this is not about you.
this is the way in which your mother loved your father.
this is the way he held her hand inside his own.
this is the first time they met, strangers with a contract
to call them husband and wife.
this is how your mother felt, scared and lonely and
resigned, hopeful in the back of her mind.
this is the way she smiled across her whole face
when she learnt about you, nineteen, a child herself.
this is the way she sat with her weight on her left
throughout her pregnancy because you were lodged
in the spaces between her right side.
this is the way you were born, kicking and screaming,
blue in the face with disorientation.
this is the way she held you like you were still inside her.
this is your father, three days late to your birth.
this is your parents, with their arms around you,
a smile on both faces.
this is the way your father thought of your name
before he even thought of you.
this is the picture you took of them with their arms around
each other and the same smiles on their faces.
this is the way you felt when you realized that
your parents were in love, like it meant something more
than a meeting of minds, an arrangement of sorts.
but look, this is the way your father thinks less
of your mother for being a mother.
this is the way he couldn’t take the things that she loved
seriously. this is the way your father taught you
to ride a bike, although your mother still doesn’t know how.
this is the day you realized that your father did not know
how to love and your mother could not teach him.
this is when you wondered if she knew.
this is the way your father believes money makes
a house a home, and that the one paying that money
is the one who it belongs to.
this is the way your mother had twenty-three years
of her life thrown into her face, almost as hurtful
as acid. this is the way she tried not to care.
this is why she stayed, the look on your face
and your sister’s hands around your mother’s waist.
this is the way your lives fell apart, like pots made of clay
collapsing into each other, a sound like breaking a heart.
this is the way you learnt to be brave, to rely on yourself
like signals of distress, like the warning signs of a war.
these are the ways in which it wasn’t your fault,
and you couldn’t have known better.
this is the way in which you forgive the parts of you
which need to be forgiven. this is the way you made
mistakes which weren’t the same ones as your parents.
this is about how you learnt to be yourself.
you are not your family: lessons from a failing marriage
| rabia kazmi