The way the mind stores information has always been a passion of mine since I was a child because I learned that my mother’s consciousness never rested. I remember waking to the sound of a startled cry. The dark enveloping me with its cold emptiness. I would peer into the night with frightened eyes and pull the pillows closer around me as I listened. Eventually another mumbled cry would reach my waiting ears and often this second cry would be more a cry of pain then fear.
Slowly I would place my tiny bare feet on the cold tile floor and creep out my open door into the hall. The tiny nightlight in the bathroom gave just enough light to keep me from creeping too far and crashing down the stairs. I would sneak as close to her door as I could without making the floor creak. The door to my mother’s room always stood open and a crack of moonlight played pattern games on the floor as the clouds covered and revealed the moon.
Mother always slept restlessly, haunted by memories of her own childhood. Once I dared to go right into the room where she slept alone and I watched her for a long time. Her body strained against invisible bindings in painful twists and spasms. Although her words came out of her sleep as mumbled and incomprehensible I knew she was pleading to her mother. I was scared for her that night because I could see what she hid behind her eyelids. I could see the dusty beams of the attic and the tiny octagon window at the far end of the room that was so dirt covered barely any light could enter. Even the hardwood floors danced with dust and handfuls of hair pulled out of her head. I could see blood and pieces of skin that were still fresh with life but ripped from the body by rough ropes that bound wrists and ankles.
That was how my mother spent her childhood: beaten and bruised. She spent her adult life relieving it.
After that night I never dared to go into her room again but I still listened at the door catching occasional words and phrases dark enough to haunt my own dreams. I continued to listen in case I had to wake her which had happened a couple of times because she started screaming so loud that I thought the neighbours in the attached house would hear and call the police. Often though she would wake on her own assuming that the noise that startled her awake was me having a nightmare and she would come to my room and put her arms around me and quietly tell me that it was just a bad dream. She would cuddle on my bed with me. She would snuggled under the covers and whisper for me to remember that when I have a bad dream I need to tell myself that it is just a dream and that I want to wake up and then she would be asleep.
She struggled that way till her death. I was with her in the hospital room when she closed her eyes for the last time. I climbed up on to the hospital bed beside her and gently placed my arms around her. I heard her breathing shift to the rhythms of sleep and I filled with hope that tonight she would sleep soundly, free of mental torment. I made soft Shhh sounds and stroked her soft grey hair. I watched as a smile played on her sleeping face and as her breath came to a stop. “Goodnight mother. I love you,” I whispered to the woman finally at peace.
By Shari Marshall -2019