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Two Sides of The Looking Glass
"But, why, mom?" I whispered. I had no strength left to fight, argue, or cry. I had done enough of it in the past hour, and had lost. Lost miserably to the battle of my life.
She looked at me, a distant look of sympathy mingled with something less easily definable in her eyes. Something like...empathy? I knew little of her life before it has become part of mine. I didn't know if she'd stood where I was at some point of her life, and also knew, instinctively, that I never would. I would never ask and she'd never tell.
"Because," she took a deep breath, and said in a clearer voice, "Because there are some things that you have to do. Some compromises you have to make, some things you have to face. Some things that happen no matter what you do. Some things that can't be worked against, and shouldn't be."
"No. Hear me out. I have always listened to you, now it's your turn."
I fell silent, not because of her words, but because of her tone. It dug into my skin like cold steel hair.
Her eyes looked past me, past everything in the overly comfy room that had been my haven for the past eighteen years. The only eighteen years I had lived. But I had lived long enough by myself, apparently. Because my father's cold, unforgiving eyes saw a girl who had, finally, become of age. It did not matter to him that this very girl had managed to get into a college of her choice on a scholarship, and was halfway through her undergraduate course. It didn't matter that this girl had dreams in her eyes, dreams that didn't fit in the congested, intricately arranged streets of their locality. In their world.
She was of age. Her dreams had existed long enough.
My eyes became wet again as my mother let out the breath she'd been holding.
"This is what is good for you," she muttered. I looked at her, wild panic in my eyes. If she couldn't save me, no one could.
"Good for you," she repeated, and this time I doubted that she believed it herself.
"You will get married to this man. He is a good man," she said loudly, as I made every sign of interrupting. I fell back into my passive state. "Really. I have seen him myself. He will take care of you. And he comes with a good family. What more could you possibly want?"
"How about a life?" But there was no bite in the sarcastic reply, just a not of begging.
She ignored that. I abandoned all control, and in my desperation, fell to her feet. "Please, mom! You know, you know everything. Please help me."
She picked me up without looking at me, like she thought I was the eclipsed sun, not to be looked at because of its harmful glare. Then she looked at her feet, where I'd been before. As if looking at my phantom form, she said, "I'm sorry. I can't."
Twin teardrops fell from her eyes. And I knew all hope was lost.
I fell backward and started crying in earnest. As I closed my eyes, I saw my life in a haze, a duplicate of the lives of so many women I'd known, loved and lost. So many women with the same fate that I should've seen this coming, yet hadn't. I'd hoped, foolishly, that this would not be my future, my reality. But now it was.
My mother looked at me, and with the same look of knowing, walked away from me. As if she knew that nothing could help me, and she didn't want to raise more pointless requests.
*****20 years later*****
"Why, mom, why?" she looked at me, and her pain was evident. In some corner of my mind, a registered a sense of deja vu.
"Because," I said, repeating words I'd memorised, "Because there are some things that you have to do. Some compromises you have to make, some things you have to face. Some things that happen no matter what you do. Some things that can't be worked against, and shouldn't be."
She looked at me again, with dwindling hope written all over her face, and in that moment I felt the comradeship I'd seen before, when I'd stood there weeping over my breaking heart. Like we were partners in this pain. This burden that is passed along the female line of a finely bred conservative family.
And in a sudden rush to avoid all the questions and pleading that I had subjected my mother to, I said, "I can't help you. I'm sorry. I want to. I really do. I -"
I inhaled sharply as her eyes filled up, as the worst that she'd expected came true.
I stand here and see my life
The life that is like an unending lie
the circle that goes on and on
like the blood running through me, strong
like a burden with a snare
O Lord, a daughter never let me bear.