The Memories That Won’t Die

Living with a toxic memory is like breathing in death or sleeping right next to it. The worst thing about bad memories is that they attack us where it hurts the most because they know our weak points and deepest secrets. Like parasites, they leech onto our consciousness and amplify our volatility.

In Kawabata’s story, toxic memories tell the abandoned wife, “The child must stop playing. Must stop going to school. She is not to connect with anything or anyone anymore. Not to draw one more breath…”

But this very disturbed woman seems to be unresponsive to the voice of reason that says, “You don’t own your daughter. She’s free as a bird, and this freedom of hers is as sacred as life itself. She’s entitled to her right to have rights, and this doesn’t stop simply because you and your husband have issues.” This is how the confused mother should have fought back the attack of negative impulses.


The more I read the story, the more I sense that the mother feels some sort of animosity towards her daughter. For how long might she have harbored such a horrid emotion? Does she hate the child? Is it possible that she sees the poor child as her deserter’s leftover?

In the course of events, only the noise that the daughter makes is heard. Thus, only she prompts letters from the husband; did it make the mother jealous? Did it occur to her, even once, that this little girl has no one in this world other than her mommy?

What confirms this theory is the fact that the wife does whatever the husband asks, no matter how nonsensical his requests are. One time, he wrote, “Stop making the slightest noise, both of you,” so mother does as he wishes. She stops breathing for good and so does the child. Did she do it to bring him back? This thought is tragic 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, and drinking tequila shots. He’s a ghost, a memory.

Second, although he’s in a distant land, he’s aware of everything that happens inside the household. He sees and hears everything. Which makes me suspect that he must be some sort of tumor stuck inside the wife’s head.

Third, the distraught wife may have committed suicide because she firmly believed that death is her only exit. Is it because she misses her man so very terribly? 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 evident. The little girl met death only because she was forced to. I cannot imagine the fear she felt when she clung to life once her mother decided otherwise. Is it her fault she was ever born? Is she the one to blame if the man got bored or turned out to be an asshole? Or if the woman got mad or gave up on life? Is it any child’s fault?


Toxic memories are a very strong pulling force. They are intoxicating alright. Nevertheless, we remain accountable for our past mistakes as much as we are for our future feats. As parents, we’re accountable for our child’s well-being. You know what they say; mother is god in the eye of a child. Same goes for fathers. So, how could a role model to a nine-year-old act so awfully?

Crying over spilled milk and reinforcing the victim image will not solve problems like a fucked up life, social stigma, or human cruelty. Shame and passiveness are viruses that enter into our DNA and find their way to our little ones. So, by curing ourselves from bad memories and inaction, we’re actually saving our kids.

It will take time; there’s no doubt about that. Great progress doesn’t happen overnight. But, at least, we would have done the right thing and ensured that, at some point, things will be different.

Each and every single one of us, despite our age or race or social status, is a role model to someone. What we do and say affects people around us and makes a difference in their life.

So, how about we make it a positive one for everyone’s sake? Let’s consider this act of change as an act of kindness for which we need to cleanse and prepare ourselves. Shall we?


Photo credit: skipping skeletons by happy via on / CC BY-NC-ND

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