This is an excerpt of what I suppose my mother’s life was like in late 2008.
This is for the “Weekly Writing Challenge: Leave Your Shoes At The Door”where I have written in the perspective of my mother. This story highlights only a few aspects in her daily life. I became my mother’s shoulder to cry on shortly after this stage and her strength is a true inspiration. She has overcome obstacles like no other and is amazing and well loved by all of her children. I have tried to exclude names from this piece.
I’m so hungry my stomach hurts and my mouth is dry enough that the pill in my mouth is dissolving rapidly before I can swallow it. I take a small sip of coffee and use my tongue to manoeuvre the pill down my throat. Another sip of coffee. It’s going cold. I look at the blister pack in my hand and decide another pill wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it would probably be better. I may not need to worry about taking another one in a few hours. This pill goes down more easily than the first. Uh-oh. The nausea hits me hard and fast. I slam down my coffee, drop the blister pack and I run to the bathroom in the next room. I can feel it coming. Quick, the bowl. Get the bowl.
I try to breathe calmly but my heart is racing, my hands shaking.
I lean back and hold my breath. I thought I just heard something.
I exhale quickly and loudly, letting go of the breath I’ve been holding. It’s my daughter. Why do they always want something, those kids? Can’t I have 5 minutes alone?
“Yeah, I’ll be out in a minute,” I say loudly enough for her to hear. But I know I won’t be. I need to stay here for a while. It’s nice and cool. I lean back against the glass of the shower and shut my eyes. Breathe slowly and calmly. The interruption distracted me. I don’t feel so bad now. Where’s my coffee?
There’s a knock on the bathroom door.
“Yeah, I said I’ll be out in a minute,” I say in an irritated tone. I don’t even know if it’s my daughter, but I don’t care. I just want to be left alone. But then I hear a timid reply through the door. My daughter.
“Yeah, I know. I just brought you a glass of water. I’ll leave it here.”
I don’t say anything. I just wait for her to leave. I hear her put the glass down and turn to go. Then I hear rustling. Like crinkling metal. She’s found the pills. What if she takes one? She’s 15, she’s not stupid, but I used to be her role model, I could still be now. What if she’s trying to copy me? I get up quickly, flush the toilet and ignore the head rush. I open the door to see my daughter look up at me from the blister pack in her hand. I step towards her, mindful that I don’t nudge the glass of water at my feet, and hold my hand out. She doesn’t give them to me.
“What are these?”
“Never you mind.”
“What are they for?”
She hands them over.
“I got you some water,” She points behind me, to the floor.
“Thank you,” I smile at her.
I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner for the kids. Not for my husband. He’s not eating here tonight.
I can’t remember the last time he ate dinner here. He’s at her house. The stupid bitch. She can’t even cook. I bet she’s making him spaghetti bolognese again. That would be 3 times in a row now. I know because one of my sons tells me. He’s down there the most out of all of my kids. My daughter won’t go because she says she hates them. My other sons don’t seem to care. I’m making sandwiches. There is nothing else. I could have opted to make cheese on toast but that’s too much effort. I just want to sit down. My youngest walks in. He’s 13.
“Muuuuumm,” He wails. “He won’t let me play the playstation. Can you please tell him that it’s my turn? He’s been on it for an hour.”
“No, I haven’t!” My second eldest yells furiously from the living room. Oh, God. I really can’t deal with this right now.
“Come and eat your dinner.” I sigh.
This distracts my hungry son. But I can still hear the noises of Grand Theft Auto, or whatever that stupid game is called, in the next room. He’s not going to give up the controller so easily.
“Sandwiches? Again?” My ungrateful youngest has a look of disgust on his face.
“I’ll eat it, mum!” Yells my other son from the next room.
“Oh, shut up!” Yells my youngest, “You’re only saying that to get on her good side.”
“No, I’m not!”
“I’m not on anyone’s side!” I say loudly enough for both of them to hear. At this point my daughter walks out of her room to join us, no doubt to put in her two cents.
But she doesn’t. She just walks over to me and asks which sandwich is hers, thanks me, and leaves. My youngest has come to my side now as well and asks which is his, slides the plate off the bench, and sulks away.
“Can you bring mine?” Yells my other son.
I wordlessly take his sandwich to the next room.
“5 minutes,” I tell him. “Then it’s your brother’s turn.
I nestle myself into the chair in the parlour, coffee and cigarette in hands, and a good book on my lap. I’m 3 lines in and I’m dozing off. Then sudden shouting reaches my ears and I jolt, spilling my coffee. It’s cold.
“Shit.” I mutter
“Fuck off, dog!”
“Oi, fuck off. It’s my turn.”
“I’ve only been on for half an hour.”
“Bullshit. Mum said 5 minutes and that was 15 minutes ago. I’m going to go tell her.”
“Oi, mum. Didn’t you say 5 minutes?”
“No,” came my second eldest son’s voice.
“Shut up, dog, I’m not talking to you. Mum?”
“Yes,” I say but my voice sounds like I’m half-asleep. What’s happening? My eyes keep shutting.
Then they open wide again as my eldest son comes rushing in.
“Oi! You two! Shut the fuck up!”
“Whatever,” comes my youngest’s defiant voice. “Just ’cause you’re the oldest.”
“Yeah, I am the oldest,” he strides to the next room and I hear him yell, “And that goes for you too!”
It silences the two youngest of my boys but then I hear them gang up together against their common enemy once he’s gone back to his room. Then I realise I’ve forgotten something and go to the kitchen to make my eldest son’s sandwich.
