Bhutan by Laurel Blossom
Then it was my birthday.
Through the gate, up the hill, to the writing on the monument.
Mother, daughter, mother daughter, mirror, window, garden, stone.
My mother thought if you liked sex you deserved what you got.
I hung her portrait outside my bedroom door.
She’s thirty-five, in a black lace dress with a black satin ribbon around her neck, crossed at the throat and fastened with a diamond pin, her hands folded in her lap, palms up.
Just think of it, she said, as the portrait of a beautiful woman.
So, I had my portrait painted, too, when I was thirty-five.
My hands also folded but in my naked lap, a string of diamonds around my neck.
I hung it in the dining room. Dressed, like game.
Meantime, my sister and I scattered her ashes behind the house, had her name carved on the family obelisk: Katherine Anne Carey Hopkins.
So we can find her when we want her, so we have a place to meet. A benchmark.
Don’t do this to me, my mother said when I was leaving my first husband.
He said, I’m going to take you for everything you’re worth.
I said, I hate you. Baby Allie, sitting on the potty, jumped.
Then came Jack, who had all the emotions.
The more he talked, the less I had to say. The more he talked, the louder he got. It happened so fast. We were up all night and we didn’t love each other anymore.
In our beautiful new apartment after my mother died.
I don’t remember the date, though I’ve written it down a dozen times. It lifts off the page like a bad label.
And if her death had nothing to do with me, what then?
And if her death had nothing to do with me, why not?
She was so small when I hugged her, her shoulder fit under my armpit, I could rest my chin on her head, she smelled of hair washed the day before yesterday.
My friend Lucy said I’ll be older than she is, I’ll know more, I can go places, take care of her, I can be like a sister to her, my mother.
Vincent and I were in Bhutan looking for happiness.
Bhutan is the 8th happiest country in the world. Statistically speaking.
She sat every morning at the breakfast table, coffee and cigarettes at her elbow, feet on the windowsill, robe tucked under her knees. Summer and winter, she took her post, to watch the sun come up in the garden.
The paper says coffee makes time seem to go faster. When time seems to go faster, you think you’re having fun.
I used to walk into that silence, lit by the dawning light, her back to me, the dark inside, a cloud of rising smoke.
I was the agent of change, the breath of life, the noisy breaker and enterer, the other woman.
I had the feeling she was waiting, counting down.
Past the date of my birth to the date of her death, the date of my loss and liberation.
The photograph is startling, stark, black and white. A ladies’ lunch on the day she died.
She isn’t fading away like the others, what were their names?
She stands there looking out, holding a cigarette, she’s teetering on the brink of extinction and she’s looking straight at us, smiling.
And now I can’t find it.
At first I thought the little girl was Allie, but it turned out to be my mother, plump, with one of those Louise Brooks haircuts, black bangs cut straight across her forehead, hair swinging loose around her ears.
I knew I was dreaming but I thought how charming to have my mother come back to me as my daughter.
And the bells of Bhutan woke me with a sprinkle of music in my ear. Like her sweet, four-note rising laughter.