Recently, I got first place in the second round of NYCMidnights' Microfiction contest with my comedy story: Et Tu Tomat? (Part 1, Part 2). I was extremely happy to see that, but it was also bittersweet.
My mother loved reading, and supported my writing since before anyone thought I had any talent at it. Moving onto the second round of this microfiction competition was the first, and only "accomplishment" in my writing career that she would see. She did hear my Et Tu Tomat? story, but unfortunately she passed away before the finals.
It then felt like a kind of fate to get the finals prompt that I did:
Genre: Any Action: Collapsing Word: stain
So I wrote about my mother, and tried to distill that experience down into a golden pinprick. I interpreted collapsing very broadly - to refer to the collapsing of time down to a single point.
Emotionally, this was probably the hardest competition piece I've ever written, but the words came out more or less right the first time around. I had a first draft that was 90% what I ended up submitting before 10am. I think that's because those words had been sitting inside me and crystallizing for a long time. To take them out and knock them around wasn't so hard.
I have no idea if this will resonate with anyone else, but it was immeasurably helpful to me just to get these words out.
Today she asked for soup. I run downstairs like a child on Christmas morning and scream at my brother even though he’s on the phone. "She asked for soup!" And he smiles wider than I have ever seen. And our giddy stops before hope, because we know that she will not get better. And three fat flies are buzzing around that bile-stained carpet, reminding us all why we're there. And I am 9 and 29, writing about how I hate her and finding that note in her ‘Memory Lane’ milk crate, which we are to burn. And I'm in the ‘Admirals Club’, asking the hospice doctor: "Is it my fault?" My brother is there too. Neither of us sure that we’ll make it to her in time. He says, “No”. I do not believe him. And I am old with a daughter that does not exist - a face etched with lines I do not have. Her hair being dyed in streaks - an homage to a grandmother she will never meet. Tears roll down my face, and that moment is now, just like all the rest of them. And we are on her deathbed. “Are you scared?” My voice is shaky. “No.” She laughs, holding my hand for the first time in years. And we meet in this eddy of collapsing time, clinging to each other in thick Humboldt fog, as the thrumming march of forgetfulness closes in around us. And tears splash on my keyboard. I love you Mom. Goodbye.