Noel Negele

For my mother 

When my mother was younger 
and got a bit tipsy 
at friends 
or family gatherings 
she’d paint a tooth or two
with a black marker 
and pretend she was this dumb hillbilly 
and clown with everybody
and I have faint memories of this 
and have seen photographs of this
with all of them laughing around a table—
having a good time.

A couple of months ago 
we talked for hours into the night
because we both have sleep issues
and I listened to her stories 
from back when we still used to be a family,
about her first dates with my father,
about my uncles playing chess 
and having ludicrous heated political debates,
about my grandparents and our neighbors 
and at some point we went over some
old photographs from back then,
their 80’s clothes and hilarious haircuts 
and in one photograph it was my mother 
in the military from back in the communist regime
surrounded by her female comrades—
this line of sweet and laughing teenagers 
looking at the photographer 
and holding submachine guns 
and I thought :
Damn, this bitch is cooler than I thought.

The next day she called me
asking for help,
she was in a sad predicament.

The rich couple for whom
she worked for for the last 
twenty years had now grown
terrifyingly old as time has it
and the husband’s skinny, wobbly legs
could not hold him most of the time
making the walk from bedroom to living room
and back a true odyssey
and so but then what had happened was
upon limping back to bed after day drinking 
because what else is there to do besides drink 
when you’re barely alive,
he had fallen beside the bed 
and upon impact had also lost control of his bladder
and pissed himself.

Upon hearing the thumb 
my mother had tried lifting him up
and Marina, the wife, the much older 
from the two had also tried to help
much against the advice of my mother 
and had also ended up on her ass
next to him
with my mother almost throwing out her 
middle aged back trying to lift either of them
but succeeding with neither of them.

So she had called me 
to go and lift them up
because her back was about
to give.

I made my way to their
rich people neighborhood 
contemplating of having all the money in the world
but being trapped inside the prison of your aging body
like a much more horrific and helpless  
Count of Monte Cristo 
because this is one prison you can’t escape from.

And when I stepped in that bedroom
I tried to hide my sadness looking at
these two souls just laying there helpless
like mummified relics,
one of them in a puddle of piss
and I said jokingly 
“ Old age is a bitch isn’t it”
and then said
“Ladies first”
as I put my hands below the armpits 
of Marina and held her up as softly as I could 
while Vasili from below trying to help me
by pushing her up
and then I did the same with him
not caring about the piss that doused my jeans
while my mother, mop in hand got into the room.

I slowly led Marina to the living room
while she narrated what she did with her days
and when she sat in the couch I handed her the 
TV remote, her best friend for the last couple of years
and she tried slipping me 50 dollars
because I guess that’s how rich people
show gratitude 
but I refused kindly and almost burst out crying 
right then and there.

On the drive home
we were both silent 
my mother and me.
And I thought about her impending 
old age nearing in like dark clouds
in the horizon,
the things I owed her 
that I’d need several life times 
to pay the debt of
and I wanted to say thank you 
but sometimes a verbal display 
of gratitude ruins the moment.

I’m away from home now 
like I usually am
and I guess what I want to say to you
is that to simply say I love you
does not do it justice
and as long as I draw breath 
you won’t be alone 
and that no matter how many times you fall
I’ll put my hands below your armpits 
and it’ll be your own son lifting you up
instead of someone else’s 
and if that cursed day comes
I’ll be coming in your room—

mop in hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s