break/

I come home some nights and find my grandmother in the living room. She has a copy of my house keys and invites herself in. Her feet are swollen from standing all day at the pharmacy, and as soon as I enter, she greets me with a problem. The inter-phone is buzzing, she says (I really don’t hear it). The door doesn’t lock right. Maybe it’s because my key is a copy. The light doesn’t turn on when I walk in. Someone keeps leaving the public bathroom door open downstairs. It’s too cold here, she repeats for the hundredth time. Something about those small comments, which greets me at the doorstep every single evening that I find her here, eats away at me like some termite crumbling the inner pillars I have worked so hard to built up. It makes me freeze. It makes me sigh. It makes me roll my eyes and retreat into my room, wanting to disconnect. I’m not sure at what point I started to get annoyed. Somewhere between her blank gaze when I asked her what she would like to do about it and her casually turning on the news as I told her that there are solutions. I remember that at one point, I had tried. Those first couple of months, where I would smile and utter encouraging words, offer options, ask her about her opinion, and let her talk. But ultimately, I hit a wall. Something about her habits of just continuously complaining feel too close to home — like generations of women in me are wailing as she speaks.

Sometimes I wonder if the receiver cannot actually reject things that are handed down. If I cannot withdraw my hands from the heavy sighs, helpless gaze, and the mindless nightly routines that she has offered me. That which grows out its limbs to suppress my breath down to a shallow yet steady gasp — until I can’t figure out if I’m breathing or suffocating, merely continuing. I wonder where she got hers from, where she has put it. And most of all, if she even realizes what she is doing to me through all these actions that she calls “love.”

My therapist told me the other day that as people get older, their brains become physically less malleable. It’s some scientifically proven shit, apparently. but I kind of don’t want to believe it. I don’t want to believe that my mother and my grandmothers are stuck and permanently unable to ever find a way out of their own cage. But perhaps it is less so about our brains, and more about the fears that grow within us. I wondered if they’ve just convinced themselves that the inside of their cages are far safer than whatever maybe outside. I wondered if they are actually trying to find a way out, or if they are just set on fortifying their walls for the rest of their lives. And if they are not able to break down those cages before they leave, I wondered who would take their place.

No, that’s a lie. That’s not what I thought. I just wondered if I would be able to hold up in the cages that they were preparing for me. or if I would simply: break.

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