A short story by Vera Kalin.
My daughter’s name is Tear.
– like the drop that hung from the edge of my eye as I gave her birth with my
teeth clenched. Tear – as the water that washed my smile when I first held her
tiny body in my arms. She has the name of these ants that I want to let run and
stop pushing like sticky noodles under my eyelashes, but I can’t. I can’t.
Because I am not free. Because I can never be free again.
When I gave birth to my Tear, I thought there was no pain bigger than that in the world. I thought that if I lived through this breaking into smithereens, I would survive anything. I thought that every pain was followed by joy, because that’s the way it was with Tear. I thought many things, but I never thought my end was near, that it waited for me in front of the gates as a faithful dog. The day I felt the deadly scythe passing through me, I saw the happiness of my dearest died like an extinguished candle. Their painful moaning, as they punched my cold chest with their hands squeezed tore me apart. I am here, I yelled. I am here, I repeated. But they couldn’t hear me.
My body was buried at the city resting place. After that, there was no joy. After that, there could be no joy.
For forty days and forty nights I wandered without a body thorough my house. I was everywhere, and I was nowhere. My shadow was gone, my reflection was gone, the sound of my steps could not be heard. In the evenings I would lie down next to my man and I watched him wrinkle his face in his dreams. He spoke as he slept, calling my name. I am here, I wanted to tell him, but I had no mouth to utter a sound. I would press against him and he would shiver from the cold. I wanted him to turn towards me, tell me that he remembered. But he would only cover himself and remain with his back turned towards me, not coming to my side of the bed. Before it dawned, I would go to Tear’s room. She was little, her hair was still fort like feathers. I would kneel to her small bed and I watched her breathe fast. She slept with his little mouth open like a cracked pomegranate, her hair was sprinkled with drops of sweat shining like blossomed lilacs on her hairs. Tear moved all night long, she fought some nightmares that tormented her. I knew it was my fault, that part of me had remained there so she could continue to see me. Tear shed her name on her cheeks in her dreams, and I would break into pieces, like a soul breaking into pieces, because only my soul had remained of me.
Tear is crying now, and I can’t come closer to her as then. I can’t try to hug her, as she shivers from my dead closeness. She buries her face in the covers, whines, quivering in youthful pains. I want to run to her, put my arm around her thin shoulders and offer her comfort in my lap. I want to put my fingers in her hair and caress her until the night falls and her hardship grows dry. But I can not move because I am tied to the wall, with my eyes frozen, with my glassy look towards the shelves descending from the ceiling across from me. Tear is crying, she sheds her name on her cheeks. If I had a heard, it would break in my chest, but this plastic emptiness has enslaved me, it makes me stiff to life.
This mess started when they came to say the last good-bye. I got in the car with them. They felt cold from my ghostly presence and my man kept on turning on the heating. They were both silent. From time to time he would look at the back seat as if he feared that Tear would disappear unless he turned. With no emotion on her face she played with her doll’s pink wool hair. The car stopped at the graveyard. Tear would not come out. Her father begged her to come out, only one more time, only then. I don’t want to go, screamed Tear and she shed her name in her doll’s hair. Mommy will come back, she said. I shriveled like a medlar when it turns too ripe. I touched her, and she shivered from my closeness, She shivered like a stalk of grass. Like a small leaf torn from the tree. He father grabbed her in his arms and hugged her, as if he was a rope holding her from breaking apart. Mommy will be back, repeated Tear. And my man only let his mute sorrow run down his cheeks.
I stood on the pavement in front of my grave, as the tear drops passed through me like through mist. I started to silently pray to God and all angels to help my daughter forget me faster. I prayed to them to wipe off her name running down her cheeks and be with her because I could no longer be with her. Tear kneeled down, all in mud, squeezing her pink wool haired doll. Her father tapped her shoulders telling her it will all go away. Let it go away, I prayed to God and all angles, let it go away faster.
All of a sudden, my body started to tear from the ground. It was too soon. It was too early. I was not ready to say good-bye. I was not ready to forget. I resisted and I tried to get hold of something, but the things just kept on passing through me. I resisted and I moved as much a soul could move. But I flew higher and higher, I watched my little girl and my man becoming more and more distant, as they grew warmer as the cold of the dead left with me. I didn’t want to let them go, I didn’t want to leave.
Out of nowhere, the world disappeared in front of me I was in a dark tunnel with light; if I had eyes, it would burn them. The light sucked me towards itself, and I scratched the walls of the tunnel with my imagined hands, I ran backwards with my imagined legs, I slid on the ground and I tried to stop my departure. I don’t want eternal rest, I yelled, I just want to be with my little girl. I just want to be with my little girl! I screamed without a voice, and I started to cruse everything on the ground and above it, everything mortal and immortal.
