It’s a regular Saturday evening and my family’s gathered in the living room. With all the weekend’s chores and homework done, the mood is light. We cheerfully watch a rerun of Mrs Doubtfire on TV.
“How can they not know that she’s their father?!” I exclaim, turning to the woman who’s cradling my legs in her lap.
My mother returns my puzzled look with a knowing smile.
“Sometimes people can’t see what’s right in front of them.”
I don’t know what she means, but somehow, her reply is enough. We resume watching Robin Williams make a fool of himself, and our laughter fills the room again.
The year is 2005 and I am fourteen years old.
Sunday morning sees my mother seated in her usual spot reading the newspaper. I am sprawled across the couch on the other side of the room, reading about Archie and Jughead’s latest antics.
Occasionally, I sneak a peek and watch as she looks up unfamiliar words in the dictionary, before walking over and teaching them to me. We enjoy each other’s company even though the distance between us has grown.
The year is 2009 and I am eighteen years old.
I have just collected my A-level results. My mother is watching TV after a long day at the office.
Hearing the front door open, she turns to greet me before reading the expression on my face. The first words out of my mouth are an apology. Her bad day at work results in screams at me for not working harder. I shout that I never wanted to do this anyway.
The living room turns into a warzone. I eventually storm off, slamming my bedroom door behind me.
She doesn’t move for the rest of the night, passing the hours with her head in her hands.
The year is 2014 and I am twenty-three years old.
As usual, the majority of my mother’s time at home is spent in the living room. I, on the other hand, stay in my bedroom for hours on end. Ten meters away, but a galaxy apart.
Occasionally, she appears at my doorway, and animatedly coaxes me to join her. I rattle off the same old excuses of being “too busy” and “too tired”. She understands. She always understands.
Later that day, I walk right by her on the way out to meet my friends.
Yesterday, 8th August 2018. 4:16PM. I am twenty-seven years old.
I join my mother as she watches her favourite Korean drama. She seems pleasantly surprised and offers me the remote.
I finally ask her why she would rather stay out here even after I’ve taught her how to watch videos on her iPhone and laptop. She replies that she wants to be somewhere she can see me when I come home, or even when I leave my room to use the lavatory.
Even if it’s just for a minute.
She tells me that she misses the time we used to spend together in this part of the house.
Close to tears, I realise that my prolonged absence meant that somewhere along the line, the shared space that featured in so many of my memories quietly became just hers.
I apologise knowing that the words will never be enough.
She reaches out and hugs me.
Today, 9th August 2018. 6:21PM. I am still twenty-seven years old.
I sit down with her in the living room. Once again she offers me the remote.
Declining, I put my legs in my mother’s lap like how I used to, and all of a sudden I am eight years old again. She remembers this and laughs. My legs have gotten a lot heavier, she says.