paramoThis is it. This is the moment our lives crack wide open like a pomegranate and all its bloody bits spread long and wide.

One month before my daughter turns sixteen, I stand by the hospital bed, look her in the eye, and ask why. She stares blankly at the ceiling, fidgets with the D-rings on her oversized cargo pants, while the social worker questions me about our family life. Where is her father? Is there violence at home? Any history of drug or alcohol use? Where did she get one hundred ibuprofen?

I ask her again. Why is life with me so unbearable? She rolls her eyes, turns her back, curls her fists into tight balls and faces the wall.

I wish I could do the same.


The nurse walks in to check on my daughter. I force a smile and a thank you, but she doesn’t react. Maybe she thinks that the children of good mothers do not attempt suicide; don’t rebel, don’t spit fire, don’t curl their hands into tight fists and turn their backs. Maybe she thinks that I drove my own child to the edge with my flaws, my ignorance. I want to defend myself, my daughter, us. But all I have is this moment. This IV drip. This wailing ambulance braking hard outside.


The social worker wants to know about home. Home, I repeat in my head. The word resonates with all its accommodating possibilities: noun, adverb, adjective, verb, but its linguistic elasticity gives me no comfort.

It occurs to me that if I tell the social worker how beautiful our home by the water is, with its balcony overlooking a lake, the cathedral ceilings and the vast backyard, everything would be fine. But the woman is impatient; she taps her pen on the clipboard, and the lovely feeling is gone.


My thoughts scatter, senselessly. What if this is happening because we live in the wrong house? What if we had bought the house in Auburndale instead of this one? It was a grand-looking old house that sat atop a hill overlooking Lake Ariana. It had Moorish archways and Mediterranean-looking windows; wooden floors that creaked and ceilings that slanted; two whimsical attics, a kitchen with a stucco counter and a black furnace in the perfect corner. It also had asbestos, copper plumbing and a moldy roof. Naturally, we didn’t buy it, but now I wonder if maybe a touch of mesothelioma would have kept us together; if disease would have made us more compassionate, more loving, better people. Maybe the asbestos and the mold would have glued the seams of our lives.


When I’m informed that she’ll be put under suicide watch, I recite a mental litany: My love, the door is open and translucent for you to see inside me. I won’t make demands, I won’t judge, I won’t speak. Just give me a sign, and I’ll be weightless, patient, tender. Let’s name that which we lost along the way. Let’s bury the unnamed thing. Let’s give this thing a name and punch it square in the throat. Let’s sweep it under the rug. Let’s fix this. Together. Let’s. Do. Something.

They bring her into the room to say good bye. The underwire in her bra has been removed, so have the shoe laces, her pink scrunchy, her belt, and the flaps of her baggy jeans. Her eyes beam with an anger so fresh and mean that it makes my whole body tremble. I’m supposed to say something reassuring, something magical, something important. I’m the mother. I’m expected to mend this broken child. But I can’t.


She climbs slowly into the van. I wave, but she turns away.

I can’t breathe. I need to be monitored too. Preferably, next to her. Put us into solitary confinement together. Beat us and starve us and do not let up until I put her pieces back together. Until she is whole, finally or again. The van signals a right turn, slows down, then disappears around the corner, leaving me behind in the middle of the street, on my knees. I stay there feeling a sharp rock under my left shin. And I cry. Not for my daughter over whom I have lost complete control, but for the manageable thing. This pain digging into my flesh. This thing with a name and a solution. This hurt which I can stop. This which I can fix.


Adriana Páramo is a cultural anthropologist, women’s rights advocate, and author of Looking for Esperanza  and My Mother’s Funeral. She currently writes from Qatar where, oddly enough, she works as a Zumba instructor. Adriana invites you to visit her travel blog.


Artwork by Stephen Knezovich