Man at His Best

Not My Mother

This entry won second place in the Montblanc X Esquire Fiction Writer Project 2015.

BY LAURA EVA WONG | Feb 1, 2016 | Books


She takes a deep breath and slowly exhales before letting her eyelids fly open. There, standing before her, is her reflection—one that she sees every time she looks in the mirror, a reflection that she doesn’t see often enough.

Within the safety of her bedroom, in which she had locked herself four hours ago, she smiles. And it isn’t one of those smiles she had to force whenever her mother asked how her day was. It is a smile. A real smile. She looks good. Great even, if she had to say so herself. But then again, it doesn’t surprise her. She always knew she looked good, even if nobody said she did.

She takes another glance at the full-length mirror that she has religiously avoided since she was 10. Her hair, which took her a good two years to grow, is shiny and sleek, and cascades down to her shoulders in waves. Her make-up—which she’d mastered with the help of her laptop in the wee hours of the morning, curled up under her blanket over the course of two years—is light but immaculate. She was never a fan of having layers of make-up caked on her face anyway.

Her outfit was picked out last night. Skinny jeans and a tight-fitting T-shirt complete with a pair of high heels, which are her favourites. She likes that whenever she slips into them, she towers over everybody else—just because you stand six feet tall, it doesn’t mean you never feel small.

She’s tucking her hair behind her ears when she catches a reflection of the clock hanging on the wall from the mirror. Damn it. She is going to be late. Again. Most of the time, she’s late because she can’t decide what to wear. But today is different. Today, she knows exactly what to wear, and she is going to leave the house wearing it. Today is the day. Today, she will make it happen. Today isn’t going to be like all the other todays that she had promised herself she would do it, but ended up running back to her bedroom to cry for the rest of the day. Today. Today.

Slowly but excitedly, she grabs her bag, slings it over her shoulder and walks out of her bedroom, shutting the door behind her as quietly as she possibly could. She’s about to leave the house when she hears her mother emerge from the kitchen. “Where are you going? Are you hungry? I made... ” she trails off, her voice faltering as soon as she realises what’s happening.

Silence descends between the two. She stands there, one hand clutching her bag and the other the doorknob, waiting for her mother to say something. But nothing comes out of the hole that is her gaping mouth. All she hears is the sound of her mother’s heart breaking, which, while deafening, cannot compare to the sound of her own—which she had broken over and over again for her mother since she was 10.

She turns to leave, but her mother stops her. “You can’t go out like that,” she protests weakly, her hands shaking. “What will they think when they see my son like that?” She stares back at her mother, expressionless, but feeling much calmer than she’d ever imagined she would. “They will just think that... I’m not your son.”