(Photo taken by me in Ueno Park, Tokyo)
She birthed him.
Her world was all he knew.
He stirred and crawled,
made messes,
found wonder everywhere.
He looked to her
and wanted to snuggle,
but she didn't seem
to notice.
He grew as she shaped him:
Careful, fearful, observant, considered.
Someone who would never rock her boat;
create a fuss, have an opinion;
still less a soul.
Normal is as normal is lived.
Clinical, transactional, neat, ordered.
Make sure you don't turn out like your father!
Said in a thousand ways;
each crushing an emerging manhood.
Past abuse?
Her own demons?
They colonised his world,
those unknown demons, barely sensed,
that lurked in hers.
No nonsense; get it done; stop crying; hurry up.
He learned to do what he was told.
His value hung on his obedience.
Dissent was the worst crime
and debate out of the question.
Keeping the peace
didn't earn her love.
So he packed himself away.
A serious, shy, tentative, safe,
non smiling older model replaced him.
A reliable model; fit for purpose.
Years of service outside warranty.
Never needing an upgrade.
Called on when needed
as an interface between mother and son.
There are fewer distractions these days.
Her friends no longer call by so much.
She looks to him to fill the gap;
to meet her needs,
as she's always done.
The errands he can do,
but there's a barren plot
where love could have grown;
matter-of-fact indifference
the inevitable and only crop.
And he does his duty,
as he's always done.
Love, affection, empathy, pity, duty.
The least of these is duty,
which is all that remains.