TW: Suicide


I first saw mama again two weeks ago.

She was still dressed the same way as when baba found her. Her favourite white blouse with dried blotches of blood on it, the black skirt and blue belt baba had bought her when she turned thirty-seven. I woke up from a nightmare and there she was, a few metres outside my bedroom window. Mama kept moving from side to side, as if she needed to pee. She kept signing to me that she wants to come in. I thought it was because mama remembers that I’m deaf. Then she shifted again and I saw the large hole where her upper teeth should have been. Her lip was missing too. Speaking was, evidently, out of the question.

I suppose that’s how baba found her; favourite belt on, sitting in her favourite chair, and a new retro-painting on the cream-coloured wall behind her. It was a mess, baba had told uncle Tisu when he thought I couldn’t see his lips moving.

I told baba about mama’s visits. I even described how she looks and what she’s wearing. I left out the most important part, though, that his dead wife wants to get inside the house. Baba only looked at me with the sombre expression he’s worn since mama decided to paint our living room wall with her brains. It was just a dream, he said. A terrible nightmare. You loved your mother, Maya, and she loved you. It’s only expected that you dream of her. Baba was wrong. It wasn’t a dream, and I knew it. The woman prancing around like a wind-up doll in the night really was my mother. Though, baba was right too. Suicidal or not, she had loved me until the day she died.

The next night when I saw her out there, bloody blouse flapping under the nightlight in our little garden, I quietly walked to the backdoor and unlatched it. I walked back to my room, all the while expecting a hand to grab my shoulder and yank me backwards. I wasn’t sure I could hug my mother, or, at least, the bloody mess that had once been her. No hand was forthcoming. It was only when I had got back under the covers that I dared to look back. She had been right behind me all along, and was now in my room, gyrating and gesticulating. She had forgotten something, she said. Something very important and she could not leave without it. The one eye that mama had left kept looking at what had been hers and baba’s bedroom. Her index finger followed.

I don’t know how I knew, but I did. There was only one important thing mother had forgotten in that room, and it was fast asleep. I shook my head.
“You can’t take him,” I said. “He’s all I have left.”
He must come, she signed back. It is not complete without him. I need him.
“Then why did you leave?” I said, sensing the enhanced wavelength in my speech. “You left him. You left us. You can’t have him.”
Mama looked at me and took a few steps back. Then she was waddling back from whence she had come. Baba walked into my room a few minutes later, and I knew why mama had left.
“Are you alright? You’re screaming in your sleep.” Of course, I lied that I was fine. I couldn’t very well tell him that the love of his life now wanted to take him with her. Let baba think it was another nightmare. I slept in his room that night.


He blames herself for mama’s death, baba does. He thinks I don’t know, but I saw him tell uncle Tisu when they thought I couldn’t read them.
“It’s not your fault,” uncle Tisu was saying. “You didn’t put the gun in her hand.”
“I might as well have,” baba said. His tears stabbed at me, and I wanted to go to him, but couldn’t. That was the first time I had ever seen baba crying. “I drove her to suicide.” He started crying again, shrinking back as uncle Tisu tried to put his arms around baba, his only sibling. Big mistake. Baba did not want comfort from anyone, except maybe me. Not even from aunt Hilda.

Aunt Hilda isn’t related to us; she’s our neighbour from across the road. Mama said she was the close friend who always borrowed money but never paid it back. She was friends with baba too. Even when mama was away, aunt Hilda was always around, making baba laugh and complimenting him on his appearance. Aunt Hilda came to visit a few days after the funeral service. Baba kept quiet the whole time she was there. She tried to hold his hand, but he quickly snatched it back. “I can’t,” his lips said.
“You need time,” aunt Hilda told him. “Maybe if we–”
“No, never again,” baba said. “Please leave.” I haven’t seen aunt Hilda since. In fact, I have seen mama more often, and she’s the one who is supposed to be dead. I didn’t understand, you see. Baba liked aunt Hilda, and so did I. I didn’t want her out of our lives.

Baba asked me about mama a week ago. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, except that he was trying to find out if I still dreamt of her. I should have paid attention.
When you saw mama, what was she wearing?
“I told you, baba. She was wearing her favourite blouse,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
Nothing, he signed. Just checking.

He wasn’t just checking. I didn’t know it then, but he had seen her too. She had contacted him at last, when mama saw that I wouldn’t help. I should have warned him not to pay attention to his dead wife. Now it’s too late.


Uncle Tisu and I found him right before suppertime. Getting ice cream and pizza had been baba’s idea. Something to perk us up, he said. Deep down, I knew he was doing it for me, since I can count the number of times I had seen baba bite into a topping-filled crust. Uncle Tisu had agreed, adding that I needed to get out of the house. So, off the two of us went, baba staying behind to ‘guard’ the house, he said. As soon as we entered the front door, pizza box in my uncle’s hand, I knew something was wrong. I could feel her presence. Mama had been in the house.

Baba was laid back on the bed, head slumped against the headboard. That was normal enough; I usually found him that way when he had fallen asleep while reading a book. Two red blots on either side of his body were almost black against the blue sheets. His wrists, the original point of draining, lay limp and wet. I wanted to go to baba, tell him not to leave me, tell him I knew this was mama’s fault. But I couldn’t move; even uncle Tisu’s wails seemed miles away. Only when he pulled me to his chest did I realize that I was screaming too.


They say he missed mama too much. He took his own life because he couldn’t live without her. Selfish man, baba was, leaving a child by herself in this cold world, they said. I know better, of course. It wasn’t baba’s fault. It was hers. She had wanted him, and now she had him. For, even in the afterlife, she couldn’t live without him. Uncle Tisu says we should move. The house is mine now, but he’s my legal guardian. He wants us to go live in his apartment on the other side of town. There are too many bad memories here, he says. I know he is right, but I can’t leave. Not just yet.
They are both here now, you see. She with the white bloody blouse while he holds her left hand, the long, vertical gashes on the insides of both his arms still dripping scarlet. Mama and baba both do the little dance now, like lovers reunited.

They aren’t ready to leave yet. They say there is one more thing left; one more person they need to take with them. Trepidation and elation gripped me, hoping that it was me they wanted, at the same time not looking forward to dying. But mama and baba don’t want me to go with them. They keep pointing at the house opposite ours.

I really haven’t seen aunt Hilda in a long while.