The devil cannot stop scratching my throat. His talons sink deep into whatever flesh is available. He must be a man. There is no argument. There is plenty of argument as to whether God is man or woman. I lean towards the latter. But there is no argument as to whether the devil is man or woman. He is man, through and through. And I cannot get the pain of his claws that ravage every inch of my voice from defining who I am in this moment.
I cannot scream any longer. The pain is too definite, too sure. All that leaves my mouth is a crackle, like an elderly man whose bones submit to their history with each painful step. My face stained with streaks of moisture humans call crying. My eyes committed suicide hours ago. Tear ducts fell apart as the last images of my facial rivers posed for their final pictures. I am unaware of the presence of a photographer. I am unaware of whether or not I have been in this room alone, with her, all this time. It is a blur I do not wish to catch up to, converse with, learn from.
I have scared the nurses. They have not attempted to move me for some time now. In the beginning, they reacted with the knowledge that this was a simple mother and son relationship. They were sadly mistaken. This was an aggressive love affair severed at the most inappropriate time. This was where my scream started. This is when the devil looked to escape my throat. Clawing at my wind pipe as nothing but silence was able to leave my mouth, yet, the pain on my face was enough to shatter any ear drum in the vicinity.
My face wrinkled. My brow furrowed. My lips chapped. Slobber dripped. Spit caked in the corners of my mouth. Eyes watered to the point of dehydration. The veins in my neck protruded. But no sound. No sound could be released. The devil had won, which was ironic, since the devil is the angel of music, you would think he would want to hear the agony a severed love could produce. Nevertheless, he relegated me to unmitigated silence. One of the lost pains.
I am numb. The strength I possessed earlier is unavailable. My heart palpitates at a rate of concern. My hands quiver, like violence is in the air.
The door slams open.
My father steps in. His eyes land on the permanently resting body of his now-deceased wife. This image dwarfs all thoughts but one at a time. The first, he is now a widower. The second, he is now a single father. A man who lives to be in complete control now has none. It only took him four hours to arrive at this point…
“What… what happened?”
From somewhere, I found that strength I once had. The devil released me from his grasp. The crackle cracked under the pressure. I could scream again.
And the power of its echo through my body buoyed me in the direction of my father, flailing into his chest, swinging with no realistic target in sight.
“You happened! You happened! It was you!”
I screamed with the power of 300 children whose mothers have spent eternity negotiating with God if they had any chance of returning to this earthly vessel.
“I didn’t do anything, son. I didn’t…”
He was unaware of the truth in that statement. His wife felt such a disconnection to him on a spiritual and emotional level she hid from him for nine months that she was fighting breast cancer. For nine months he walked in and out of their bedroom unknowingly watching as his wife was slowly passing away.
I did not notice or know that she was dying either. But our connection was based in her making sure I only saw the good in everything. She even tried to get me to see my father with a different eye, a different view point. I was successful with everyone but him. I now wish I had been just as unsuccessful with her. Maybe I would have seen the pain she was in, the suffering she was going through. The blessing and the curse of black women – their strength. You can lean on them for as long as necessary, but when it comes time for them to lean elsewhere, they hesitate with the marksmanship of an abused child who finally pulls a gun out on their father.
“How could you not know?!”
“I didn’t know. She never said anything. How could I –“
“You should have known!”
I stood next to her in this moment. I stood next to my mother, cold, lifeless, posing for a portrait only a sick freak would ever snap as a memory.
“Can I grieve, please?!”
“Sure. I already had a four-hour head start.”
I leave. Slam the door behind me. Act like a stereotypical teenager in an increasingly typical scenario. Or, at least, I have convinced myself of this over the past four hours as a disgusting coping mechanism.
The door behind me would not allow me to go further. I return to the door only moments after exiting. I peer through the small window, set my sights on my father. He wobbles to my mother’s bedside, noticeably shakes. His knees buckle. He lands in the same position in which he proposed. He stares up at his wife, my mother. Tears attack his cheeks at an unimaginable rate.
Never seen my father like this…
He paces back and forth. Distraught. Sick. I feel bodies behind me. Nurses hover. I turn to face them. I breathe deeply. They breathe deeply. We stare. They feel the pain on my face. It resonates. They stagger backwards a bit. They are worried, not wanting to upset the delicate balance of service and grief. They study my face to see if anything has changed in my stance from earlier in the day. It hasn’t.
They notice my slight change in demeanor, rush through the alleviated tension into my mother’s room, where they find my father, drenched in a puddle of his own tears, shirt unbuttoned, untucked, unlike anything I have ever witnessed.
Never seen my father like this…
I follow behind the nurses who finally begin the process of removing my mother from her machines, from her room, from this world, from us. My father fights this process. I wrap my arms around him from behind. He tries to escape my grasp. We fall to the floor. He screams at the top of his lungs as my mother is taken out of her room.
It is always difficult… to witness someone thoroughly recognize… that they are too late to do anything… about something they could have…