She’s staring into nothing. Her eyes, seeing yet unseeing, leak tears like a faulty faucet that can’t fully be closed.
She’s sitting up on the chair that she would normally fold herself into. Staring, unseeing, leaking tears.
Her face is wet but I don’t think she feels it. This is her body’s reaction but her soul may be long gone. I ask her the question again, for the umpteenth time.
“Are you okay?”
She turns her head like a robot to where I am standing and looks at me. She blinks twice as if to clear her vision. She stares at me for a long time. It makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t look away. After what seems like five lifetimes I ask again.
“Are you okay? Mama, talk to me.”
She sighs a little and turns her head to stare at nothing again.
“Okay, such a strange little word. O and K. It holds a world of meaning though, doesn’t it? Should I give you the socially acceptable answer? The answer that will make you feel good and assuage your fears? Or should I give you the answer that I crave to give you? The one that is unacceptable, that will make you uncomfortable, make you squirm. Options options,” she says.
This is the most she has said in a few hours, since the incident. I take a deep breathe and wait for her to continue.
Another lifetime goes by. The room is filled with the sound of the clock ticking and our even breathing. Hers, then mine, then a tick of the clock. A pattern.
“Child, when the devil tempts you, it’s not subtle. He’s not subtle. When you enter his lair, the hairs at the back of your neck will stand up. He will smile beguilingly at you, beckon you to him. You will know that it’s so wrong. That you will find yourself talking to your daughter about it in a few months. Oh but you wouldn’t be able to stop yourself. Your heart and your mind will fight you every…single…step of the way but you will go anyway because you know it will feel so so good-“
She takes a breath and looks at me. I shouldn’t listen, but I want to know. I want to hear her side of things. I want to understand.
“He will draw you in with his eyes and his lies. He will tell you that it will be forever, that you will know no pain, only pleasure. He will tell you to be selfish for once. To seize your life. To live. To take instead of give. You will know that he’s lying but you will want to believe him.”
She stands up abruptly and starts to pace. She looks like a caged dog in this small room. As abruptly as she started to pace, she stops, falls to her knees before me and cleans tears I didn’t know where leaking from my eyes.
“My baby, my child,” she whispers, “I don’t deserve you. Even now, you should be spitting on me but you’re asking if I’m OK. I don’t deserve you.”
I shake my head. I need to get her hands off me, but I love the feel of them. Maybe she is my devil, tempting me.
“Tell me about the devil Mama,” I say drawing her hands from my face.
“The devil, he will become your deity, the god you pray to, the god you worship. There will be no-one but him. He will whisper lies wrapped in truths that you tell yourself. Things that justify your deeds. He will lead you to his room and tell you to lie down. He will whisper your darkest desire that you won’t admit to yourself. He will touch you like you’ve been craving for a long time. You will know its wrong, but you’ve gotten that far, so why stop? Why not continue? Why waste perfectly good pleasure?”
She actually believes this!
“You rationalise the bad, you say you’re doing it for your daughter and her children. You say you deserve some good after all the bad in your life. You can’t look at yourself in the mirror because you know they are lies. But it feels too good to stop. You can’t stop. When he hits you like he hits your child, you will welcome the pain because you know you deserve that pain. You asked for it. By sleeping with your daughter’s devil.”
She sits back on her heels. Looking defeated. She’s said it out loud. She has acknowledged it. The elephant in the room. My mother’s affair with my husband. She looks at me, expecting me to ask her why. Her eyes goading me into the why. But I don’t. I stare back at her.
“I hated and envied you. I shook my fist at the deity in the sky for you being so perfect. I wanted one flaw, but you were, are a saint. You loved the devil and stayed for your children,even when you knew he had another. You are a saint. But you’re also weak.”
I stand up then and straighten my dishevelled dress as best as I can.
“I am not weak, I am strong enough to survive him and still have a smile on my face. Not a saint, just human. You wanted the devil, you can have him, but you won’t have me. You can’t have it all, you selfish woman. I know you want me to ask why. I won’t. I can’t ask a question I already know the answer to.”
“The devil made me do it,” she whispers after a long while.
I walk out of her house and her life.