Why does she cry at night?
It’s only in the late hours of the night after everyone has gone to sleep, and just before dawn breaks over the horizon to bring in the much-needed light. In the darkness she weeps, in the black stillness of the living room, the air so thick it can’t be cut even with the sharpest knife. Yet her whimpers slice through it, the pain so tangible it rips through years of secret shame. She cries when she thinks no one can hear her. Late at night, she whispers your name.
I often wonder what you would be like if you were here. Would we share the same eyes, the changing color, sometimes brown, but always with the flecks of golden green? I wonder would your lip turn up in a mischievous smirk, holding back laughter for the secret jokes that only siblings can share. So deep would be our bond, forged by a shared childhood, though tumultuous, still sprinkled with love. If you were there I know you would have held me. And even though you would have been the younger one, I somehow sense the strength you would have carried. You would make me brave. So when Daddy left again and we didn’t have food to eat, I wouldn’t be so scared. I wouldn’t have been alone, helpless to watch Momma make it through.
That’s why she cries at night, you know? She cries for the man you could have been had she not made the decision of life for you. She claws at her own heart in anguish, in the dim light of nightmares receding she begs for your forgiveness.
“I’m so sorry,” she cries.
She told me about you once. Late at night, after her cries had pulled me from my slumber. I crept to her in the darkness, questioning her weeping. I held her clammy hand. It felt so small, like I was the mother, and she was the child. Lips loosened by liquor she spoke secrets of your passing. She poured out the usually silent shame of fear that had forced her hand to cancel your future before you even took your first breath. She felt the full responsibility for you not taking a first step, or laughing a toothless grin. She felt the weight in wailing, heavy sobs that because of her decision, her right to choose, that you would never throw your cap in the air with celebratory glee at graduation, or walk down the aisle with your love to be. She felt the heaviness of memories that never were, but that could have been.
I felt them too. I still do, I suppose. It was because of me that she said no to you. It was because of me that you’re not here. You died so that I could live, and the guilt of my survival haunts me. She felt without options, with no way to support two hungry children on her own. Daddy had come, and Daddy had gone, but not before depositing the possibility of you inside her. He left the bank account empty, but her womb full. He left the dresser drawers plundered, and her heart heavy with worry for the life she couldn’t provide for us both. She had to choose one, and since she had already seen my face, it was easier to pick me. You were just possibility. I’m sorry.
And that’s why she cries at night. It’s why I miss you even now. It’s the possibility of who you could have been had your right to choose this life with us not been pulled from your barely formed fingers. She thought she was choosing the only viable option, but even a decade later she regretted not giving you a chance to make it in this world. The possibility of who you might have been broke her heart in two.
I think had she known the pain your passing would cause, had she realized the regret and sorrow she would feel, she never would have let you go. She wished she could have found another way, a way where you lived, I lived, and she lived. I don’t guess she ever really felt alive since you left. You took a piece of her, and after you were gone she never got it back. She cried at night like a staggering, strangling call for your return. She grappled for your presence, reaching for your forgiveness, unable to let go of the self-hatred that held her like a vise. She cried at night for you. You never got to cry, and I guess her own tears gave you substance.
She’s gone now, but I still remember her tears. I still recall freshly her longing for your life that never got to see the outside of her. I remember holding her hand and realizing I couldn’t take away the pain of losing you. She lost herself when she let them take you. But I find solace in redemption, in the idea that you both are together now. She knew God forgave her, but she never forgave herself. Perhaps now, as mother and son are finally reunited in eternity, she finds the peace she needed. I like to think that you hold her hand now, that it’s your tender fingertips that brush the wisps of runaway hairs from her forehead. I like to think she cries no more.
She never could let go of the thoughts of who you might have been, and that’s the pain that no one sees. It’s the silent, secret pain of the choices we make, the ones that don’t just impact us but impact everyone around us. The loss is an aching reminder that cries out in the darkness of night, rarely finding healing from the pain. I’m grateful she has finally found it. I’m grateful she’s finally found you. When I one day see you both coming up to greet me, I know I’ll recognize you. I think you’ll have my eyes. I think you’ll have my smile. I think I’ll finally see all the things you could have been.