Nearing the 3pm slump. (The clock is always 2:52 when you glance at it). Taunting synchronicity, eternal afternoon.
Unpack-repack. That recurring dream that you only ever have in your Home Bed. Packing a suitcase, frantic. Hands moving too slow, oppressive air. Viscous temporal soup. You miss the flight by a fraction of a second. Unpack. Back Home.
Grey skies greet your eyes in the morning, rain hitting the window. Washed out Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday. Trip to the shop to get milk for mum. You slip back into the paranoid notion that everyone must be staring at you. Leering, laughing. Back home, half-empty fridge shelves stare back at you apathetically. A bitter-meets-guilty, guilty-meets-angry feeling sits in your stomach, undigested, when you think of how you eat in The Other Place where The Other Half live.
You hide in your AirPods, perfume and fur just for a walk to the shop. Imposter.
Sunken eyes of little girls outside Tesco. School shirt half in half out, one sock up one sock down. Clinging to a rain-washed bear. The bear looks tired but compliant, no energy left to protest about the rough way he is held.
For a brief moment you feel that you-girl-bear connect, an unlikely triad formed on King Street. United as allies avoiding the eyes of a fed-up Mum. Eyes framed by half-moons. Limp ponytail, tired air.
You smile at the girl to show solidarity. She stares blankly back at you.
You’re sitting in a silent house. Hair unwashed, the musty smell of sleep still lingering in the afternoon. You think about the sound of your nan’s voice on the voicemail she left for your 20th birthday. Husky from all her years of smoking, but unchanged and as warm as ever. You and her in your alliance, when you were little and the world was smaller: swapping between school-nan’s house-dad’s house(s)-mum’s house(s). A world full of suitcases. Unpack-repack. Change without progress.
Weekends with nan on the couch. EastEnders playing on the telly, reruns of the same show. You loved the coziness of it until one day it bored you – no one prepared you for that. Losing your favourite toys in the attic when you had to leave the house in a hurry.
In a dream you were small and in the attic with the toys, hidden behind them, scared. A lady was angrily tearing down the wall they’d formed, one by one. You thought please don’t find me please don’t find me, not yet not yet.
You think of the toys now laying abandoned on the attic floor, cast aside and dust-covered, unloved. Roaming the dark spaces of the house(s) like ghosts.
You and nan walking back from the chippy arm-in-arm. (She always held you close, and tightly). Sharing a cone of chips in the cold and laughing. That gorgeous sound of a little girl’s laughter. Salt rim on your lip, warm feeling in your belly, toothy eight-year-old smile.
She loved you fiercely and without reservation. You could see it in her eyes from the beginning.
Guilt rises in your stomach because you haven’t returned her call.
And that other recurring dream you have no matter where you are. You’re eight again.
Dark spiral staircase. Curious to know what’s at the bottom, you descend the stairs. Something terrible lies waiting but it will free you to know what. Sometimes a man is waiting for you, hidden face, leering smile. Sometimes he isn’t. But always a fraction of a second before your foot leaves the final stair, you change your mind and run back to the top, terrified.
Where do I go when I run away?