Their mother left them at about 7.12 pm. The two minutes over ten-past had given her that aspect of transformation, as she had clawed the crumbs from the coffee table and shrilled to them the importance of cleaning their teeth. She was only going away for a night-shift, but seemed still instinctively drawn to the reminders of old. She latched onto childhood narratives, still anticipating the scurry at her legs and the sticky-handed protests at her shins “why mummy, why?”
Yet there were no questions now. Instead she was met with two pairs of eyes which seemed to surrender little, glazed with a practised defiance in the presence of the parent. A boy, aged 17, and a girl, aged 15, struggling with the indeterminacy of their age. They anticipated adulthood like an award, firstly by beginning to see all around them as competition.
None of their names matter as this stage, as they seem to fall into that convention people like to thrown around – ‘family’. The ‘children’ were strangled in that similarly dubious state of studying, whilst the mother worked night shifts on a hospital ward. Most nights she would run a little pantomime for people, often half-suspended on morphine, that would never she her again. Many of them lived of course, but had no memory of what they did, what they saw, who saw them, in their drug-induced recoveries. The mother was becoming the ghost.
Becoming the ghost. The same phrase seemed to stir under her forehead like the beginning of a migraine as she crossed the closely-arranged strip of garden to the car. In that car she would sit and drive a route that her children did not know, to a place of work which they had heard of but rarely graced with their thought, never mind imagination. Perhaps the mother knew this really, perhaps this was why she sometimes wept at the wheel, in that silent, strangled way of hers, hardly blinking so that the tears would drop cleanly, like a cut glass. The tears left no marks, just as intended.
Whereas at home, the children were preparing for their delinquency acquired by the departure of an adult. Only that, typically, delinquency isn’t prepared for, if rises automatically out of a bubbling resent and fear and immaturity, yet tonight they moved with cool, almost calculated preparations - beginning with turning the lights on and off, on and off, playing with the switch. But ‘playing’ was perhaps not the right term. After all, they were two people neither sure of what was ‘right’ – they turned on the gas jets and watched them splutter, set fire to cotton wool balls and doused them with cold water just before hey singed their fingers. He marvelled at how the full force of water sprayed and dashed its inarticulate droplets against the glass, she watched the kettle gasp and splutter as she had filled it over the customary markings.
Everything was pouring, even the rain which beat down on the windscreen of the mothers car and reminded her to keep driving.
If there is nothing left of these days
Let words – please - remain
Rather than the smell of fear
Liked the lead-up towards sex
The upturned blades of the fan
On the overworked desk
I attempt to fill the emptiness of clear space
With a word count
No meaning, for they try to tie focus
Or money or open
Some other section.
Here I write
And roll off without mention
Like the jilted lover
The holiday tension
Left just to fester.
Is it over
Is it better
So why do such questions
Almost touch each other
Better it’s over, lover
Than forever broken in expression.