And then I found out he wasn’t really my uncle. Someone from her work. She’d had her use of him by then. Peace and Love. Huh.
“I gotta go out. Back soon.” Rebecca’s voice sounds hurried and doesn’t give me time to reply before the front door slams. Great. They’re well suited, her and my mother. Always leaving me to my own devices. This is doing my head in and I’m stuck with it. There’s no TV or computer, no music. How does she distract herself in here? Books, I guess. And her stupid political games that get her nowhere. That’s how it started for my mother. Stupid political games. She never used to be interested. Until dad died. I can’t believe I’m thinking this stuff. It was so long ago. I put a lid on it. I don’t need to be thinking this shit now. I need to think about what I’m gonna do. I’m going nuts. I haven’t been outside for two days. Where can I go? Think, Steve.
I take my wallet out and open it. I lay the contents on the duvet, lining them up neatly. I have £20 in £5 notes. If I’d thought properly about this I would have saved some cash before my stage dive. I have my credit cards. Useless now. I have a bus pass; every MP gets one free, as the jingle goes. I have a crinkled photo of my mother; creased and falling apart. There she is again. Every time I think I’ve forgotten her she pops out at me.
“You miss her.” A tiny voice. No. I don’t need this. I don’t miss her. I don’t want her in my life. I’m glad she’s gone. I don’t miss her.
“You want to see her.” No. I don’t. I never want to see her again. I’m done with her. She abandoned me. Ow. My chest feels tight and my belly aches. I can’t think about this any more. I stand and leave the bedroom, pace the hall and return to the bedroom. Sitting on the corner of the bed again I pick up the photo of my mother. I can barely make her out. It’s a black and white photo but really it’s a mix of grey abstract marks; except for her eyes. They stand out. They always did. Piercing. Straight through me. She knew instantly when I was upset; especially when I tried to hide it. Laser beam. Straight to the heart of the matter. I always played it down, like what she said hadn’t really hit home. I was afraid of her. I was afraid of her seeing that she knew. I wanted to be hidden. I wanted something for myself. Something that she didn’t know about. My breathing is loud suddenly. I sit up from my hunched position. Look around the room. It’s dark now. Shall I turn on the lights? Someone might see me. I don’t want to be seen. I feel small. Wine helps. I’ll go and get some.
The fridge hums companionably and I take out a bottle of rosé. As I undo the screw cap I shake my head slowly. What would I say to her if I saw her now? I realise I’ve been holding the bottle motionless and staring at the worktop. I plonk it down and open the cupboard for a glass. I do miss her. I close my eyes tight. Even the darkness seems bright. Air cools my nostrils as I inhale. And the back of my throat. Which is weird. How does it get down there? Never mind. I drink. To forget. Didn’t someone famous say that? I don’t know what I’d say to her. I’d call her a bitch.
“No you wouldn’t.” That voice again. Fuck off. What do you know? No. I probably wouldn’t. I’d probably stare at her, mesmerised by her motherliness. And I’d want her to drop everything and stroke my head or something stupid. Fuck. I don’t want to see her again. I don’t want to feel that powerlessness, that overwhelming awe of her, that need of her. I don’t want it. I want to retain myself. My small self. I probably need a psychiatrist. I laugh. And drink. Mmmm. This wine is going down a treat. What if Rebecca brings her here? No. She won’t do that. Surely. She’s in hiding. Although from what I don’t know. No-one’s exactly looking for her!
A shrill noise pierces my thoughts. What the fuck is that? I stand and move towards the source. It’s an intercom buzzer. What do I do? I’m not going to answer it. That would be stupid. I walk away. It persists. It’s loud. Annoying. I cover my ears. Fuck off, whoever you are! It stops. Ah! It starts again. I can’t believe this. I’m half tempted to pick up the intercom phone and swear at the bastard. Instead I scream. A long sound that bends me over double and makes my head shake as my eyes scrunch up. And when it’s over I pant from the exertion. Laughing I pick up my wine glass and sink into the charity shop chair and kick my legs up on the table.
“Yeah! That told you!” I snigger some more.
A banging on the front door. Oh fuck. What if they heard me? I creep to the door and peep through the spy hole. It’s Rebecca! For fuck’s sake! I open the door, sweeping it wide and she strops through it.
“Why didn’t you answer the intercom?” she demands as she waltzes past me. I attend to closing the door and she bellows, “stop!” I freeze.
“Your mother is coming up in the service elevator. Let the door partially close but not lock!” She disappears into the bedroom. I let go of the door. What the fuck? I run after her into the bedroom and grab her shoulders, twirl her round to face me.
“Why what? Bring your mother to see you? You needed it. There’s stuff that needs to get sorted out between you before you can leave here. And I’m sick of taking the shit you really wanna direct at her. So here’s your chance to tell her what you really think of her.” Her glare eases into a softer stare. I’m aware my mouth is open and I can’t really do much about it. I’m too stunned. I can’t see her. I can’t. My head starts to shake. I want to hide. I tear my eyes away from Rebecca and look around the room. There’s nowhere. The wardrobe. She sees me staring at it, “you’re a bit big for hiding aren’t you?”
This is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. My laughs, at first, come at the end of my out breaths but soon they take over my body and I fall about, then I fall over and roll on my back, holding my belly. Now I’m on my side gasping for breath, still laughing. Hilarious. Bit big for hiding. So funny. I shake my head some more. And now she’s in the room, standing next to Rebecca.
“Is he okay?”
“He started laughing.”
I become very still, laying on my side, seeing the fibres of the carpet, aware of them touching my face. That was her voice. I heard her voice. I wonder what she looks like but I don’t want to see her. I hear some rustling noises, fabric over skin as muscles move and I know someone is kneeling down near me and I don’t want it to be her. I don’t want her to touch me. I bring my knees up closer. The tiny movements I’ve been making with my head, a slight shaking, makes my face sharp where the carpet touches it. More rustling. A throat clears.
“Noooooooooooo!” It’s a shout scream. I must not hear her voice. I must not. Silence.
“Noooooooooooooooooooooo! No! No! You don’t talk to me. You don’t!” And I am sobbing now. Tight in my ball on the floor. She can’t get me here. Can’t touch me. I am not hers. I am me.
“Don’t worry. He’ll come round. Come and sit down out here.” The voices slow down, melt away and I am free again. I don’t have to do anything. Or be what she wants. I rock myself, holding my knees. The carpet is soothing against my cheek. It’s real. I’m rubbing my thumb against my little finger. And I’m tired. So tired. I crawl to the bed and climb on it. I don’t want them to see me. I roll myself in the duvet. Now I’m safe. From everything.
I open my eyes slowly. The duvet reminds me of my actions last night and I feel ashamed, embarrassed. I ease myself out of the duvet and look around the room: the door is closed. Are they out there? Only one way to find out. I wrench the door open and stand in the hallway. My mother is sitting at the table, opposite Rebecca, and they were talking but they’re not now; they’re looking at me. For a few seconds no-one says anything. I can’t help but stare at my mother. She seems so different and yet not different at all, like a character in a favourite childhood book. I do an about turn and head to the bathroom for a piss.
Flush. I lower the lid and sit on it. When I was six my mother used to hold it for me when I took a leak. To “make sure it went in the bowl”. I didn’t understand that this was weird at the time. It was only after she left that I realised. Not immediately after she left. No. Because immediately after she left I had to experience the other weird stuff. No. It was years later. Not that many years ago actually. Three years ago. That’s when I realised it was weird. Not normal. Although, I knew all along really. I just hid it from myself.