“Until now, I don’t talk to my mother about being fourteen-“


This still resonates – and it still hurts.

‟My mother wanted to talk about being fourteen 
and I kept counting the words written on old postcards
to keep myself from crying. She continues to hum
a thirty year old lullaby by the sink with a breathing
that only reaches half of her lungs. She’s wearing 
an apricot dress, the lower half of which looks like 
a net of flowers overhead a garden shed. 
She’s always beautiful, even with bread knife scars 
and unpainted nails. Even with the dent of my father’s
fist on her neck. Last week, he came home 
with a bottle of gin inside a crumpled paper bag
and I kept thinking why something as delicate as paper
can hold something as heavy and as empty as a bottle. 
Until now, I don’t talk to my mother about being fourteen,
not because I’m eating lunch between two corners. 
Not because I found my name written several times 
on bathroom doors. But only because I want her to know 
that if there was one thing she did right, it is this:
She raised me well. She raised me strong.”
– Kharla M. Brillo, How My Mother Raised Me


Last Sunday, on her way to sending me to the airport – our routine, it seems like now – she brought up the past again and Eldest Bro’s role in it; what he saw and heard for many, many years. How he was the only one to have witnessed all her weakest moments. How the rest of us, as if it is our fault for being the younger siblings, never experienced what he had to go through. How his handicaps and complexes are therefore, unlike the rest of us, as much her fault as it is his to bear.

Inside, I was seething.

It always angers me to no end whenever I hear this.

Did she think I saw nothing, heard nothing? Did she think I grew up – the rest of us – without crutches of our own?

Did she think I turned out… all right?


“I am curious… I would like to understand… what happened, why do you feel the way you do about marriage?” 

Rain continued to pour heavily, rattling the zinc roof of our homestay, as if making up for my long silence.

I found myself still not able to say out loud, exactly what happened, and therefore why.

The past continues to haunt, in silence and in the shadows.


Eldest Sis tells me that I need to write them all down – “Perform a root cause analysis,” she put it. She listed down three example points and the second immediately delivered a hollow punch. “Literally,” she continued, “Make a list of all the whys and scrutinize them. Identify which are modifiable and which are fixed. Work on the former. Learn to accept the latter… like a handicap. But start with an actual list. The aim is simply to have you move on from this.”

The first reason that immediately comes to mind:

The idea of associating myself with it is stranger than the idea of placing myself out and (far, far) away from the scenario. Stranger than reality. But that particular point number two… because it is their fault?

It is their fault.


“To be fair… she never meant for things to turn out the way it did.”

I held back my tongue and swallowed the taste of blood in my mouth, from the blades of words left unsaid.


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