Boiler

Most mornings she wakes before me. I pretend to be unconscious and ignore the clatter of spoons, the flicking of lighters, the acrid smell of potions and the horrible creak of her old leather strap. She knows I know, and I know she knows that I know, yet we continue this wretched dance of silence.

It became too hard staring at a picture on the wall, or spending ten minutes taking the trash out. So instead I close my eyes and slow my breathing down. I’m asleep, but I’m not sleeping. She is moving but not yet awake. Not yet.

After the door has slammed shut I will tiptoe down the stairs into emptiness and open all the windows. Lighting up whatever half-cigarette I left behind the previous night I survey the carnage. Usually the floor is strewn with takeaway packets, burned cutlery, sometimes blood. I place everything in a bag and do a sweep of the floor on my hands and knees for fallen eyelashes. When she gets anxious, she rips them out with her fingertips. I try and rescue as many as I can, for what little it is worth.

Then there are mornings like now. Too tired to exist on this dreary Sunday she slumbers next to me, her chest rising and falling like the swelling tide that crashes under our window. Quietly I shuffle up enough to look at the seething blue sea, white fingertips clawing, and I shake my head.

Not today Mother. Not today.