on the marble arch.
Track: Rufus Wainwright/Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
And I didn't feel anything when she managed to spit out "he's died". I nodded, and finished my lunch. Cold turkey and tomatoes that spit in my mouth.
Now I keep washing up, grey skins in the sink. I look up and out the window as I push the scrubber around the saucepan stain. The garden's grey like usual; the window misted a bit, and all that's really there is the shed at the end of the garden, eaten on the side by a bush and rolling in dead leaves. My tree used to be there, I think. But it fell over, and my swing got binned.
"OK," I say, and I'm not that bothered though that might sound cruel. But really, it's not. I feel a bit stale saying that, and I hear her clearing the table. The cloth goes down on the counter near me, and I hear her behind me, hovering.
"It'll be OK," she says softly. And I nod. And it will be, because I'm not that bothered. I stare through the window again, spits of washing-up water on the bottom bit of the glass.
I put the saucepan aside and pull the next thing into the sink and look down at it. I start scrubbing the inside of the mug and look at the window again. The white frame's so dirty at the bottom; it's disgusting, a mess of small black dirt at the bottom. I move to the next plate and pick at the cheese left on it.
I'm half-expecting a kick start of pain, but I don't feel much. It's not as if I spoke to him anymore. Not since he moved out. And I don't know why she's pretending she cares - she was the one who got him to leave. But I suppose a mother can't just completely hate her son - not just cause he's gay. Well, I couldn't but then I'm OK with that. Being gay, I mean. He's still my brother.
The garden's grey and miserable and I wonder why I came back just to hear this. I could have got it anywhere fine, but here is a bitter waste of my weekend. And driving here took hours. I finish the washing, watching the garden in case it moves, and think about Jude and all that. And I feel sad, but nothing much.
It answers why he didn't answer when I rung him on the way down to see if he'd heard from her about anything, not that he would I suppose. She doesn't like talking to him, like I've said. I heard to the stairs and see the TV on still and I assume she's watching it from the couch. I start the stairs, seeming so unfamiliar under my feet. Though this whole house seems strange, remembering. I look back, behind me from the top of the stairs, down the carpeted stairs and remember falling to the bottom of them when he pushed me down when I was at least ten years younger. I smile sadly to myself.
The room hasn't changed, though it's not pristine and perfect like I left it. She hasn't made it into a museum. The desk's bare with the computer gone, and the TV's not in the corner anymore, and the stereo's gone. We needed the money for me to get into Uni, and I took some things with me so that's why it's bare. I sit on the bed, legs sprawled across and my back against the wall. Sitting in the corner, I watch my room from far away.
It's like a guest room I haven't been here that long. There's the bed made, and my black bag's been put by the side of the chest of drawers. I sit, just watching the pale walls and tiny differences and think about Jude. I've spent two years talking to him on the phone but haven't seen him more than twice during that. I sigh, and wonder what she's going to be like over dinner and whether she'll pretend to care like she did before at lunch. If she does, I don't know whether to act like I'm in agony over it. Because I'm not. I mean it's sad, but it'll be like he's still there, I just don't talk to him. Exactly as before but without the phone calls. Don't get me wrong - he's a great guy. Don't get me wrong. But without a phone call however often, I'll survive. It's not like I saw him, but I suppose I wish I had now.
I shuffle and lie down on the bed and stare at the ceiling, watching the disgusting swirls of decorator's art that cross it. I must fall asleep, because when I wake up, it's darker. Much darker, and my watch says it's 6pm. I stand up at stand by the window and look out, the strangeness of coming home is odd, and I wouldn't have come like I never do if she hadn't have suggested everything I didn't want to know. "I have important news," barely cuts it.
"So? Tell me now," at this point I wasn't much interested,
"I can't. It's delicate."
"Have you got a new car?" At this point, I was slinging back and watching TV.
"No," she says bluntly, sounds a little annoyed.
"It's about Jude." And here my world goes, and I don't understand why she'll ring about him because she's bloody disowned him so far, and it won't be anything but serious. And my stomach drops and my hands shakes and I stop a second, and don't, so don't want to go down to hear this because I know it's not good, whatever it is, unless he's told her he's straight and is getting married or some shit, but even then I doubt that'd work.
And I have to pause cause I don't want her to know from my voice where my world's rolled off to across the carpet and out the door. "What?"
"So come this weekend?" she asks - no, tells me.
"If I can manage it," I tell her, knowing full well that she won't tell me on the phone because that's how she is, and knowing too, that I'll think of nothing else until the weekend and it's Thursday now. I'll be a wreck Friday.
But when she tells me, as I demand to know over dinner when I see that Jude nor a wife nor a warm welcome for him are at the table, I feel nothing that I've felt getting here, and the fact is stone cold in the dining room light, and I know what I didn't dare to guess - though I did - on the way down in the car.
And so I look out the window now, and the sky's a very dark grey. Much darker than before, and I stare out, from the lightless room I'm in, out to the lightless garden, the kitchen light beaming a speck onto the patio, and it all makes me very sad.
I pull the blinds down and slide the curtains across and now the room in black and I vaguely stumble a slow path to the door, opening it to the hit of a smell of food coming up the stairs.
