Perpetual Friction

by Michael John Otanes

(This piece first appeared in the Roots section of Rambutan Literary.)

When father died inside our house, mother
muttered neatly-folded words to him so
they would spark, like fireworks, in his heart.
For almost every day in three years,
mother had been hoping for his resurrection;
and so she decided not to cremate
his body. In truth, she enshrouded him with
white blankets (to turn him into a pupa,
she told me), hang his corpse in the
ceiling of her room—and she would sing hymns
and dance around it. Then on her
knees, and with her head up and closed eyes,
she would pray in silence and in devotion while
rubbing her hands against the cold
thing, so hard that, sometimes, it got warm.
He’s alive! she would chant. He’s alive!
But father has not gone outside even once. Months
later, grandmother paid a visit to us one fine
day, and said she saw father being nestled
by another arms, in an open field. Mother’s
brows met. As soon as she uncovered
the pupa very carefully, and saw nothing
inside it but ashes, she broke down to tears. Like
stars, she noticed, she could not reach
the ashes. Then she reached for my
hand this time, said sorry, and whispered
that, at last, she knew now why father
died, just as she untangled the
rope tightly looped around my neck.