This is the one thing I really, properly, remember from when I was a child. It’s not very interesting, it’s not even really a single memory — more likely it is a set of memories, overlaid on top of each other like the layers of paint built up over the years on our living room walls, on the window frames through which I so often used to look outside — but it’s so clear and total, a visceral genuine thing, in which I can see and feel everything in an incredibly solid way, rather than just in the abstract, rather than just as a story I’ve told over and over again until all I have left are the words of it.
Because of this I often wonder whether it is genuine at all.
When I was about five my bed was put in the living room for a while, at the front of the house where it loomed up near the pavement and looked out over the road. I’d broken my ankle falling off a wall, and my mother didn’t want me to have to hobble up and down the stairs.
Because of the injury I didn’t have to go to school, although as I’d only just started I didn’t really appreciate this fact in the way I would have done had I been older. In the mornings I’d be left in bed while my brothers and sisters would get ready for school (although my mother would still come in and open the curtains like she always did in her sweep of the house), and I’d lay there listening to them all getting ready, listen to the bickering, the radios and tape-players going on and off in their rooms, listen to them leaving, listen to them and all the other kids on the street talking to each other as they walked past my window.
It was sunny. It was always sunny.
(It was – it must have been – October. It was not always sunny.)
It was sunny. My bed was shoved up tight against the radiator by the window, and I’d lay there, bathed in heat from the sun shining in through the window and from the radiator heating its way through the quilt and the sheets. I’d lay there on my back, below the level of the window, looking up at this odd angle at the sky and the birds and the branches of next door’s tree, listening to the disembodied voices of all the other children fading away as they passed through our street, their dying laughter, their ever more distant shouts.
And then the silence. Inside the house and out.
Every day, I had this fifteen or twenty minute gap, this space of my own, before my mother got back from walking my brother to school, before she got me up and got me cleaned and dressed and fed.
These fifteen minutes where I’d be left all alone. Completely alone. Listening to the silence of the house, the silence of the street. Looking up at nothing, at the pale and silent sky.
1. Written on 27th April, 2015
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