OPINION
i

Eternal life

She looks at her daughter and doesn't recognize her, but listens to her and recognizes herself on the other side of time

Sometimes she finds herself gazing up at the sky and talking to herself. "Ease off a little Mom, don't be so hard on her." Then she is scared, but immediately feels a mysterious consolation.

"But all my friends have piercings, all my friends have tattoos. They can come home at 1am, or whenever they like, but I can't do any of that..."

How she feels when she argues with her daughter is even stranger. She looks at her and doesn't recognize her, but listens to her and recognizes herself on the other side of time - the same tone, the same arguments. She, too, used the "home-by hour" like a hammer, tirelessly. Pitilessly, she now concludes.

"And that's what they say. 'What a mom you have, the way she talks, so liberal, such a lefty, and then she keeps you on a chain, like a religious nut.' And I die of shame, because you can't imagine the embarrassment I feel, when a party is just about to get going and I have to go home - I don't know what excuse to make, I really don't..."

The only thing I want, the only thing I really want, is to be 18 and get out of this house"

She doesn't believe this, because she herself once said the same so often that she can practically anticipate the whines and pauses of the perpetual lament; but words fail her when she tries to explain what she feels; the shiver that freezes the blood in her veins, when she imagines her daughter's body, the same body that was once part of her own, pierced and marked like a head of cattle.

She cannot explain what it felt like to see her that first time, to look at that rosy warm bundle, to feel her fragility and promise to care for her, feed her, teach her to talk, walk, fend for herself. She cannot explain that she, too, was afraid: of being unable to breast-feed her, of the child catching fever, falling ill; that she might have problems in growing, learning, coming to be what she is now: teenage, pretty, sensitive, curious, self-controlled and, though sometimes bent on proving the contrary, highly intelligent. A person with lots of reasons to be happy, and a radical contempt for her own happiness.

"The only thing I want, the only thing I really want, is to be 18 and get out of this house, then we'll both be OK. You'll get a problem off your back, and I'll be able to live the way I want, tattoos all over the place and a hole in each ear. So now you know: there are two years to go. Well, plus a couple of months..."

When she hears this threat, uttered in her own manner as of old, as like herself as her own name - the day I turn 18, I'll be out of here - is when she looks up and wonders whether after all, there may not be an eternal life. Whether her own mother, so tired, so weary of putting up with her for so many years, may not be looking down at her from a cloud.

"And what about you? What do you think, that your brothers haven't told me what you were like at my age? You think I don't know you were always arguing with grandma, changing clothes in the elevator, coming home late?"

Then she feels close to her mother, and sorrier than ever at having lost her so soon, long before the birth of this granddaughter of hers, who is so much like the rebellious daughter of old that now, when it is too late, she repents of every shout, every challenge, every slammed door. And at times, while not wishing this torment for her daughter when the time comes, she experiences a strange feeling of her mother's company.

"Well, can I come back late, or not?"

"No."

"I hate you, you know that?"

"I know."

Because eternal life does exist, but it's this one.

You may also like

Most viewed in...

Top 50