My mother had another attack at around one in the morning. I had been expecting it. The attacks usually come in flurries, four or five in a day aren’t uncommon. The sign is to set up protective measures as soon as the first one hits. Funny thing is, none of the pills seem to do anything. A phone call from Dad though. Funny woman. Who knew an anxiety disorder could mess someone up this bad.

I’ve been describing her situation to Esha. It’s only been a few months with Esha. She wasn’t around in Mother’s glory days. May be ‘glory days’ is an exaggeration. She wasn’t around in mother’s Ok days. Sadly, all she hears about my mother is about her yelling or her losing her cool. I am not sure what kind of mental image Esha has about my mother. Can’t possibly be very positive, not with the stories I tell her. Someday I’ll sit her down and tell her about the time my mother wrote that story that got a national prize, all those years ago. It was 1987, I think. Don’t recall.

Mother drools a lot when she finally falls asleep.

It’s incessant. You have to change the pillow covers in the morning. The maids take care of that. They’re good souls. They still haven’t forgotten the time when Mother wasn’t like this. I think they have some residual affection left for her from that time, back when Mother would ask them five times if they’d eaten. I don’t think they would have much of a soft spot for this version of Mother, the one that throws tea cups at them. I hope their memory isn’t flimsy.

You’d be forgiven for thinking my mother was a different woman every time Dad calls. Her face looks several years younger. I know moods are reflected on faces but believe me, even her hair seems to get a new shine. Dad can’t talk for long though. Overseas Call Rates are still pretty steep for us. She holds onto some of that shine for about a few hours afterwards. Then it starts to fade. And soon enough, the anxiety is back.

Dad calls me in secret sometimes. The guilt in his voice weighs me down. I don’t know what he’s guilty for, he’s the one busting his back in an alien country for us. He shouldn’t be the guilty one. Yet he knows his absence is the one thing that turned his wife into this. Heh. First world problems. He says sorry, asks me to grit my teeth through it. “She is your mother, after all”, he says. I know that. Old fool probably can’t tell that that fact only makes it worse.

I read my mother’s diary, or diaries, several years ago. She religiously maintained them for nearly eight years. That’s one version of her that I know, the one from those journals. There’s the one I remember, older and more demure than the version from the journals but still very “herself”. And there’s the one from the past few years. I think it would have been better if I hadn’t known about the earlier versions of her. I’d be at peace thinking that my mother was always this unlovable, pathetic excuse of a person, dependent on others for the simplest things.

But I knew a different woman. And that kills me.

by Rayaan Ibtesham Chowdhury
tagged in fiction, mother