They have shaved half of Mother’s hair and her voice sounds like a pump trying to prime itself.
In that voice, she instructs me to boil the water and add rice to the boiling pot. She asks me to help her in the shower.
She sits on a plastic bucket. I rub the washcloth on her back. I open her fingers to clean the space between, like her hands used to do mine. Mother’s hands are soft hands, small hands, not like mine—mine are like my father’s, fingers long and knuckles fat.
I fill up a small tub and pour water on her head. Then, mother asks me to leave. From the other side of the door, I hear her struggle to take off her bra, her panties—the bucket and the stick her only aids. She comes out of the shower, her face flushed, a white towel wrapped around her waist. Sweat drips from her forehead.
My father is in another town working for a garlic powder factory. When he comes back, I can smell garlic and alcohol. Thank God Mother can’t smell anymore.
Mother says she sees everything green. The sun is bleeding in this green landscape.
An ambulance takes her back to the hospital.
I stay in the house. I eat food frosted in the fridge, food foil-wrapped by neighbours. Fluorescent lamps hum in the empty house.
At night, I leave the TV on. A woman dances naked covering her nipples with rose petals. In a public bath, a girl takes a boy into his mouth.
I open Mother’s dresser, my fingers stroking the silk of her panties.
When mother returns, this is not Mother—her soft hands that sift the rice, spreading my socks on the heater. Her bottle of perfume collects dust on the dresser.
I lie down by her side on her bed trying to smell the smell that was hers.