by Brianna L. McPherson
|I.They do not have to explain to their mothers why they only appear once in a piece when their father appears twice.
Even if she was only joking, I want to explain to her that it’s not really me on the page, not all of me. Not the me she knows. Not the part of me that would write an entire essay on my mother.
I want to tell her that there is a persona and the fragmentation of identity and digressions and even when I’m writing nonfiction the truth is so much like God that you can’t look in its face for too long. But talking in those complicated literary terms frustrates both her and me. Truth frustrates both her and me.
I would tell her I am a box of sea-polished glass. Some pieces are clean, clear, and smooth, like a worry stone in your palm. There’s green and brown and blue. A few bits are still sharp, like they’ve been tossed into the ocean just that day. Put them up to your eye and the world is awash in color, warped by the bending light waves. Cast rainbows on the wall; cut open your skin; press between your warm hands; make a mosaic; carve a lover’s name into a tree.
Dear Mom: Please. Understand that I am not always me. Understand that I am always me. Understand that I am sea glass in a box. Understand that you no longer get to understand your youngest daughter. Understand that she can demolish and build herself back up on the page. Understand that you will not always read that page. Understand that the breakdown does not always break.
But I can’t tell her that. There would be a parallel drawn to schizophrenia. Fragmentation of reality doesn’t seem kosher to her, as she is a bookkeeper. If you get two answers, one of them is wrong.
If I get only one answer I’m doing it wrong. My expensive liberal arts degree has fucked me up more than my mother has. I can’t talk to the body I lived in for nine months. I can’t talk to anyone else without over-qualifying. There is injustice in everything I write and there is nothing to be done about it.
And I am a possible schizophrenic.
Fiction writers have it easy. They pick and choose from everyone’s sea glass boxes—a bit of dad, a bit of Georgina, a bit of a character on a soap opera, a bit of former President Ronald Reagan; they can blame someone else. Their finger can point out and away. Mine points inward until I can feel my gooey, thumping heart.
It can’t be that easy. Fictionalize the mother, call her a new name. They can write about how the mother used to hit the main character and her sister with hairbrushes and how she denies it now, all while pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven destined for the church fundraiser. You’ve just touched the heart, bruised it, like a juicy tomato.
This is not real. This is not about my mother. This is all about fiction.