Sometimes when my mother wants to be cruel she tells us we burst from a stone. I love when she says this because it’s true. Inside the crystal, my sister and I curled up like yin-yang fetuses and held in our giggles as we got ready to explode in a spectacle of shards to turn my mother’s life upside down and inside out.
Is that what she means when she says we burst from a stone? We’re not of her, not of anybody, not human?
When we were small we’d watch her battle my grandmother at Dr. Mario on the Nintendo. In college whenever she called I’d put the telephone on the table and let her talk to herself, on and on with her opinions and ideas about how I should live my life.
Now that I want to know what she thinks, she’s stingier with her thoughts. Instead, she doles out one-liners like this one, about finding a womanizing rich man to marry: “If he can’t keep his pants on, you can sue his pants off.” Or this one, about fast fashion: “Typical men, exploiting women and children.” (I thought she was talking about labour exploitation but she was really talking about selling clothing to women and children).
Beneath the cruel and bizarre things she says is a vow to protect us, her daughters who burst from a stone like spiders erupting from a boil. Her boil. She wants to save us from bad decisions and bad men with slippers raised high to smack us dead. She sees things blowing up in our faces years before they happen, like young mothers who warn their children not to run so fast or they’ll trip and crack their heads open. But kids need to trip over their own feet to understand how to run. And I need to trip over my own feet (all eight of them, you know, because I’m a spider here) to understand how to keep going.
This weekend my mother asked me to watch a Hong Kong crime thriller with her so I could practice my Cantonese. I paused the film after each line and asked her to break each sentence down into its components because I wanted to annoy her. After five minutes of that, I shut my mouth and watched the movie.
I mean, I gotta cut her some slack, right? It must be hard to be her, because she knows all the mistakes my sisters and I are going to make—and that there’s nothing she can do to protect us.
Also published on Medium.