i looked at her and saw

I looked at Her the other day. Not a stolen glance, not a turn of the head—a proper look. I saw how the years had grazed away at Her skin. How the mischievous Time had left imprints on Her face in the form of lines. I saw the burn marks on Her hands from evenings spent in the kitchen. I saw years of nagging turned into golden transcripts that hang from Her lips. “Be safe, be safe. Be okay, be okay. I love you, I love you.” I saw the way the corner of Her eyes water when She cries. How the beads of droplets that come from Her faucet are just like mine. The way they linger in the crevice of our eyes before streaming down, pulled by the weight of a thousand grievances we cannot speak. I saw how Her dreams had been buried decades ago. I saw that they were not buried for good. I saw that She had sowed the seeds for my future, that She gave up Her wings for me to fly. And I realized She was growing old.

My nightmares today are plagued by falling through the abyss and monsters with hydra heads paired with skeletal bodies, limbs those of amphibians and tongues those of venomous reptiles. When I was younger, a mere babe coddled in the warmth of a two-layered mattress, the fear of Her death had visited my nightmares. Today I fear the same, only less afraid because She has left Her mark on me. I am Her. I looked at Her and saw myself. A projection of Her youth. A hallucination of who She had wished to become. Her hopes and dreams rest on my shoulders. Her nose and lips rest on my face. Stories from Her glorious years play in the back of my mind like a little music box containing a ballerina. I keep the key turned lest I forget Her.

But, oh, how I can ever?

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