As I walk through the lounge room and the parlour to get to my eldest son’s room, I note that the boys are playing peacefully on the playstation together, that each have a controller of their own and from a quick glance at the TV, I deduce that they must be playing a different game, a two-player game. But they also look quickly and see that I’m carrying a sandwich and a mug. The drink could easily be for me but when I return through the rooms again, the mug is gone and they realise it was for their elder brother.
“Two sugars, very nice,” says the older of the two and the younger snickers.
It’s something my husband says when he wants a cup of tea. It’s something that she says, though I bet she has more like 5 sugars, the fat bitch.
“Yeah, in a minute,” I sigh and carry on through.
“Can I have one too?”
“In a minute,” I say tersely.
I’m so hungry. I butter a piece of bread and nibble at it. It’s hard to chew. My daughter comes out and I notice she hasn’t brought her plate with her but I don’t have the energy to ask her where it is just so that she can either turn around and get it, or decide to play dumb, or decide to be a bitch, whatever takes her fancy. So I say nothing.
“Can I play on the computer?” She asks me, casually.
I glance at the clock.
“Yeah, but quickly. Your dad’ll be home soon.”
She scoffs and leaves for the parlour. She knows he probably won’t be home soon. I decide to sit down with my book again and eat at the same time. But on my way through the lounge room…
“Aren’t you making tea?” The elder son.
I turn around, tiredly and go back toward the kitchen.
“No, forget it,” the older son says.
I poke my head back through, plate still in hand, wondering what’s up his arse.
“Is there anything else to eat?” The younger one says.
“No,” I sigh. “There’re a few slices of bread left but your brother needs them for his lunch tomorrow.” My eldest son works now and I miss him about the house, even though he mostly stayed in his room anyway.
“This is bullshit,” the youngest says.
“Language,” I say, but not nearly with as much emphasis as is needed.
“I’m going down to the cottage,” he says and the older agrees.
I don’t want this to happen. I don’t want her to think that I’m not raising my children properly. She doesn’t even have kids.
But what can I do to stop my sons in this moment? They’re going to do what they want anyway. So I say nothing. And we all walk to the parlour. I take my seat, my daughter is on the computer playing JoJo’s fashion show. I hate that game. That name is disgusting. I hate that name. That’s what everyone calls her. Jo Jo says this; and Jo Jo says that; and I agree with Jo Jo. Stupid cow. My sons are using the phone to call the cottage.
And then they’re gone. Gone to get “real” food. But at least I don’t have to worry about them for a little while. I nibble some more on my bread. My daughter is too caught up in her stupid game to do her usual when alone with me at night: bitch about “Dad and Jo”.
I hear “Dad and Jo” more than I hear “Mum and Dad”. I light up a cigarette, this gets my daughter’s attention.
“Can I have one?”
It’s 10 at night and they’re still not back yet. They’re probably watching a movie, whereby she would have already fallen asleep, disabling my husband and my sons from leaving for fear of lacking in “social etiquette”. I don’t know why they even bother trying to be polite. She isn’t. She’s a bush-pig. I’m in my bedroom. I sit on my side of the bed and open the top drawer. I shove all of the underwear aside until I find the yellow padded envelope that’s been there for 3 weeks. I can’t open it. It’s my sister’s handwriting on the front and inside are photographs.
I can’t see that. I can’t see pictures of my mum and my dad and my sisters. I can’t see pictures of the house I grew up in or the garden I played in as a child, in England. I miss it all too much. I never thought I would be in this country for so long and not see any of them since I left. I can’t bear it. I need to open this envelope, but I can’t. It’s too painful.
I get up to fetch my pills. I only take one this time. I feel okay. I just need the misery to stop. When will it stop? When will it ever stop? My kids expect too much of me. No. They expect no more than they should. But I’m useless. I can’t help them. I don’t think I’m unfit to be a mother. All of my children are healthy. Yes, it’s just that it’s the end of pay week. In a few days, we’ll have food and my husband will eat here, my children content at least in that regard. I’ll get them each some chocolate. They’d like that. I hope it’s the right type. Why is my daughter smoking? Does she copy me? Should I quit? No, not just yet. I return to the drawer by my bed and hide away the yellow padded envelope. I can’t do this today.
I hear the swing of the gate. Oh, shit. The computer. I rush out to the parlour as quickly as possible but I find that my daughter has already closed down her game, or music, or chat site, or whatever, and is leaping off the chair. She rushes away but stops and goes back, straightening the chair, so as to make it seem as though it hasn’t been touched since her dad left. I just stand there, waiting for them to come in. And, here they come. The boys don’t say a word but the eldest of the two comes to give me a hug, then they leave together to go to their room. My daughter already left. I stare at my husband, hoping futilely that he too will give me a hug. But he doesn’t. He drops down into his computer chair and gets straight on MSN to chat to her. This is a pretty standard routine. But I am still expected to play dutiful wife.
“Two sugars, very nice,” is the response I receive, with a nod of the head. I don’t think he’s even looked at me once since he walked through the door. I leave wordlessly for the kitchen and return with tea and coffee. Tea for him. Coffee for me. I place his tea on the desk, receive a ‘thank you muchly’, and continue on to the bedroom.
In here, I’m thinking quietly, he may spend all day with her in a house 200 metres from this one, he may eat there, watch films there, and stay there for 15 hours of the day. He may even continue chatting with the cow but it’s here he is every night. Here is where he sleeps. I am the last person he see when he goes to sleep and the first person he sees when he wakes up. And neither of us know about that cunt, but both of us know that I’ll always be here for my husband and for my children.
Other Weekly Writing Challenges: Leave Your Shoes at the Door:
*Putting Myself in Her Shoes