How We Fight for Our Lives
An arc of narrative thematizing mirrors & weapons:
But now, pressing myself into the bed’s many pillows, I felt my body and realized that my body could be a passport or a key, maybe even a weapon. A body like a brick thrown through a sleeping house’s window. I got hard then just thinking about all the things I would be able to do with myself.
None of this had any bearing, though, on how I felt when I was alone. Standing in front of the mirror, my reflection and I were like rival animals, just moments away from tearing each other limb from limb.
I stood in front of the mirror, sobbing, unable to stop myself.
Boys like us never really got away, it seemed. We just bought ourselves time. A few more gasps of air, a few more poems, a few more years. History hurt more than any weapon inflicted on us. It hit back harder than any weapon we could wield, any weapon we could turn ourselves into.
Retreating to the edge of the living room, I noticed then that she still had mirrors all over the walls. They broke up our bodies and handed them back to us piecemeal.
Concluding line of the memoir: Our mothers are why we are here.
That passage about mirrors all over the walls is a description of grandmother’s house. I struck me as a turning point where the weapons are deposed. It reflected for me the figure of Indra’s net (both son and mother are practicing Buddhists).
By way of explanation, I cull one example from Buddha Mind, Buddha Body: Walking Toward Enlightenment by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Suppose you build a hall made of mirrors. Then you enter and hold a candle in your hand. Looking into a mirror you can see the candle, and when you turn around you see you and a candle in that mirror, and you see you and the candle in another mirror reflected again. Not only does one mirror reflect another mirror, but it reflects all the other mirrors, because each mirror has you in it and the candle in it. You just need to look in one mirror and you see all the reflections of you and the candle to infinity. There are countless mirrors and countless candles and countless yous.
But in Saeed Jones’s memoir, at this point in the protagonist’s trajectory, it is not a multifaceted reflection – it is handed back piecemeal. This is no bright jewel moment. But it is real.
The piecemeal reflections are a beginning at understanding the interpenetration of all being and by the memoir’s end we as readers are able to see and sense that the concluding line is not only a declarative statement of the two travellers (both having lost mothers) at a specific time and place (Barcelona, September 2011) but also an invitation to accept a reflection on our connection with the past: Our mothers are why we are here.
And so for day 2697