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An Apple for Forgiveness

It's a dull, grey evening on the subway train.

These people on the streets, at the park, on the seats -- they all seem to have suddenly birthed too many children.

They remind me of the life I could've had with you,

Holding your hand, teaching you how to walk, being a good mother.

Or simply just a mother.

Am I still your mother?

Even though you didn't live long enough to call me a broken version of that word — "Muh. Ma"?

I still wonder what happened that night.

I was bloated and belching, peeing on the floor, bleeding in the bathtub.

I was scared to death.

The midwife didn't arrive. But another one did.

I shouldn't have trusted her, should I?

I should've gone to the hospital like I was told.

But you came out well. You didn't cry.

But then... You did.

And your cries were the most beautiful sounds that have ever come from anybody's mouth or music.

No speech, no symphony, no song could move me as much as your cries of life did that night.

Then why did you stop?

Were you feeling shy?

Did you not want to sing for your mother?

Or was it daddy that bothered you?

Did you like the colour blue?

Is that why you turned into it?

Aren't girls supposed to like pink?

What happened?

Did I suffocate you while pushing you out?

Were my hands not as homely and welcoming as my womb?

Did I suffocate you while holding you?

I didn't mean to. Mommy didn't mean to.

The bedroom of our house might not have had enough oxygen for you, they said.

You could've had plenty at the hospital.

Is it the air or the lack of it that killed you?

Or was it my stubbornness?

Forgive me, please.

Forgive me for giving your milk to someone else,

For lactating to feed the fabric of my clothes and the microbes in the bin and maybe a kitten in the alley.

Forgive me for the way my body worked that night.

For contracting during the wrong time when the midwife wasn't available.

Forgive my mind for not being smart enough to make a plan B.

Forgive my stubbornness for refusing to go to the hospital.

Forgive my foolishness for trying to, after your death, give you away for research

To be sliced, opened, and manipulated, to be put on displays for strangers to ogle at,

Instead of burying you in a comfortable box inside my heart.

Forgive me for doing anything I shouldn't have done while I housed you within me.

I don't know why I've been eating a lot of apples lately.

On the subway, I bite a piece of flesh along with the seed, and I spit it out onto my thumb.

And I think to myself you must've been this tiny inside my womb in the beginning.

I'm not going to let this die.

I'm going to hold on to it.

I'm going to preserve it, germinate it, plant it, and let it grow.

You were given to me and taken away too soon before I could even see

If your feet had all ten toes or your hands had all ten fingers.

Before I could register the exact hue of your iris, and the weight of your body.

So now I try to count the apple seeds,

Measure to see how long they've grown their sprouts.

I buy books to read and meticulously bury the seeds where the sun shines bright,

And where it will one day have room to make a shadow as large as itself.

And now, years later, I count how many apples the tree bears.

How many branches it has sprouted, how many leaves it has withered, how many birds it has sheltered.

And on this tree, a little girl climbs--

Your little sister, she is.

She perches herself in the crevice of your memory, plucks an apple you made for her, and eats it perhaps as a way of talking to you, gossiping and sharing stories and secrets.

I know she wouldn't fall when she climbs that tree, because you'll take care of her.

And I'm sorry I couldn't take care of you like that.

Forgive me for being a coward. Forgive me for being weak.

Forgive me for being stubborn.

May your life flourish forever as this tree in your absence.

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