I shut the door behind me and stand still, looking at the painting opposite on the wall that's changed since last time when I was eighteen. But now I'm not. The corridor's lit a little by the hall light, and I move down in, ignoring her room. The door next to that was a spare room and the one opposite, next to mine was Jude's years ago. I let myself in and see that nothing is the same. I sit on the floor by the door and stare out of his window which is never shut it seems, ignoring his room which is another guest room or so it seems. There's a Hoover and cleaning things under the window and staring at these makes me feel strange and I can't explain it. Actually, I can. It's unusual is all. I knew she didn't care, but this is evidence. Bottle it and photo it and it's as true as ever, and it makes me sad. That now he's dead and she still doesn't care, though she might pretend. That I don't know yet.
And I stare at the photos in my head of this place with me on his bed and talking about stuff. Just anything - it didn't matter. But he was everything in this house, cause I never liked her much, and that limits who you can talk to. On the swing when he was young and I was younger, and screaming and grabbing at him when he pushed me just to get him to stop. And when he stopped, I'd cry that I wanted another go. Like the kids screaming 'higher, higher!' and the parents not wanting the swing them over the top of the swing. But now the tree's gone.
And his driving lessons that finished in the same year he left. He was a natural, the bastard. Passed within two months of learning, though the theory he had hell with. And we'd sit here and go through questions for hours, and I wasn't bored, because he was what I wanted to be as soon as I was that old. And now I sigh, thinking that I'm probably nothing like he became when he'd left because I didn't see him. But whenever I spoke to him, I swear we were alike. I swear. Nothing different.
And you couldn't measure how much I wanted him and that damn bed and the book of highway road questions back right now. I stare out of his window again for a second and look back around the room. I ignore the Hoover that's across from me because that's not him. That's just her being her, and the less said about that, the fucking better. I look across at the chest of drawers and see the scratches in it. My eyes drop to the ground and I stare, just remembering bits and stuff that's not here anymore - just in my head. I stop dead and stare under the chest of drawers where I've been looking and notice the huge piles of dirt and dust and it's more than anything before. It's everything that she doesn't care.
I choke and want to stop dead, stop dead, stop dead, because it hits me that this is more than not speaking to him on the phone, but it means I'll have no one to talk about what a bitch she is – though that's not just it – and these memories are mine only. We were both there, but since he'll never be here again, the only person's memory I've got to rely on is mine, and this terrifies me. That I might loose them, and that it's just me. That's he gone. And it boils down to her and ignorance and it's horrid.
And I want to cry and I do. Tears in my cheeks and neck and stinging their way to the carpet. My throat chokes them out, and I stare stargazed at the walls and try to drink it in, so sadly, sadly. And I want to tear and pull myself apart because I know he'll never be here again. And so does she but she doesn't care and I wonder, staring at his rolled-up posted how you could do this. Simple hate someone because they're gay or different and I feel like there's something building in me.
A churning, sickening, burning ache that I need to scream and shout and my throat gets so tight and tears are everywhere on my face, my face is slick with them and this is disgusting. Just being here, in this house. And I wonder why I'm even here remembering him from his old room, because it truly doesn't count for everything or anything because she only cared an inch until he told her. And it really was for her benefit because I know he couldn't have cared whether she knew or not - but it was just something because she loved him then. But now she doesn't. Didn't.
And the heavy curling inside of me gets bigger and fingers tense like when I'm so bored it hurts, but this time it hurts and just makes me want to scream a mess of noise at the walls. It's choked like a helium balloon in me and keeps growing and I feel like I'm going to explode and the bigger it's getting, it's forcing me to boiling point and the teams are just the steam but it won't stop.
I hit the floor and push the floor down with my fist and gasp, breathing shallow. I push the tears from my face and try to concentrate on slowing my breathing down because it feels so claustrophobic here, though that's stupid cause he had the biggest room till he left. And I wish he hadn't and it so stupid and it's like a part of my inside, my nature, my soul is gone and I don't care if that sounds sick and cheesy but it's so true and it doesn't hurt but I wish it would.
And this boiling inside of me just burns and burns and I know I need to leave, and I do. I grab the door handle and throw myself out of it, and trip towards the stairs and want to throw myself down to get out quicker. But it's OK and I make it to the car and pull out the second my fingers can grab the handbrake and I'm leaving rubber prints in the second my foot takes to slam down to the ground.
The clutch slides up and I shift gear, faster and faster and it almost helps, but it doesn't. I burn down the road and speed through the lights and I realise it doesn't matter - it fucking doesn't - and it's like a revolution because all the people in their cars don't have this inside themselves and I feel so different and alone but in a good way almost and I tear past them and know that they have no idea about this.
It's like I'm removed from the traffic and I feel like an ambulance racing to get through because we have more important things than driving on the brain. On the brain, in the system, flooding my body, and I slam the accelerator up and the engine churns and makes cliché racing driving sound effects and I see the bing! Of speed cameras as I shoot past, and I can't help but think that the stars are far more beautiful than bloody cameras. But now and never, that doesn't and won't matter.
I drive for minutes because too long means the suffocating would turn to a dull throb and then I'd have to think, but I'm ignoring that. It's so thick and clogged that I can't do anything but drive away from it and her with food on the table and wondering where I've gone. But I don't care. I just don't. And my breathing's tight and thick but my head's so light it feels it might fly away and I think, mother of you, as I let the hands slip from the wheel and mother of the bastard you've been but it doesn't matter, truly it doesn't and the wheels glide from the road and bump heavy over the surface and give it a second, but this clogging will be gone, and so will I.
Have fun, mother.