Wednesday 16 May 2012

'One Day at a Time' by Susan Stairs

Sunday night I iron your shirts. Five headless, legless shapes of you. Swan-white and  empty in a wire-hangered row. I  yearn for the scent of you, for your muscled bulk to fill each shell. For your fingers, fumbling with buttons and holes, knotting your school tie loose at your neck.  Is this the last day or the first? I’m not sure.
      Monday morning I make your lunch. I spread and cut and wrap with care. Your coat lies ready in the hall, your school bag sits by the door. The bus will pass at eight fifteen. I close my eyes and see you board, your dark frame moving down the aisle. Your breath mists the glass. You disappear.
     Tuesday, I shop for all your favourite foods. Arriving home, I fill the fridge. It’s overflowing now. I remind myself to clean it out. And I will. But not this week. Not yet.
     Wednesday afternoon I drive.  Your song's on the radio. Windows down, the way you like it. I join the city traffic, pass the place where you were born. I pass it countless times. By four o’clock, I’m at the school, watching the navy hoards spill out. So many of them look like you.  Some smile and wave. Others bow their heads as they walk by.
     Thursday night, I dream. I sense you moving somewhere in the house, the thick presence of your living self.  Through the dark I find the silent comfort of your breath,  feel  the sound of you inside my head. I wake and go to your room, listen at your door. I stay there till the sky brightens.
     Friday comes around again.  I lay your weekend clothes out on your bed: your best red t-shirt, your favourite jeans.  I  smooth out any creases, stuff a twenty in your pocket.  The weekend is here.  I am afraid.
     Saturday, we drive for miles to cheer your team on in the rain. We haven’t missed a match yet. After, the striker swears  you helped him score the winner. Your dad smiles. In the night we lie awake for hours. Waiting. Wishing. Dreading.
     Sunday morning we visit. I buy flowers at the gate. I tell you all about my week. Your dad tells you the score. His eyes glitter. Mine shatter.  My legs dissolve. He helps me stand.
     Back home, I sit in your room, tidy your drawers, go through all your things. I want this wretched day to pass, for the week to start its safe routine.  I pull the blind, shutting out the light. I open the wardrobe, grabbing, pulling, crying. White cotton, virgin plumage all around me. I fall asleep on your bed, entangled in your empty arms. 
     When I awake it is dark. I gather up the wrinkled shells.
     Sunday night I iron your shirts.

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