The Mother sifts through the soil, searching. Using her fingers like a sieve, she tries to find the thin filament sprouts in the mulch and dirt. She picks them out and places them to the side, careful not to accidentally rip the nearly invisible tendrils. Three minutes earlier, her toddler had dumped the newly transplanted seedlings into one large mound on the porch.
One swift wind blows her sprouts away. She deflates. She contemplates leaving the mound on her porch. She has been so exhausted lately. She goes through the motions—sleep, emails, run, change diapers—but is running on empty. Knowing the pile will be there waiting for her, she sweeps the dirt.
The morning light casts a slight glare on the screen. The Mother’s children giggle as Steve finds another clue on the television while she washes her hands. She stares at the wilting lilies in the vase beside the sink but can’t bring herself to remove them. These microscopic tasks amalgamate into one giant monster living in her head. Death by a thousand paper cuts. A thousand chores.
She has so much to do. Today. This week. This month. This year. The weight of it all feels unbearable. Her eyes brim with tears. She opens up TikTok to distract herself from her inability to start her next task. Guilt sweeps over her.
A painfully relatable Tinder interaction pops up on the screen, and laughter bubbles up from her core. The stress and amusement mingle in her body like an unstable mix on the verge of a chemical reaction. The levity quickly fades as the algorithm delivers one too many videos about the occupation in Ukraine. She hates herself for shutting off the war when millions living in it cannot. She’s reached her bandwidth on misery.
“Mama, I want food,” her daughter says. She walks to the pantry and grabs the supplies. She spreads jam and creamy peanut butter on the soft, fluffy bread. She holds the sandwich for a moment, almost bringing it to her lips. She can’t, of course, as she’s up three pounds. Her slight build is one of her only positive physical attributes, so why continue ruining it? Just another thing that she’s not getting quite right. Carrying the plate, she plops down on the couch next to her daughter. The child reaches out and pulls her face in, smooshing their cheeks together without taking her eyes off the screen. The Mother smiles.
Lea Murray is a black, queer writer studying creative writing in Atlanta.