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What Used To Be Mom

by Martin Lochman

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
parts: 1, 2, 3


It takes me almost an hour to hike back to the airport and another fifteen minutes to check into a Marriott. By the time I arrive into my room, I feel somewhat calmer. Having put some distance from the argument has definitely helped with dissuading me from making a rash decision, such us taking the first available flight back to Brussels, but I still can’t help but to keep scrutinizing everything that I or my brother said.

Our dialogue was doomed to get out of hand from the very beginning on account of Radim’s misguided idea of saving Mom, but it’s clear as day that I am equally responsible for pushing it past the tipping point. After all, I was indeed condescending to him, and I did give voice to issues that had no place being in that conversation in the first place, that I should probably have kept to myself altogether.

The question remains: what now? I can apologize to Radim for the unfair things I said, and I don’t even need him to do the same, but at the same time he has to be able to see that what he wants to do is useless and can’t possibly result in anything but disappointment. How can I accomplish that, though, without it turning out the same way as earlier? How can I get through his thick skull?

I spend the next hour staring out of the window into the night, pondering this particular issue, before giving up and turning in.

I wake up shortly before the sun begins its daily ascent from over the horizon. A quick look at my watch tells me it’s five past seven, yet surprisingly, I don’t feel that tired on account of the shorter sleep. I take a quick shower, grab my things, and head downstairs to the hotel lobby to check out.

The receptionist is rambling something about “interesting” cultural events taking place in Prague today, but I am only half-listening; my mind is focused again on the unresolved predicament. I mumble a half-hearted goodbye and a thank-you for the recommendations once the check-out is finished, and start walking towards the big automated revolving doors leading outside. I am half-way there when I catch sight of something familiar out of the corner of my eye.


Radim is standing by a coffee table surrounded by a trio of expensive-looking armchairs. He looks different than he did yesterday, and it isn’t just the dark bags under his eyes that indicate lack of sleep or the messy hair. There is something in his expression that I don’t remember seeing there before all that much, something almost like humility.

“What are you doing here?” I ask automatically.

“I came to see if we could talk.”

He shifts from foot to foot, both hands in his pockets.

“How did you know where I was?” I blurt out before I realize that it doesn’t matter.

He shrugs.

“I didn’t. I figured that you’d go to one of the hotels close to the airport so you could take the morning flight back. I know there is also the Holiday Inn, but I thought you might prefer this one. Though the lady over there,” he nods at the receptionist, “wouldn’t tell me whether you were really here or not.”

“You could have called me to ask—”

“I wasn’t sure you’d pick up. Stupid, I know.”

“Radim, I didn’t—”

“I am sorry, bro,” he says quietly. “I shouldn’t have said what I said, about you not caring, Melanie...I shouldn’t have brought up any of that. I was just so pissed at you for shooting my idea down, but I understand now that it was dumb, and you were right to point that out.”

He pauses.

“Mom is gone, and I have to accept that,” he says determinedly. “But I don’t want us to be at odds because of whatever problems either one of us had with her or Dad. I know that I am not the easiest person to talk to, and we often disagree on a lot of things, but you’re my brother. We should... I would like for us to be good.”

For a moment, I am completely taken aback. For a moment, I simply stand there, looking at him, my mind in turmoil at how to respond, since never in a million years would I imagine our conversation, especially one following such a falling out, going this way. My brother admitting his mistake, extending the proverbial olive sounds almost improbable, so much so that I start wondering that perhaps it is me who is too rigid in his thinking, too assuming, too—


“I am really sorry, too! What I said yesterday... I guess I am a bit arrogant and condescending, and I was wrong to unload my issues with our parents on you like that. It’s not your fault that they treated us differently. But despite all that I have always cared for them and you.” I pause, then add: “I don’t think you’re a screw-up.”

“I know,” he says conciliatory, and a faint smile appears on his face. “It seems we both have something to work on.”

“Yeah, that we do.” I smile back at him.

“So we are okay?”

He takes a step forward and extends his hand. I take it, squeezing it firmly, and after a brief moment he hesitantly pulls me into an embrace. It is then that I feel something open up deep within me, something that has been clogged for years, and at the same time a sense of familiarity sets in. I’m not sure that I can quite put my finger on it but it’s positive, optimistic, and that’s what I hang on to.

We let go of each other before long, and Radim nods toward the revolving door: “Let’s go home.”

On our ride to the house, we talk about what we’ll do next with Mom, and it’s an entirely different discussion than yesterday. Radim agrees with my previous suggestion to hold a gathering on Sunday but adds that we should first tell Kuba before anyone else.

As the car approaches Radim’s house, we immediately notice that something is going on. Jolana is outside, rushing towards us and gesturing excitedly with a phone in her hand.

Radim quickly pulls up and we get out.

“I tried calling you,” Jolana says, her gaze going back and forth between us. “It’s your mom. Something has... changed!”

* * *

The change, as it turns out, isn’t especially drastic — I would say it’s more cosmetic than anything else. The original dark-brown color of mom’s surface has been replaced by a sort of milky white which only gives the illusion that it got physically larger while in reality, it remains the same size.

It’s the meaning of it, what the change represents, that’s far more significant, especially when we soon enough find out that it simultaneously happened to all the “beans” across the world. It proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that there are still active processes and reactions within the internal biology of the transformees and that their condition isn’t stagnant. Likewise, it suggests something that not many people thought of before, simply because there was no reason for it: that all of them are somehow connected.

Most importantly for Radim and me, it offers a possibility that Mom isn’t completely gone. In fact, the more time I spend looking at her white surface, the more translucent it appears in my eyes, like a thick, nearly impenetrable fog, and I could swear I can make out the faintest of movements inside. Radim says that he can see it, too, so maybe we aren’t completely imagining things.

Perhaps Melanie was right and the beans are indeed just an evolutionary between-step.

Perhaps something else is at play here.

Either way, there is hope we’ll have her — at least in some form — back one day. And that’s what matters.

Copyright © 2020 by Martin Lochman

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