Saturday 24 June 2023

'It’s Complicated' by Fiona McKay

It’s two in the morning and I'm in my childhood bed. From the dream world, there is the echo of a door slamming. I lie, tangled in the sheet, waiting to hear it again. My heart beats hard with remembered and imagined fear.

I get up and move through the silent house – checking doors and windows, searching for whatever woke me. The air is stuffy. Summer has been trapped inside, behind the closed windows, the locked doors.

I go out through the kitchen into the garage, the concrete floor cool and gritty under my bare feet. There is a sweet scent of cut grass coming from the mower – the guy I'm paying to cut the lawn has put it away without cleaning it off. My father always wiped it down with an old rag. There are other scents too – damp that is not yet mould, sticky oil and petrol, the warm smell of old wood shavings on the tool bench. I spent a lot of time out here as a child, sitting in the dark, reflecting on what I had done. Whatever it was – I never knew. The chill of the floor, the dark; my fingernails biting into my palms so hard, so hard.

I breath it in, knowing that soon, when I finish filling the boxes, filling the skip – return the hospital bed, hand over the keys – it will be gone.

When I finally leave, I tuck the old rag between the boxes in the boot of my car.  For a long time afterwards, while it still holds its scent, I will close my eyes, inhale, and be there again. I will remember it all, over and over, until the scent fades and I can move on.

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