Mother

I’m so tired. These fights with Mum take it out of me.
Once again, we’d argued about what I would eat at dinner. It might make you laugh. But at our home, dinner is a big deal.

It’s the only meal my father and uncles eat at home. My younger brothers come home from school at six. They eat bread and milky coffee and get to doing their homework. Often, they’re so full that they skip dinner at seven-thirty. I used to question the wisdom of giving them bread and coffee when they could eat dinner, but after enough cuffing from mum, I’ve stopped. Once we started arguing about what I would eat, I understood why she encouraged them to eat as much bread as they want.

Dad likes meat at night. And so do my uncles. But it’s just Dad that gives mum money every month. When  three grown men eat meat every night, the only thing that drowns out their chewing and burping is the sound of mum’s furious silence in the kitchen. After dinner, every single day, she rages on about having to provide free dinners. And after their dinner, she and I split the remaining meat, bread and milk. A few months ago, mum started telling me to eat dinner with the boys. I realised that the previous night’s meat appeared on dad’s plate in the morning, and mum would have new two pennies at the end of the week. And I realised what my eating bread meant.

I didn’t mind at first. But after being constantly hungry two or three days in a row, I started to rebel. Now, I tell her I’m not hungry when the boys eat and I wait till after dad does. Not everyday. But at least three times a week. The boys’ teacher at school tells them meat is important for us.

Oh. Here comes mum again. She’s changed into the white dress she seems to wear these days. And she wears a silly little hat, indoors. I grind my teeth and grip my chair. I’m not having bread tonight.

“Please dear, please eat something. Even a piece of bread. You need to take your medicines,” pleads Mum.

“Leave her be, nurse,” says a doddery voice behind me. “She thinks you’re her mum. She won’t eat anything from your hands tonight.”

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