Tuesday, 13 March 2012

One person I'm not sorry to leave behind

I start today by dropping a gin bottle CRASH! on the tiled kitchen floor.

(Fear not, Mothers of the World. It is empty! Phew!)

It caught my naked toe on the way down, so only light bruising.

But I am horrified. I imagine razor-sharp, blue-glass splinters piercing the soft padding skin of my delicate enfants, so I set to, chasing the glassy wreckage around the floor with the vacuum cleaner BUZZZZ.

It's now or never: I determine to vacuum the whole floor. I resolve to leave the rooms clean for our departure and clean for Dig's arrival.

With my weight I push heavy sofa and tables SCRREEECH. I make their stout legs and reluctant feet SCRRRAAAPE and JUDDDRRRDDDD across the hard floor.

I pick up papers as I go and ball them into my fists. Better not see a child's pictures to colour, designs of outfits to make, maps of places to go. I scrunch the art they'll never compose, and stuff it without ceremony into rubbish bags stowed by the door, ready to dump. BANG! The door shuts hard with the wind.

I check the kitchen cupboards, empty and clean, and the doors go CRACK CRACK CRACK. The house is emptied, its insides ringing hollow and hard; the softening of books, fabrics, us, gone. It's all hard work, loss, shutterings, and no rewards.

With one day to go, our suitcases are mostly packed, heavy and bulging. I haul them alone downstairs with a THUMP BUMP BUMP. I line them up, like the last standing members of our travelling crew, all misshapen, battered, and bruised.

For Tiger, it's all too much.

This thing she's wanted, it's arrived. It brings goodbyes, and loss of new-made friends. Prized books have spirited away. Comforting clothes have vanished. There are spaces in the house opening, where she was sure there were drawings waiting to be painted, generous heaps of soft fabrics cut to be sewn, and half-made models, nearly finished. Nothing will be finished now.

She stops in the front room, sees the vast empty space with the sagging cases lined up, STOMP STOMP STOMP, and we fight. I HATE YOU. I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

It's the words of her displacement; the fear of being out of control in all the practical whens, wheres, hows of moving country to country.

At which moment, in all of our noise and wrong footing, there is a bang on the door with a THUMP THUMP THUMP.

I know who that is.

Stupidly, I go to the door. It's the young neighbour. Twenty-something, dark haired, slight, and with a baby. Routinely, she complains about noise. Noise of triplets playing. Noise of music. Noise of skipping games. Noise of doors. The noise. Her face is anger. She hisses, 'I have a sleeping baby'. She stabs at the word, baby, as if it should cut me.

What can I say? I'd like to spit in sarcasm, Why don't you teach me about kids? But I can't. Who knows what miseries and anxieties filled her life this past day. And sleeping baby forever trumps all. It trumps all our clearing up and clearing out, cleaning, moving, vacuuming, departing, all our normal family life.

So I stand there, the anger rising up in me too, saying like a stupid English person might, THANK YOU FOR COMPLAINING. I go to shut the door and she pulls it open, as if to say, You'll see me. I pull it back, out of her hands, and in place of argument, or a slap to the face, I slam it shut. She stands motionless outside, staring blood at me through the glass.

Upstairs, I can hear Squirrel leaning out of her bed, and retching into a bucket.

That expectation I have, of departure in haste, indignity, and covered with sick?