‘Will things get better Ma?’ I’d ask her, once a fractured identity, found its cast of maternal iron and grit, determined to see the boy through shoves that split ears open – red drops of anguish finding an emotionally ramshackled Gethsemane – though he was too young to pray, to plead and to say sorrowfully, ‘If it’s your will, take this cup,’ and desperate to see him uphold integrity and become the antithesis of the man, who – when she had an early hysterectomy because blood and nearing death finds its provenance in sorrow and ashes: the grime of you’ll never be good enough as a wife, lover and a person – beat the boy on the way to the hospital for leaving a textbook in school. ‘God! God! You and your mother chant! Where is your God!’ He screamed trying to smash his face against the car’s dashboard. ‘You’ll fail your bloody exams, and even if you were to find your textbook don’t you dare tell me that you said so, you little bastard.’
‘Will things get better Ma?’ I’d ask her after they’d finally separated and she took the gamble and said, ‘I’d rather be on the streets with my son than watch him grow, wearing his father’s skin.’ She’d seen the rebellion, the blows delivered in the parking lot, but some shared idealism of knowing worse kept them. He’d pinned her to a bed when the boy was still five and tried killing her, and as innocence slowly left the boy’s soul and he let out a primal scream, he slapped the boy. ‘Shut up!’ He countered with feral ferocity and slapped the ground and shouted, ‘See I’m hurting myself too!’
‘Will things get better Ma?’ I’d ask her after disappointments on the football field and the wrong woman, who was never the yin to my yang, never the destiny, the truth or true love because these things find their birth in collective pain and strength to both wear and bear it. The girl had known pain but she suppressed it and marched to Hypocrisy’s parade: a salute and a stand at ease when Society barked on his platform held together by man’s strained, crooked limbs and knock-kneed stance. ‘Rip the veil and see,’ I’d tell her, but the traumatized often either worsen or slam the iron maiden shut on others like them, or swing, unsteadily somewhere between, where there isn’t darkness or light; just the false lull of addiction.
‘Will things get better Ma?’ I asked her, holding her frail limbs and bellowing, a sudden car crash of recollection. ‘Stay! Tell me! Please!’ And after years of separation and my relationships with worse women and flings with alcohol, she smiled a smile of togetherness, but it wasn’t a bittersweet ending for me; just a spear cracking skin, breaking arteries, piercing my organic core and rushing out from the other side.
‘Will things get better?’ I ask myself in this small town where the petrichor supposedly enlivens, the birds chirp, and Autumn tosses orange scarves as she drifts slowly in her gown of bristles and thorns, with ripened halitosis – a dethroned Empress, and she stares at me, never knowing where I’m heading, bleeding from the rocks of Reality thrown, and says, ‘Godspeed. I hope things get better,’ with a sad idealistic smile.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)
You can find more of Nitin’s work at Fighting the dying light