As a young girl everything was my mother. When I was in your world here I came through her legs and fed off her body. She kept me warm and her anger was my fear and her love was my comfort. She filled my days with play and distraction and she told me when to lay in the dark and rest. She answered my cries but one day made me go to school where other people entered what I used to call my life.
When I was then she was everything there was but as time went on I grew complex and distant. There was me and my brother and my friends and Dad and lovers and one day a man came inside me and I felt new. My focus scattered like salt specks and my mother became one of many people. I fell in love once or twice and met a man who became the new centre of things. One day I didn’t think of my mother all day and when I was small that would have seemed impossible. I had love and a man now and saw my mother and thought of her but not as much as I did, though when he hit me I would ring her up.
I too got big and became a mother and brought another one into the world from inside me, and his name was Josh. As a mother everything was my son. He came through my legs and fed off my body. His life was my warmth and his harm was my fear and his love was my light. When I breathed I couldn’t go a breath without thinking of him and my last breath was about him, no-one else. The man I had loved had pushed me off the ship and the hull was hard and loud on my head and the sea slapped before pulling me down in cold heaviness and I couldn’t think about him and what he had done, just Josh. Just Josh, seventeen and handsome and no-mum.
I fought for him but not for long because my ball gown weighed me down and I couldn’t see or take air. I was just heavy and hurt.
I had no idea of time in the darkness till a diver pulled me up several suns later and I wish he hadn’t because the sky was so bright and the morgue was so cold. So was the sea but a different kind of cold, at least the sea crushed you close, the morgue just froze you dry.
I waited and barely thought, just pictured Josh but without enough words. I waited in the dull ache in the darkness in the cold in a way not awake but not asleep. Still here but gone.
There’s just the ache. Your head hurts and everything is cold and its sad and you can’t get up and pull yourself out of it because a person killed you. For weeks-months-years I lay then something felt close and my dead skin felt goosebumps and it was my mother.
She said hello and imagined a kiss at me and held me close untouching but it was enough and I’d have cried. I heard her think she’s so glad she found me and I thought back I’m so glad you found me. She had been waiting a long time here and ached the same as me.
She said people don’t know till they’re dead that you still feel something and it’s usually horrible and lasts forever, sort of numb but still bad. I said I know and she said she feels so bad she can’t help me but the one person they cannot help is mothers.
She said it’s horrible but the mothers kill their children again.
The mothers know that death is waiting forever and it’s horrible. They wait for their children to die and then they kill them again, kill their souls so they are killed twice and feel nothing. They are gone forever and feel nothing which is better than feeling something bad forever.
I agree and want her to kill me again instead of laying here dead and cold and murdered but she won’t and is sorry but can’t because I’m a mother.
She says it’s called the Muttering and there are rules that they stick to.
She says you wait and suffer all the years for your child to die then you kill him if he’s a boy but if she’s a girl you hope she’s not a mother so you can kill her too.
My thoughts are slow through the ice but I follow. I have to wait for Josh.
She is proud of me and so sorry.
I know it hurts and it’s cold but I wait.
It’s always this way she says. The men do what they want and the women wait in the cold. The men get killed twice but the mothers die forever.
Something in me smiles and for the first time I ache a little less and feel something like warmth. She does it back because she knows what I know, that waiting in the cold is okay when there’s a point and being a mother gives you a point.
I ask her if she’ll wait with me and she will because her children are everything.
I’ll wait for your brother she says.
I’ll wait for Josh I say.