Why Not End this Experiment?
My mother believes we were not ready. Does she believe in the camps? The carnage? The price for insurrection, for unwillingness to enact burden— burden placed as yoke. I first learned the word yoke from the Oregon Trail. An integral part of manifesting destiny: joining animals, joining shoulders to carry a load. A device for the neck of the defeated. What can I offer my mother when we cannot agree on the truth? I send her flowers. I fill a digital Costco cart with dehydrated shiitake mushrooms and nuts she’s not supposed to eat. I ask how she makes her misua. She tells me church is safe. That everyone wears a mask. That the Holy Spirit and love of our Lord Jesus Christ keeps her safe. What we don’t say between thank you and upo or patola and I’m glad you are safe is a wound. I read somewhere that imposter syndrome finds its roots in childhood. That the emotional un- availability of a child’s caregivers makes a child prove and prove again their worth. I tell my mother my friend has died. My friend who was like a mother. My mother asks first: Where? I don’t know why I always fixate on how she always finds the wrong thing to say. As a child, I corrected her pronunciation as she read me bedtime books. In college, I confessed that memory to a white professor, my shame rising to my face: Isn’t that messed up? Her blue eyes rolled, exasperated—You’re being so sentimental! All that means is you’re a writer and have been from the beginning!” I can’t tell what the truth is from here. Here are things I know: my titas hide their cravings. Pretend they don’t want pigs’ blood, that their mouths don’t water when I open a jar of bagoong. I know my mother made a life for herself despite always being the one to kill what must be killed.