Do you remember?
I was four. I drew great green birds with wax crayons and topped them off with incongruous little fashionable hats. An American friend of yours had introduced me to the wonder of Disney, and all day long I’d sit around drawing anthropomorphic animals. And when you came back from work I’d follow you into the kitchen, hoping shyly that you’d come and see them, which you inevitably did. As long as you liked them I didn’t care what others made of my efforts.
For my drawings I used these extra-large sheets of white paper you brought back from work.P & IDs you called them. The ones you gave me were waste sheets, of course; you had your real P&IDs which you’d work with, using different-colored pens to write comments. I‘d sit on the drawing-room floor and watch, learning new words on the way.
I remember you telling me, later, that I’d look at the squiggly little symbols and say things like: Pump. Tank. This is a tank.
Your colleagues would smile broadly and say, My God, your daughter is so precocious. When I was eight I once looked up that word in the dictionary. I liked what it meant.
I developed a love of facts. You fed my eager mind in the best way you knew. Subscriptions to Children’s Digest. Encyclopaedias. Science books. I never went out and bought a single one myself, though I read them all greedily.
How proud you must be of your studious daughter, they said.
Your hands are steady as you wash the dishes. I am helping you dry them. The kitchen is our only escape now. No one else bothers to come here.
My own wrists are shaking and I am drowning in a sea of anger and bitterness and even hatred.
“How can you bear it?” I hiss. “If I were in your place I would not undergo these humiliations a moment-“
You tell me to hush. You say I don’t understand. That I cannot understand.
“Men have egos, my dear,” she says in a resigned voice. “I know you are very educated, but this is an inescapable fact. You have to deal with them carefully…”
I stare at you. Was it for all this that you made me love the truth and hate injustice, care for facts and strive for nobility? To have our lives reduced to the banal truisms of a third-rate K-soap?
I walk away, simmering.
It is much later that I realize that you are not amenable to logic. That I can’t appeal to the pride of a woman who spent her entire adulthood serving other people. That even if others hurt you deeply, you are incapable of hurting them back. And all of this is because you are a mother. You are, apparently, destined to bear all this, and bear all this you will.
But some tiny rebellious part of me asks constantly: Is it fair?