We said goodbye to our mothers. They’d been around all our lives, but we’d never properly seen them. They’d been bent over washing tubs or cooking pots, their faces red and swollen from heat and steam, holding everything together while our fathers were away at sea, and nodding off every night on the kitchen chair, with a darning needle in hand. It was their endurance and exhaustion we knew, rather than them. And we never asked them for anything because we didn’t want to bother them.
That was how we showed our love: with silence.
Their eyes were always red. In the morning, when they woke us up, it was from stove smoke. And in the evening, when they said good night to us, still dressed, it was from exhaustion. And sometimes it was from crying over someone who would never come home again. Ask us about the color of a mother’s eyes, and we’d reply, “They’re not brown. They aren’t green. They’re neither blue nor gray. They’re red.” That’s what we’d say.
And now they’ve come down alongside the wharf to say goodbye. But between us, there’s silence. Their eyes pierce us.
“Come back,” their stare pleads. “Don’t leave us.”
But we won’t be coming back. We want out. We want to get away. Our mother sticks a knife in our heart when we say goodbye on the wharf. And we stick a knife in hers when we go. And that’s how we’re connected: through the hurt we inflict on one another.— Carsten Jensen, We, The Drowned