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Expectations

Artwork by Ananya Singh, staff artist

The day my mother died crashing into a pole somewhere on the south side of New Hampshire, I stepped into the shower with cold water seeping and rushing through the roots of my hair and rushing down my fingernails, numbing me all over, until I felt—once again—like a child. Many years ago, my mother scrubbed me clean with watermelon-citrus shampoo and told me my father wasn’t a good man. I was young, then. I had never met him. I could not know what made a good man.

Years later, in college, I met a boy named after the wind. The name suited him. He often desired too much, reached too far. He would chase after what he wanted. Once, when we were done fucking, I wept naked in the garden, knowing the soft skin between my thighs was not raw, nor pure enough, to be of the flowers. He was gone before I returned. To chase after something else, I predicted, my mother’s words ringing in my ears. Was my father named after the wind? Were all men named after the wind?

For a while after my mother’s death, I dressed only in white. I rubbed lilac paint across the white, splatters of soup across the white, twenty shades of lipstick across the white. As a child, my mother never let me wear white. White was a widow’s color, she said, and a woman’s life did not need to be defined by a man’s. Instead, she dressed me in blushing reds and greens, smears of yellows and violets, colors that contradicted and clashed. Children should have color, she said. Children should play in the sun. They must do all these things when they can.

I was born when my mother was too young; she didn’t have enough time in her youth, which is why she wished for me to. My mother had lost her youth to my father, and not much later, to me.

They say her body disintegrated when she hit the pole, dispersed among creases of the Earth. My mother’s remnants could be in the soil that rests beneath my feet, which would mean I am stepping on the remnants of her life, crushing them with oblivion. My mother would make me ask God for thrice forgiveness: dear God, dear God, dear God, touching my hand to my chest and then to my forehead: forgive, forgive, forgive.

My mother was the kind of woman who didn’t believe in expectations. When she was a girl, she had expected too much, she said, partly because her mother told her stories she believed were true. My mother didn’t want me to have expectations because none of hers came true, so she told me stories of her own. The princess saves herself in this one; slow and steady never beats the cunning and quick-witted; the beans were a hoax, don’t trust men, especially men trying to sell you things.

My mother’s endings were never expected.

When my mother was in that car, was she expecting her ending? Had she seen the pole coming? Did she wish for it to?

I’m going to tell you a story.

THERE ONCE WAS a woman who bore widow for a now-dead man who once, long ago, had hurt her. A WOMAN who wanted to teach her daughter differently than she had learned. A WOMAN who did not believe in having expectations because none of hers had come true. Expectation, after expectation, only to disappoint. It began with her promises of a husband, who had turned out to be a different kind of man. She had married too young, too oblivious.

Perhaps my mother was tired. Perhaps she had been persisting for too long. Perhaps the pole was a mere thought: a slip of mind that transferred into reality.

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a woman who could no longer take care of herself. ONCE UPON A TIME this is what they tell you: women aren’t allowed to have expectations, you must take whatever comes your way, a woman’s life is not as simple as a man’s. ONCE UPON A TIME they never taught you this: men are powerful. My mother was strong, but perhaps it wasn’t enough. There was a part of her that had been lost for too long.

It’s not all that surprising, I suppose. My mother’s story was the kind she would tell. No one would have expected her ending.


 

Ananya is an 18 year old artist and animator. She was born in India and moved to Chicago at 4 years old, and is now an animation student at SCAD. She might be a Youngarts finalist but she is also a fierce competitor on the nap battlefield.



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