by suiyi tang
when i was finally permitted to see my mother, moments after her surgery, she turned me away and asked for my father. his presence centered her in a way that mine did not, and in that moment i realized that i was merely a sublease within the emotional contract that bound them together.
my biggest fear is that my mother gave birth to me out of a sense of duty: the way she had done most things that determined the tempo and arc of her life. or maybe: i was something she had insisted into being and later regretted, so full of ancient vileness am i that i drove away even my mother, the one from whose flesh i emerged, who grew me inside of her own body. you are going to be the death of me, she says to me sometimes, when she is angry. just like your father promised. i cry and stamp my feet, scream panic attack! and fuck you! and you make me want to kill myself! over low resolution video. suddenly i am eight again and everything my mother says makes a perverse logic i can’t escape. somehow she knows my every nick and groove, so versed is she in my infantile reasoning that perfectly rehearsed memories, under her scrutiny, become riddled with the cracks of doubt. i want to make “scorpio finagle” a commonly used moniker or more sonically pleasing phrase. everything my mother manages becomes infused with a driving essence of her, until it no longer knows self or can distinguish between life and narrative written by her.
in this way my mother is the original author: the first artist i knew. but if there is one thing that defines the making of an artist and the subsequent phenomena that extend from her cosmic birth, it is solipsism, and solipsism cannot stand when one is confused by two and i can no longer know self from the seed growing inside me. periodically i ask my mother why she is so scared of life. her answer never changes and we rehearse the same conversation. i never remember what she says but i always remember to revise my question from noun to adjective: timid, cautious, risk-averse. my mother is so functional it scares me. to see someone so apparently bereft of flesh capable of cruelty and cardamom in equal measures is to see a human, despite my doubts. it’s strange when your home becomes alive, or when your skin grows a consciousness of its own. when the waves move according to their own volition, the carefully projected solipsism between moon and self is broken, and the artist is in peril. i want to be the kind of competence that makes my mother scared, which is to say, how do you stop yourself from becoming something that you revile? what does a home without a home look like. when skin peels by its own volition and wounds remain unaffected by salt, who do i turn to for affirmation of my sanity? in a court without witnesses there can be no operable version of the truth. when did we give our voice in supplication and become unable to distinguish food from the hand that feeds? the mouth that speaks? the contract a narrative, debt driving the plot toward a wail: forsaken worlds sting like future exhausted by rehearsal. i have forgotten my mother’s answer but we rehearse the same conversation until–i sit trembling before the ghosts of my fetal whispers. the same conversation: it is not her life she of which she is scared, but its opposite, which is to say, its derivative: the birth canal, the death drive, me.
suiyi tang lives in the scopophilic corridor. she is a comparative literature and american studies double major at williams college–on hiatus, in favor of an untwisted bildungsroman, an archive of ballpoints, and lingerie. a gallery of her current projects, guarded by the death drive, may be found at legitimizedinprint.com.