In the months after she died, I was in denial; that, if I held on to her memory long enough, if I smothered a lie built on smoke and air and censored the boundaries guarding truth instead, she would come back to me, the sunlight impressed, like sawdust, on her coffee-coloured skin, pixie smile in place. About time, I’d say, and she would laugh. Same old, same old.
We knew our roles, and played them well.
Now that she’s gone, I have nothing left to live for.
A sky of the darkest ink reaches into the cowering expanse, heralding night’s vigil with the air of a deparalysed corpse. I contemplate the stifling heat of midsummer moons, their silence cadaverously adamant on the question of death, struggling to remember her last words, to think past the fervent I love you she only just managed to choke out before the doctor bowed his head in forged defeat.
My mother was nobody’s fool, after all.
Now I stop a few feet shy of the apartment, struck suddenly by the very real and explicable beauty it seems to hold, wondering why I waited for so long to attempt to preserve a piece of my mother, however small, however insignificant – but as I ascend the steps to the rusty parlour, feeling unhinged, it is as if the house has ceased to exercise its spell over me, because at the wooden landing, embedded with layers of procured dust, the oak-lined doors appear strangely unwelcoming.
I sprint past the terraced gardens, past the hidden alcoves where my mother and I once played hide-and-go-seek, the rows of hastily-configured stone wall she overcame to stop me wailing. I collapse onto a mound of wet sand at the surf, my mouth feeling both dry and bitter at the same time. Shaking, I finger jealously the silver-entombed keys in my pocket, revelling in the touch of a cool, misty essence that I recognise as belonging to my mother. A lilting current of absolute calm passes through my body in one motion, and, just like that, I know what to do.
My hand moves as of its volition, clutching the keys to a home my mother died fighting to save, to a counter-paradise where the voices in my head will only grow more pronounced. I blink, my vision distorted, and it is only then I realise they - the keys – are no longer within my grasp.
Something familiar bobs on the surface of water, looking succinctly reproachful. I find, to my surprise, that I am only relieved.