Somebody must have heard me, somebody must have had mercy, because the next moment I felt Tear’s little arms around me, I felt her wiping her little nose off my hair. I heard her little heart pounding as she pressed it against my back. Tear squeezed me, tear squeezed her pink wool haired dolls as her father dragged her to the car. She squeezed me as they drove to the house and her father covered her body and whispered her to sleep and dream of nice things. Tear squeezed me long afterwards, as she shed her name down her cheeks, on the pillow, in the bed sheets, as she shed her name in my pink wool hair.
Those days, those years, I was the happiest and I thought that they would last forever. I lied to myself that they would last forever. I remember how it seemed that Tear felt my presence and she would not part from her pink wool haired doll. She often cooked for me and she made me tea in the little cups her father and I bought for her birthday. In the end, she would drink it herself as I could not open my mouth. Sometimes she would close my hard eyelids and allow me to rest as well. Every time she made a ponytail from my hair and every time she put clasps in all colors in my hair I thought that Tear knew I was next to her. Every time she would let her sorrow out of her chest in front of me, it seemed that she knew I had not deserted her. I thought she knew when she told me about her best friend, and her first A in mathematics, and her first puppy love and her first love pang. I thought that she knew when she complained that her tummy hurt because she bled, because she had become a girl,, and she told me that she could no longer play with dolls and plastic cups and that the time had come for her to go out and hang with friends. Then Tear hung me on the wall and she started to come home later and leave me restless. I feared about my little girl every night, I kept on worrying if she would return home safe and sound, happy or crying. Sometimes, sober or tipsy, she would take me off the wall, kissed my cheeks with her lips hot like boiled chestnuts and told me that all of her secrets were inside me, and that I was her mother, her sister and her best friend. I wondered if tear knew that I was there, every time she argued with her father, she came and she complained to me, when she said that he did not understand her and that he forbade her many things, and that he worried a lot, and he shouldn’t, because she was a smart girl. Tear said that he father didn’t trust her, and I wanted to tell her that he only worried, and that he worried for two, because I was imprisoned inside a hard plastic doll. Tear told me many things. I watched her grow, laugh and cry, her heart breaking and healing again. Somehow, in some way, I felt that I was there for her, and that my plastic body melted under her touch, and that she could feel that I was alive, that I was not only a doll with slanted eyes that were like extinguished charcoal, neither looking at her nor understanding her.
Tear is crying now, and I am helpless. I try to move my arms, I try to move my legs, but I can’t. I see her turning her head and looking at me. She gets up from her bed and comes closer to me. I feel her reading my mind in my marble eyes, I feel her reading and shedding her name down her cheeks for the last time. She takes me off the wall and gets out of her room. Her father asks her where she is going. To the basement, she says. He looks at me. I see his endless love in his eyes. I love you, I say, I will always love you. He takes a second look, then looks at Tear and nods his head. He puts his hand in the pocket and then hands the basement keys to my little girl. Tear takes them and leaves the room quickly. She runs down the stairs, as if scared not to change her mind.
The keys rattle as Tear unlocks the basement door. I see it is wet. I see it is dark. It must smell like mold and memories. It must smell like oblivion. Tear goes to the corner and she looks for something in the boxes. She finds one that is half-empty and she places my body inside it. I look at her. She looks at me. I feel her name falling on my plastic face. I feel her name falling in my eyes, extinguished charcoal, and it fills them in, it mixes with the tears that I want to shed and I can not.
She wants to leave, but she comes back, takes me from the box and hugs me strong. For the last time we stand like that: Tear around my pink wool hair, and I melted inside her arms. I know it is the last time because she had hugged my body like this before I left, before I disappeared. Before I turned into plastic. Good-bye my little girl, I want to tell her, but I can’t, because my lips are frozen. Tear looks at me for the last time and she kisses my cheek. I want Tear to also close my eyes, but she doesn’t remember. She takes the box cover and lowers it slowly. I see her little face halving, getting smaller, disappearing. All of our memories pass before my dead eyes. My insides tear and Tear comes out of them. I listen to her first cry. I touch her small slimy body with my hands. Her little teeth nibble on my nipples. I hear her giggling when we swing her at the swings with her father. I hear her small footsteps when she runs to our bed in the evening because she has dreamed something bad. I smell her hair ticking my nostrils. Tear doesn’t sleep with toys anymore. She drinks tea with her friends. She doesn’t cry for me anymore, she cries for boys. Tear has grown up.
The box lid closes. The darkness presses my body like a dough. The keys rattle, they turn in the keyhole on the basement door. I hear Tear’s footsteps growing distant. I hear my little girl’s footsteps leaving me. But it doesn’t matter. This time I won’t resist. Not that I can’t. Not that I don’t want to. But sooner or later, Tear will have to grow out of my pink wool hair.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska