It starts like this.
I am thirtysomething years old, I am in Mexicali with a group of friends eating Chinese food. Picture me, I am happy-happy-happy eating. I say “Mhh, I simply love bamboo!” I put it in my mouth. My friend Omar looks at me and says, “Bamboo?” I fish a new piece of bamboo from the chow-mein and say, “Yes, this, bamboo!” I treat him like he is an idiot and I am not. “Sylvi, that´s not bamboo, those are water chestnuts.” He puts one in his mouth. I tell him, “No, it´s bamboo, my mother told me it was bamboo.”
After a long argument with my friends about bamboo and water chestnuts, I realize this was probably one of my mother’s lies. On a quick flashback I see her saying: “Yes, baby, it´s bamboo. Pandas eat bamboo, come on try them.” In this same flashback I see myself as a little girl, giving them a try, eating and then loving them, because if pandas loved them how couldn`t I?
But, that wasn’t bamboo. My mother had lied.
My mother lied, she lied all the time. I wonder if it’s a mothers thing, to lie because when I think about it I see there’s quite a history of lying mothers (I wonder if it starts with Mary telling little Jesus, “Yes, sweetie, you are the son of God and you have superpowers!”).
The thing is, my mother lied about the silliest things in the world.
It is funny, of all the things I should remember about her: her voice, her hair, her hands, her jokes, her acting career. What I remember most often is her lies, her silly unnecessary lies. It´s like she was a fiction writer of the family and not me.
For example, my mother lied about her age, which I guess is normal for anyone who refuses to grow old, but she also lied about her zodiac sign and her type of blood. Who does that? When asked, she would always say: “I am Gemini. Just like my brother.” Now that I write about it, I am able to see that this lie says more about her family values than anything else. You see, she said she was Gemini as a way to prove her strong relationship with her older brother, who raised her when they were both orphaned.
Yes, my mother grew up without a father, then her mother died when she was still a child. She was forced to jump from childhood to adulthood too soon. She was then raised by her grandpa, but mostly by her older brother. My dear uncle Fabio. He was the reason she “became” Gemini.
Faviola is my middle name. And I should mention that Fabiola is normally written with a “b,” but my mother convinced everyone that it was written with a “v” in some fancy country and that it looked better. Was she lying about that too? Most likely. I never use my middle name, but when I do or it has to be written I always have to explain this “b/v” thing. It´s funny, why would she lie about this, about a simple letter. Why wouldn´t she just say: “I want her name with a “v” because it would look prettier”?
Lying about her blood type was not this funny though.
It happened in August, the year she died. She had been in the hospital for weeks, she needed blood and by this moment, the hospital did not have more to give. All of us, my brother, my husband, my sister in law decided to ask our friends on Twitter, Facebook, we even made calls asking for A+ blood for our dying mother. The first person that came to donate blood was rejected. The conversation went like this:
“We need AB- for your mother, your friend is A+.”
“Why do you need AB- when she is A+?”
“No, your mother is AB-.”
“It is not possible.”
“Your mother is AB-.”
“No, she isn´t, we all know it, she has always said she is A+.”
“I don´t know what she has said, I am simply telling you what I know. She is A+ and we need someone to donate.”
At this point the whole lab was looking at us, the guy even showed us a paper that stated the truth. My mother was AB-, period. What went through her mind the day she decided to lie about that? I mean, seriously, who lies about blood type!
My story has a bitter ending. At the we did get the blood my mother needed, but neither the blood, nor the doctors could do anything else. Cancer had already taken her small bruised body. She died on September 6th, 2014.
There is an old song from a singer that my mom used to like (or so she said, now I will never know if she did or not like Amanda Miguel). The song is titled “Él Me Mintió,” is about a woman complaining of the lies of her lover. There´s a line that I particularly like, it says: “Mentira todo era mentira /palabras al viento /tan solo un capricho que el niño tenía.” Which means something like: ” Lie everything was a lie / words to the wind / just the whim of a child.” I wonder if my mother´s lies were more of a whim, the whims of the child she never got to be because life forced her to be grow up too soon. Perhaps she was not a liar, just a bit whimsical. Perhaps all mothers are whimsical, perhaps as a mother I am whimsical, who knows what I have lied or might lie about to my only son?
Sylvia Aguilar Zéleny received her MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso. She is the author of four short-story books: Gente Menuda (1999), No son gente como uno (2003), Nenitas (2013), Señorita Ansiedad y Otras Manías (2014); the novel Una no habla de esto (2007) and a six young adult novel series titled Coming Out (2015). Her novel Todo Eso Es Yo won the National Book Award in Tamaulipas, México in June 2015.