When mothers go bald, children would start to think that there is something going on. I guess it is a spur for every child, or perhaps it is only a way of thrusting into my mind that I wouldn’t think differently; that the curious mind of a six-year-old would think of the bald boy in school whom she laughed at, and then she would look at her mother again. She would look at her twice, thrice, until there would only be her mother and the void. Finally, it would sink in that her mother is beautiful even without her crown of black hair, and that she need not wear a hat.
It all started with a slip. I hunkered down to my mother who was lying on the bathroom floor, naked. Her lips were pale and her eyes were half open. A little while ago, mama and I were bathing together in the bathroom. She lathed me with soap from head to my tiniest toenail until she could consider me clean. Clean, for her, was the immaculate whiteness of our bathroom tiles and the dustless walls and windowpanes inside. I flushed stark and dark against the bleached background, and was a disappointment in her sight. She rubbed my brown skin patiently until it reddened, and then she washed the soap and body dirt away.
“Maryosep! Kang kinsa man kang anak?” My mother just disowned me and continued complaining that if only my father listened to her and refrained from taking me every weekend to Cuaco beach, that according to her standards was a place no better than a garbage dump, her only child would have had fairer skin. In a fit of pique her rantings caused, I defended Papa and proved her how cool he was by telling her how he threw me from a dock into the water without my floaters on for me to learn how to swim. It provoked her more and made her address my father by his full name.
“Kani jud si Samuel Ruiz,” she paused to catch some air, “Bantay ra gyud na imong amahan pag uli niya.” She can threaten my father freely while he was still not home yet from work. Her fury flared as she ruthlessly scrubbed my knees. I tried to calm her down with the assurance that Papa always got my back and would never allow the sea to take me away. Her mouth kept on blabbering about the said matter as if she did not hear me or deem my excuses considerable. She stood up from a squat and lost her balance.
I thought she fell asleep. The sight of my mother lying against the white tiles disturbed me after long seconds passed. I felt the cold seeped into my soles as slow as the pace of panic. I called her name a few times and paused for a moment, then I screamed for help.