I was just eighteen when I married. My first child, a boy, arrived ten months later. Another child came quickly after that and by twenty-three, I was the mother of four. My husband offered little support or help raising them. They were all left to me, these young, hungry, screaming, clamoring, curious, mischievous, needy children.
I’d led a sheltered life within a religious family in a like-minded community. I had not had much sense of myself to begin with. I was raised for one purpose: to become a wife and a mother. Once I was both, I had even less idea who I was except breasts to feed and lips to scold and arms to carry and hands to cook and legs that itched to just run and keep running until I was somewhere completely different, and all alone.
I felt no love for my children, no love for anyone or anything. I knew this was wrong, that I was deeply flawed. It was one of the greatest sins for a mother not to love her children. Love is what makes humans human. If I was not capable of love, then I was no better than a golem, an automaton. I was less than human.
But, in fact, I was not less than human. I was painfully, achingly, tragically human. I was simply numb to my own pain. I was too exhausted to live; too completely without ego to care about anything.
Perhaps, then, it is not love, but ego that makes us human. Without ego, there is no point to human life. Nothing to drive us forward along our path. Nothing to give us purpose. No pain or joy to teach us lessons.
I was, therefore, nothing.
It followed, then, that my children were also nothing. I regarded them as merely attachments to my appendages. If I had been capable of regarding them as individual, unique human beings, I would have had to also conclude that I, too, was human. After all, a golem cannot create human babies. But since I was certain that I was a golem, it followed by my logic, that my children must also be made of mud and clay. Empty. Hollow. Unable to feel. Unhuman.
Given this line of logic, I did the only thing that made sense to me.
When my husband was off to work, I gathered my children for a trip. Only the oldest was curious about where we were going, but I quieted him by telling him we were going on a secret adventure.
I drove around for a while, in growing outward spiral, circling further and further from home. I drove rarely; I’d only been allowed to learn when my husband had medical problems a few years before, and it was my obligation to take him to his various doctors. I was not confident but I knew where I was going, what had to be done, but I needed to approach it obliquely, to work up my courage.
And finally, the children fell asleep just as I found myself where I was heading all along.
I drove to the big bridge. Halfway across, I turned the wheel sharply and stepped on the accelerator. In an instant, we were over the edge and into the river.
It was where we needed to be. There, we would dissolve and return to what we were: just mud and clay.