A blue woollen coat, rough to my touch as I reach out. A belt cinched tight, a shiny buckle the size of a playing card. A rush of air as it sweeps past me trailing perfume and coal smoke. A door slams. Dad looking at the floor where the sugar bowl has spilled a grainy avalanche.
There’s a wide, expanding space where the shouting should be. It cotton balls our ears, stops our tongues. My mouth is shut tight and my teeth ache. Dad is on his knees, somehow he has a dustpan and a brush.
“Come on son, bed time” he says to me, but looking at the floor.
It’s eight o’clock, and light out. I head upstairs, past the closed door of Gran’s room. I wonder if she’s spoken to the swallows today.
Another memory comes. This time there is shouting, there’s no space at all. Everything is much tighter. I don’t hear what they’re saying, it’s just noise. Later, I fill the noise in with thick black pen imagining what might have been said. What combination of sounds would lead to her going. Dad has tears in his eyes and anger everywhere else. His thick arms are shaking, gripping the back of a chair and we’re both staring, staring at the table like it might get up and leave too, daring it to, daring it to do no such fucking thing.
He has no words to break the silence, and neither do I. Gradually, our bodies loosen and he lets go of the chair. The radio’s on, our ears relaxing to hear it. Dad is crying, but it’s laughing too. It’s the radio, I catch it as well. Terry Wogan and he’s chatting away. We’re both laughing now. Or maybe we’re crying, I don’t remember.
First, a memory was written by David Horn. To view all pieces by this author you can view their profile page here