a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
'the locusts have gone; i'll mourn the mother you were and the girl i could've been still'by Neo Rui Qin (13, Singapore)
TW: abuse, mentions of self-harm
Pulsing in the tiny capsule of my mind is the tempo of rattan sticks my limbs are chiselled with, an intrinsic rhythm engraved into titanium bones, ever-recurring—even when you say you’ve changed.
ma(1), I don’t believe you.
“How much you get for maths?”
I knew it wasn’t going to end well, not at all. “85.”
You were a personal purgatory, my creator, my mother—expiating the sins etched into my soul, and the defects woven as one into my veins with your sceptre of tautly bundled rattan.
“Why do you always ruin my mood?” Your voice grated against my eardrums, “ ni de jie jie dou mei gen ni yi yang ben.(2) ”
In the brief silence that ensued, all I could hear was the worded pizzicato on the tendons of my heart. (you’ve never played a musical instrument before though, i don’t know if that makes it better or worse)
You once said scars were medals to warriors, an indelible testament to the fact they’d survived embedded therein, streaking their skin forevermore.
When the overlapping lacerations embellishing my thigh had scabbed into lines of bronze crust, I kept scratching, over and over, till embroidered underneath my fingernails were but narrow coatings of scarlet. I knew comfort was transient, permanence a fleeting illusion, rooted into evanescence itself, and each moment would pass. Even this one. Thus, my wounds began to seal and veiled were the vestiges of a war’s aftermath, my skin untainted. I survived and yet the medallions you spoke of never materialised, and no one would know that I too, was a warrior, before I was flesh and blood. Maybe one day, I’ll find that warriors and scars don’t necessarily fall under the same umbrella.
“ wo zhen de bu xiang da ni.(3)”
I almost laughed at your facade. ma, you lie.
The withered remnants of the daffodils have been buried in the winter snow, rebirth never an option for the ivory seeds once adrift.
You asked,“How much you get for your maths prelims?”
“88.” Inscribed on your vacant eyes was but a reprising passage of discontent, never to be liberated. Then, I waited for you to absolve me from my sins, to damn me with the rattan stick, but it never came—my sanction. Why aren’t you hitting me? Why aren’t you scolding me?
So I, your filial daughter, accounted for the scars you had once again failed to bequeath me, my flesh a temple long defiled, made anew by these terrible trembling hands. They grant me mercy.
This time, you had noticed—the falter in my breathing cadence, tenuous as it was, and the silver lining my eye rims.
“ Huh? wo dou mei da ni, ni wei shen me yao ku? (4)”
In your gown of undulating white, you resembled an amnesic patient, not a trace of the murders you had committed—one of which had wrung my thrashing heart dry, lingering within your glazed eyes. Your love language takes bleeding to decipher.
ma, do you know the difference between ‘didn’t’ and ‘couldn’t’? ‘Didn’t’ implies that a choice was made: When you could’ve loved me normally, but you didn’t; meanwhile, ‘couldn’t’ implies that there was no choice, none at all:
How could you not know? Those four, ineffable words twined along the cavities of my teeth like candy floss, and as much as I desired to rip them out, I couldn’t, much like a toddler learning how to speak, face gilded with dried saliva trails. My question simply echoed—within the maelstrom you’d stitched into me with time-worn fingers, youth-weary bones seeping with starlight, except you never exactly knew how to sew. In the end, who could deny I was a mere specimen coded for success, what I asked that day, would you ever know?
ma, have you ever loved me, as a mother loves her child? No, you don’t even know me.
You regarded the phrase ‘I love you’ to be a desecration to your sacred mouth, not one to partake in such nugatory affirmations. And I was simply unworthy of your love, to be spoken of perhaps—once your faithful marionette, ball jointed limbs lithe under carmine strings, lulled into subservience all embodying. All I ask of you now is to fetter me once more with these threads of yours, gossamer thin, and mend this masterpiece of yours now ripped apart.
Once bound by peace signs and expressionist smiles of fleeting forever, we stood amidst the chartreuse grass, enveloped by our intertwined silhouettes and the peach dreams swathing my heart. The monochrome polaroid enclosing us both has remained, and even the faraway stars, but you haven’t. Most of the stars are small and dark and empty still, and the wraiths of what once was—they will haunt.
ma, I’m sorry. I'm still the same little kid—still hungry for your love. I know I was wrong, I'm sorry. Don’t leave me. Please, just come back.
Tell me you're sorry, and that we can try again; this time as mother and daughter.
As long as the sky remains blue and whatever that happens. So until then, stay with me.
1 abbreviation for mother
2 ‘your sisters aren't even as stupid as you’ in mandarin
3 ‘i really don't wish to hit you’ in mandarin
4 ‘i didn't even hit you, so why are you crying?’ in mandarin
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.