After the fight, father left the house for the night. The half-eaten bowl of soup would go cold on the table. Again. Dad would return in the morning, long before anyone is awake. And when the house is alive again, the brother, the mother, the daughter, even the dog would pretend like nothing happened.

Mother should have left him long before brother came. I was an unplanned mistake, yes. Mom tried to correct it with rat kill in her food and my milk, yes. A loud ambulance and syringes would stop her from correcting it. And she would be blamed for everything, again.

But that night, when father left, mother cried after a long time. Silent criers we are, mother and daughter. She washed the plates, cleaned the kitchen, turned off the lights and sat to rest. On the sofa, with the TV providing the only light in the intended darkness.

I did not say a word. I did not cry. I sat next to mother on the spongy leather stretch, and laid my head on her bosom, my only safe place. For there I could hear mother’s heartbeat, the only solace amidst all the mess.

Hot tears trickled down mother’s now-wrinkled face. My fingers wiped them away without looking, I was well aware of her beautiful scarred face, of that hot salty trace. Silent criers we were, mother and daughter. My tears meandered down my face now, forming almost an identical trace. From where I did rest, I could see a wooden frame of father mother and me from happier days, or pretence, I couldn’t remember.

Mother’s trickling tears told the story of a woman oppressed. The clot on her arm was now cold and purple. The ring on her finger made it numb and swollen. But tonight isn’t for stories, tonight is for silence. The daughter would tell mother her story someday. Of how men will be men, of how one drunken night led to a week of vaginal pain. Of how the boy she loved had called her a “whore” to her face, and how another lover had left her broken and stray.

I would tell mother of how not much had changed. I would tell her how my crop top did not liberate me more than mother’s hijab and long sleeved dress. I would tell her how that one time I slapped a guy, his semen ended up on my face.

I wanted to say, mother, the day I earn enough to keep us both fed, we will run away. And I will tell you all these things out loud and I will rest my head on your bosom and we will cry together, again.

But, not today.

Today, let’s cry in silence.


The girl who travels in bows


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