It is a rainy night. The clouds are a creamy grey. A calm has descended on the street. The road is swept clean by the rain, handwashed as if by a giant paintbrush.
The curtains move slightly on the bedroom window closest to the door. There is the tiniest of draughts there. Sometimes when the wind is fierce, the draught sweeps into the room like a witch’s finger, rattling the picture frames. It is startling at midnight.
Earlier on I saw two women walking with one umbrella, huddled like birds. The way they held their heads, placed graceful feet on the glistening footpath and brushed at the raindrops on their sleeves was so similar I knew they must be mother and daughter. There was an ease between them that filled my chest with tightness.
I thought of my own mother. A woman with whom I veer in and out of dysfunction. Much of the tension between us arises from my mother’s guilt about my sister, Millie. I know that, I know how hard it is for her, but it still hurts when she ascribes the blame for my sister’s downfall to me.
Years ago when we were children my sister, Millie, and I were very close. Some nights we used to talk for hours. But somehow along the way things changed, it was around the time she began having relationship after relationship with men who did not love her, who used her, who abused her. I felt myself, ever so slowly, stepping away from her. My mother believes that if we had retained our closeness things would be different. That Millie would be a whole person, not fractured.
Her blame compounds my own guilt until all I want to do is open the door and walk out into a night like this and hide amid the sombre lines and shadows.
Sometimes I pray beneath the moon, conjuring up shapeless images that speak more of anguish than piety. Hoping for something, anything, one thing to change.
I don’t like being the fall guy. It is a role I didn’t choose. It makes a hard furrow of my mother’s mouth. It makes me question my perceptions of myself. Can one person solely be to blame for the descent of another? Surely the person descending has a say in how far they will plummet?
In my mind, in my I-am-a-grown-up-now moments, I know my mother is clutching at straws. But in my heart, the part of it that is still a child, I wonder if my mother is right.
Thoughts like these do me no good. They will choke me if I let them. So I press my face against the glass and watch the way the rain falls on a world made of ebony. If I were to walk in the street now in my big black boots, I would look as if I belonged there. And that, for now, is enough.