I tried to cry when you wandered off.
I stood before the mirror,
staring with so much struggle at the earthy eyes you gave me,
willing them to weep,
but there was a drought,
a deficit of devastation,
no matter how much I scolded and shamed myself.
I put on an Ella record,
recalling the time that you told me that Billie Holiday was the best singer in the world,
and I, an indignant infant, disagreed in the strongest terms that my small mouth could manage,
sombrely lamenting the lack of watching over me that you actually did,
and how well I’d turned out, despite that.
I could count every time we said goodbye,
describe in detail the dark, distraught disappointment on your face as we parted.
The very last,
a phone call, late at night,
when you knew that you were about to say it for the last time.
You sounded as frightened of the wooden box that waited, as I had always been of you,
and I felt a power that made me sick to my stomach.
You were going to die,
and I had the power to deny you peace.
It was some kind of sick, heaven sent hell.
You wanted my forgiveness,
but I was not a priest,
or even just a particularly generous person.
You didn’t beg,
but I could hear the fear in each word as it dawned on you that you would die without reclaiming the daughter you gave away.
I had become my own father.
To you, that was perhaps worse than the waiting wooden box,
because you would be dead,
and I would go on living.
You would be dead, and that would be all.
You would become nothing,
and I would stand before my bathroom mirror for years,
yearning to cry,
just as I knew I should.
I cried for the one you couldn’t let me love.
I cried for the mother who rebuilt me after you tore me down.
I cried for Paddington Brown when he finally found a way to get Aunt Lucy to London.
A bear. A fictional fucking bear could find a way into my heart,
and my tear ducts,
but not you.
You’ll haunt me,
and I’ll still be standing by the mirror,
morbid and maniacal,
some kind of evil demon,
just as you’d theorised,
but, despite your hand in my canonisation as a callous cow,
I still want to cry for you.