap me and my father.
I must have been ten years old then and could only
remember being excited that I didn’t have to go to
school for the next two weeks,
though I knew something bad was going on
I was just glad to
stay at my grandparents’ house and
watch cartoons all day.
so on the morning
that they thought it would be safe
for me to finally go back to school
I whined and stomped while
right outside my bedroom window
A man shot another man in the leg,
but I don’t remember the sound of the gunshot.
Only my mother’s voice screaming,
not my baby.
Tonight I think of those words.
I think of my mother in these days of
no longer speaking to my mother,
I think of how much pain you need to put
someone through before they decide that they need
to go into hiding.
I want to tell the man in the mask that he is teaching me
nothing new. I want to tell him that
the hurt he threatens
Is no match for the hurt doled out by
the people that you trust
I think about betrayal.
And is there a word for being betrayed by someone
who is being betrayed by their own body,
For example, is it a lie when someone
recalls a memory
that isn’t actually a memory
but a story that’s been told enough times
that the brain has tricked itself into
not knowing the difference,
if someone tells you mothers
are supposed to protect their children,
should I believe mine
when she tells me that
the reason she threw me down the stairs the day I left for college
was that she would miss me so much when I was gone.
Or that when she
took all those sleeping pills, it was my responsibility to
stay up all night to make sure she was breathing.
I used to try to convince myself that my mother’s actions were not her own,
that her own body was betraying her and I was just
after all, what betrayal could be more absolute than
your own mental illness?
A few months later
an investigation reveals that
the man in the mask is actually
my aunt’s husband,
my mother’s sister’s spouse.
It took three years for my mother to even
speak to her sister again,
before then, it had become easy to believe
that the whole ordeal had never happened,
like a silence that spills itself over into the memory,
like there is no memory,
like I’ve forgotten the exact moment I stopped
answering my mother’s phone calls.
Now every day I tell myself that
cutting my mother off was the best thing for both of us,
at least for now.
So far it’s still just a story.