I remember how we cuddled on Sunday morning under the blanket in our small bedroom in that apartment, the one with the wooden door you were fond of, the one we left a decade ago. Yellowish light scattered around the room, onto the walls and the bed – onto us. I was too small and could barely wrap my arms around your ribcage but you cradled most of me with your soft arms. Being covered in your cocoon felt like nothing would ever hurt. It made me think that the world was just as warm as the space between your chest and stomach. You smelled like clean laundry and lilies. You made me laugh. You would kiss me and sing songs to me – often times it was Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley, which I would follow, but hitting the wrong notes. I don’t remember what we used to talk about. All I remember is we were happy. We had each other and it was more than enough.
Every Sunday morning, after we cuddled with golden specks hugging a small patch on our skin, you would go to the living room to put on some oldies: Jackson 5, Prince, and your most loved, Chet Baker. You slid into your slippers – the ones with a brick-red color, the same color as the tiles in our kitchen floor – meaning it was time to wash the dishes. I walked bare footed because I liked the coldness of the terracotta. You did the washing up of last night’s dirty dishes, wiped them dry, and I would store them on the dish rack. You would do all of that while singing along to the music – you sang a lot. In the bedroom, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the middle of watering our mint plant – its name was Georgie, your voice touched every corner of our apartment the same way those bits of light made love with our home. And these things, indeed, made an awful lot of love that I could feel through my toes.
I was 8 when you talked about your thoughts of moving out because our apartment wouldn’t be fit for both of us in five years. But five years is a long time. It was a long time and I didn’t mind touching legs and elbows with you while waiting. I was too used to the lack of space between our steps, which meant the safe place that is somewhere around your solar plexus is only one calling away; The way your soup was only a sniff away; Your soup was my favorite. The vegetables were chopped into pea-sized pieces. The pot was filled with crabsticks and fishcakes, happy colors of green, orange, and yellow. They all swirled and fumed simple seasonings of garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper – the smell of home. You talked about how our apartment wouldn’t be fit for both of us in five years, but to me, the space we had didn’t feel tiny at all. There was so much love and Chet Baker fitted into this place, so much that it couldn’t be described as anything less than palatial.
We are now a 10-hour flight away from that palace, sleeping in different rooms with walls that are so thick I cannot hear your singing – your definition of a better quality of life. You told me that these expensive colleges ensure a better future but, with these debts, Mom, I am seriously unsure. You working extra hour just to afford to pay for the roof for next month, Mom, is this really a better quality of life?
Mom, I miss listening to your heart beating the same beat as those lights’ kisses. The life in that apartment we left a decade ago, any other life couldn’t be any better than that.