A man deserts his wife. They have a nine-year-old daughter. The memory of him comes and goes. The last time it knocked on the wife’s door, it caused the death of her and her daughter.
Living with a toxic memory is like breathing in death or having it follow us like a shadow.
The worst and best thing about memories is that they are very close to us. If these were bad, they could become the most successful entities out there to attack us where it hurts the most.
Memories are like parasites; they glue themselves to our consciousness, know all our secrets, magnify our imperfections, and like to make us believe that they are stronger than us or more real than reality itself. In fact, isn’t it eerily strange that our shadow is always taller or bigger than us?
In Kawabata’s story, the toxic memories tell the abandoned wife, “Stop allowing your daughter to play. Stop allowing your daughter to go to school. Stop allowing your daughter to do things on her own. Stop allowing your daughter to connect with you or with the world. Stop allowing your daughter to breathe…”
But this woman seems to be oblivious to the voice of reason as it disagrees, yet remains unheard. “You don’t own your daughter. She’s free as a bird, and she’s entitled to her freedom of movement and to her rights to life, liberty, and personal security. Being as sacred as the breath of life, these gifts are not to be overturned simply because you and your husband have issues.” This is how the weak mother should have fought back the attack of toxic memories and negative impulses.
As I read the story time after time, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the mother has some sort of animosity towards her daughter. For how long might she have harbored such a horrid emotion?
One time, she slapped her little girl when the latter rushed in to see if mommy is okay after hearing a loud thump; does this mean she hates the child? Doesn’t she see her as the fruit of love? Is it possible that she sees the poor child as her deserter’s leftover?
Only the noise that the daughter makes is heard and prompts letters from the husband; did this make the mother insanely jealous? Why didn’t it occur to her that this little girl has no one in this world other than her mommy?
What confirms this theory is the fact that mother does whatever her husband asks her to do in his letters, no matter how nonsensical his requests are. Does she do it to bring him back? And when the husband writes, “Stop making the slightest noise, both of you,” mother does as he wishes. Both of them stop breathing for all eternity. This tragic ending is heart-breaking on so many levels.
First, the father is out of the picture and out of their life. He’s probably somewhere else, bathing in the sun, seducing women, having fun. He’s a ghost, a memory. Well, he’s in a distant land, yet he’s aware of everything that happens inside the household. He hears it all. He sees it all. Moreover, he dies only when the wife and the daughter die. So he must be a sort of tumor that lives inside the wife’s head.
Second, the distraught wife commits suicide because she firmly believes that death is her only exit. Is it because she misses her man so very terribly and is subjected to seeing his face in the face of their child? Is it because she’s stigmatized as a deserted wife and the greater society isn’t being kind about it? Many scenarios apply, but one thing is for sure. The child is paying the dues of her parents’ sins.
Third, the daughter meets death. Of course, she must have been forced. I cannot even imagine the struggle as she clung to life when her mother decided otherwise. Is it her fault if her parents brought her to life? Is it her fault if the man got bored or turned out to be an asshole? Is it her fault if the woman got mad or gave up? Is it any child’s fault?
Toxic memories are like sweet poison or slow death. Nevertheless, we still have responsibilities towards ourselves and our families. We are accountable for our past mistakes as much as we are for our future achievements. As parents, we’re also accountable for our child’s wellbeing.
To me, a bad mother is worse than a deserting husband – though he should be ashamed of himself for being an unworthy dad and a cowardly partner in life. How could a role model to a nine-year-old act so awfully? Having such a leading role and acting like a victim is the opposite of good parenting.
Crying over spilled milk and reinforcing the victim image in our head will not solve problems like a fucked up life, social stigma, or human cruelty. Inaction and self-victimization are vices that enter our DNA and transmit themselves to our little ones. So, by saving ourselves we’re actually saving our children. We will need some time to heal, but at least, we would have done the right thing.
Each and every single one of us, despite our gender or age or nationality or social status, is a role model to someone. What we do and say affects them and makes a difference in their life. So, how about we make it a positive one for everybody’s sake? Let’s consider it as an act of kindness for which we need to cleanse and prepare ourselves. God bless us all!
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