It is not hard to narrow down the reasons why I come here. The remoteness of this steeply cliffed shore comes to mind. The lake’s cold breeze offers a reminder of not only winter but the temperature my body longs to share. However, the detailed and rich accounts of the exceptional, such as Virginia Woolf, going through with what my heart wants is ringing most true today. The thought of lining my pockets with stones and letting go is only met with the impending despair that will fall upon my mother.

My sweet mother, who wished for a child and a best friend in a daughter, now only mirrors my pain in her eyes whenever we meet or see each other on our screens. Those brilliantly pale blue eyes haven’t aged since I was a child. Yet where another passing year adds wrinkles of wisdom to her ever failing body, all I see in the mirror is another layer of uncherished patina.

“And how are you,” she often asks whenever our time together comes to an end. Her posture telegraphing my true answer as I reply the now accepted untruth.

These responses range from “I’m fine” on normal days to “I’m really good mom” on days when I manage to leave my apartment without too much of a struggle.

“Okay honey, please take care of yourself,” she says in code. She really means to say thank you for still being with us. Us.

I wonder if she is fully aware that her presence is all that is keeping me here. The presence of a deeply caring single mother is the only guardrail left on my commute in this life. Thankfully, I inherited her bleeding heart. Thankfully, I did not inherit anything outwardly resembling my absent father. Thankfully all his genetic features proved as cowardly as himself, but his demons reign within.

Those demons are the gifts which attracted my mother to him. Brooding and volatile, my mother fell in love with his complex view of the world and desperately wanted to help him. His “gifts” make every interaction with a familiar stranger a journey paved by outward hope and an inward medley of circular despair. After thirty-seven years, I still cannot let them down easily or even immediately. One part is hopeful that I can find a companion to lessen the pain. One part is hopeful that I can lessen their pain. If only to feel the warmth of the solace, I have not felt since I was a child.

A smile is reinforced with repeated attempts at eye contact. Sometimes a sheepish hello or attempt to connect is made. The more brazen who attempt a slight grazing of my hand is met with an inward violence that goes unseen to them. I retreat to the dark place which many children often retreat to. This is the staircase behind the suitcases which brought the roaming, abusive elder to their home. To the evergreen series of bushes behind a neighbour’s house, which offered refuge from the local maundering marauders dressed in costumes as drug dealers. The same bushes that, on more than one occasion, had a weapon violently discarded into after a recent crime. Feeling the small dent in my left shin, I am reminded of the bent crowbar that said, “we see you back there. You’re not clever or safe. We’ll return for you later.”

Recently, while waiting for a co-worker to return from the washroom at the bar near our office, I shared my inner thoughts and where I retreated when an older man made his advance. The sheer look of fear which overtook his face was actually preferable to the usual look of self-pity as they take my rejection personally. Taken as a personal failing rather than the favour that it is. My inherited bleeding heart cannot endure inflicting this misery onto yet another person.

Yet this misery has been weaponized as of late. As my body ages and slowly weakens, my endurance in keeping back this newly formed rage is letting go. Is it possible that my mother’s bleeding heart is running dry, and all that remains is a wish to forcibly relate to everyone on my level? Will this rage eventually turn inwards?

I suppose it is for the best that my mother’s health is failing us. With every hospital visit, I pick out another jagged rock to line my pockets.