Bye Malaysia


Prompt: It hurts but it is for the best.


I arrive home from work and see the lights of our house still open. My mother’s eyes are closed, but she smiles when I kiss her. She does not sleep very well these days. The swelling in her right arm stretches her skin so tight she does not know what being painless feels anymore.

Tomorrow is going to be amazing for me, though. My best friend and I will be backpacking across Malaysia to celebrate her birthday. It is going to be a great adventure for sure. Tonight, I am going to sleep with a smile on my face.

Today is yesterday’s tomorrow. I am on paid leave and will be having my very first out of the country trip with my best friend. It is just going to be the two of us and a country full of strangers. I am sure the next few days are going to be perfect. 

Then I hear my mother scream in pain.

I go down and try to be helpful. I caress her arm softly, trying to alleviate the pain. She always asks us to do that. But I do not know if it helps, or she just holds on to the illusion that her children's hands cure her somehow- probably it makes her feel more loved, makes her feel stronger. Makes her feel whatever she needs to feel to continue living this world of hurt.  

It is around 8 in the morning and our flight leaves at 2 in the afternoon. I am supposed to get ready now, but my mother is mumbling words I cannot seem to process. I look at her arm and the lymphedema- the complication from her breast cancer stares right back at me.

She talks again. And suddenly, I think I know where this is going.

She does not want me to leave.

I say what? It is only my best friend and me.  No one else. I booked our hotels. The tickets are with me. She is going to be mad at me when I tell her about this! It is her birthday in two days. How can she ask me that just hours before we leave?

“I don’t want you to leave.”

And I start crying. My sister tries to tell her that she can take care of everything while I am gone.

Still, my mother does not want me to leave.

My brother calls and tells my mother that he will send his wife to help my sister just to let me go.  Everything has already been paid for and can no longer be refunded.

Still, my mother does not want me to leave.

I need to decide. Do I want to go and enjoy a few days of freedom even without my ailing mother's approval?

With a heavy heart, I call my best friend.  I am crying before I even tell her the bad news and apologize. In the end, she is not leaving the country without me. She is so upset, but she understands.

I drop the line and sulk for minutes. It is going to take a while before I recover from this anger. I know I did the right thing, but I cannot help but still feel awful.

Then I look down and see my mother sleeping as peaceful for the first time in a long time.