Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Brother of My Memory

Today marked a day. Not a day of celebration or commemoration. Just a day.

But for some reason, it made the feet slow. The mind still. The heart sigh. The breath catch.

Uncertain of the reason but adamant in its hold. Such moments demand attention. From experience, it usually leads to some level of epiphany or at least a form of clarity. A thought or concept half-formed that may segue to something more significant. I have learnt better than to disregard such soft whispers of cajolement, luring me to explore places that I may not always want to venture.

I sit. I breathe. I let my mind free.

A face floats nebulously into consciousness. I do not know him. I only glimpsed this face for a short few moments. Does it haunt me? Were those moments enough? Who is he?

My body turns a little cold. Reminiscent of the day of engagement. When our eyes met for a fleeting minute before the crowds of collusion pulled our mutual awareness apart. 

It was cold that day too. Was is it always so cold at funerals? I was exceptionally cold. And weary. It was a chill that went beyond the temperate. I was chilled to the soul. In death brings clarity. You see people for their true selves. The self serving. The opportunistic. The sanctimony. The self-pity.

A lifetime of accusations tangle in the fine tendrils of hair escaping from my chignon. "Cold". "Remote". "Uncaring". "Superior". "Insensitive". "Scary". "Hard". "Bad tempered". "Sarcastic". "Heartless".

Did they think my hearing was impaired that I could not hear them. By whose largess were they all here? The temptation to cast these niggling gnats out of my view was a wild temptation but typical insouciance turned the eye and ear from such minor irritants.

Why am I always so remote from them? Even I cannot answer that. Impatience? Likely. Disdain? Definitely. Pity? Occasionally. The need to be left alone? Wholeheartedly.

It is hard to hide my contempt of the simpering, the whiney, the self-delusional and the battle for attention. Funerals, like weddings, are prime cesspools of these and it is no wonder I try to avoid them with every cell in my taxed body and soul.

But this was unavoidable. No one else should, could or would undertake the funeral arrangements of one's parent. Should I pretend grief so they would leave me alone? I feel a twinge of sadness for what was not but I cannot pretend emotions I do not feel.

Am I, as one hack claimed, socially and emotionally apathetic? 

Who are these people anyway? 

My eyes seek the only person of concern. She sits in a circle of loneliness. My aunts surround her but I can see the eddies of isolation and bleakness swirling around like will o' wisps, breathing their breath of desolation upon her cold face. 

People think her remote and unyielding. But I know better. She is tired. Her grief has robbed her even of the deluge of sorrow of the first days. Numbness has his icy grip in her. Hope has left her abode in her soul. I could tell she heard, saw and felt nothing. Like her son who lay a few feet from her.

The unfeeling, cold rebel felt her allegedly non-existent heart break. The first sign of tears prickled behind her lashes. Sharp blinks dispelled them. I shook my hair loose of its restraining vice to hide my face from prying eyes. 

No way. No way in hell would I give these vultures the satisfaction. They will not leave here with another fodder to their gossip mill that I had feelings towards this man.

I do my duty. I give the proper respect. But I will never shed a tear. No one will leave this hall with the misunderstanding that I feel anything other than obligation.

A sudden sign of life in Grandma. What is it? My hyper-sensitive sense of danger sharpened and I look to the source of peril. Did one of them set an ambush? Which one? Mentally I draw the claws of retribution and assume the stance of defense.

I stood and watched carefully.

A man and a woman. Actually, more a boy just recently passed the cusp of manhood. And an older woman. They looked vaguely alike. Mother and son? Who were they?

There were displeased looks aplenty. What fun. More drama. Just what I needed. 

They paid their respects. I refused to budge as the hordes of concerned males hovered over them. Why were only the men approaching them? Why did some of the women look so disdainful, others so titillated? Why the sudden, mass haste to avoid my eyes?

The woman turned and tried to greet Grandma. Marble statues of yore had more warmth than the icy cast of her silhouette as she turned her face away, A snub direct. A cut reserved only for the most despised. 

Who was this woman? She retreated shamefaced and head cast down in a show of distress and embarrassment. Her male companion, her son perhaps, looked mildly angry as he threw defensive looks at the corp of male relatives trying to form a wall around them.

In his wild eyeballing, he caught my eye. I suppose I was easy to spot. Alone in a corner. A white flower in my hair and my mourning clothes to signify my position. My arms folded as I leaned against the wall. My hair a wild cascade of blood red running in rivers against the snowy white. My cold, speculative eyes studying the implications of their presence.

His eyes. They look familiar. Warmer and younger with hope still in them. Familiar.

In that instant, both our eyes widened.


He was the first to look away, I could see shame, evasion, then a small form of bravado before he gave up the ghost to raise his eyes. 

I softened mine. 

Look at me. It's OK. I am not them. I understand. Stay. Let me know you.

But it was too late. And the hordes of hyenas dogged them out of my life. 

I turned to look at Grandma. She could not, would not, meet my eyes. 

I knew. I knew. All those years of being alone as a child. Feeling the weight of a whole generation's legacy. The burden of familial obligation. The yoke of ascendency.

I could have shared it.


Why was I denied? Why was he denied?

No one ever addressed his existence again. Stiff upper lip. We do not talk of such things. No one acceded to my request that we share the legacy. It was as if he did not exist.

But I remember him. 

I see you. I did not know. It is not right you will always feel the denial of your existence. But I know you exist. I see you. You are not forgotten or denied.

If I never see you again, my heart still knows you. My blood calls to yours. We share a legacy. I will not hoard it for my own. I will undertake every action with your shadow on my back. I will give it all back just for that one moment. One moment of true kinship.

I will not feel so alone in standing forth against the family. Because I know we are two instead of one. 

Brother of my memory. You are not forgotten.