Lights. Many of them. Happy faces and an irritating noise that was most likely coming from me. My hands sought contact when I was handed over to my father, who enveloped me in an emotional hug. Tears fell from his deep blue eyes as he introduced me to Mom, who smiled. At that moment, I should have discovered that they take the umbilical cord connection from us to give us a stronger and different one. First the estrangement from existence and then human warmth. The joy of my parents, but, above all, the possibilities that I represented.
I wake up to the sound of a knock at the door. It’s Lily, my youngest daughter, calling me to breakfast. I get up unhurriedly and open the window shutters, pausing to watch the dust motes floating in the light. It’s a beautiful day, despite the cold weather. I look into the garden and see the entrance to the house taken by an icy inertia. In the past, street children came to play at our door. Now, there is nobody. The kids grew up, just as I once did.
I look to the right side of the bed and straighten my posture. Bringing up the memories of my late husband is a losing battle. I look at every piece of furniture in the room, remembering buying them before my wedding. Peter supported my preference for yellow wallpaper, a reference to feminism that I only explained to him years later when I found myself trapped in the same situation I criticized. After all, I loved him.
I sit at the dressing table and invoke your presence. I remember his brown eyes that seemed to shelter the world, his firm way of solving problems and all the jewelry he gave me over the years. I can almost hear him get out of bed, kiss me, and put on one of the many suits he wore to work at the city’s law firm.
After getting dressed, I go downstairs and notice the silence of the house. Lily’s kids must be in football school, which means today is Monday. I don’t count the days anymore, the memory is not the same regarding these details of everyday life. The mind is occupied with memories, because when you are old they are the only things that matter.
I smell fresh coffee coming from the kitchen and imagine that although everything looks exactly the same in this house, I know things have changed. I’m not the one who makes the coffee anymore. Such an idea makes me head to the porch instead of going straight to the kitchen. I hold on tight to the banister as I descend the stairs to the garden and then, finally, I feel at home. The garden has not changed at all. My roses are still here. I can still take care of them. I think life is not static, and that scares me.
I run my hand over the soft petals and remember that my skin used to be like that, too. Now my body plays tricks on me, putting wrinkles in places I didn’t even think were possible. In a short time I will no longer be able to go downstairs to take care of the garden. Maybe Lily will get tired of taking care of me and will finally take her brothers’ advice and put me in a nursing home.
The young libertarian I was is not proud of the life I have lived. Motherhood, marriage, and social obligations took up every drop of time I had. I chose to give up my dreams to meet expectations. I had a good marriage, successful children, a good home. I fought too hard for everything to work out and I didn’t live. I forgot about me, but not anymore. Right now, the choice is mine alone. And I choose to go.
— Mommy? — I see Lily in the doorway, her young features startled to find me on the floor. I smile at her before closing my eyes for the last time and accepting death peacefully. My last act of freedom.