by Lorna Brown
I was aware of the spluttering of the air conditioner, the heat from his body draped over the sheet, the hall light caressing his pale skin sneakily like the elderly neighbour he once told me about, the empty bed next door and my body lying prone as if caught in that moment I heard his foot on the stairs.
Then the vision of my face, or was it the van that appeared first, upside down, like a fat beetle, or the night in which it was caught, a still, quiet night, the kind of nights where anything can happen, where the air holds its breathe, waiting.
I stared at myself until resignation pulled me from the dream that skirted the edges of my consciousness, moving in and out like a game of peek-a-boo, here or not, real or not.
Before I managed to pull myself awake, her blue eyes were before me. Was it her resignation I felt, that made me wade through his snores and the clothes thrown at my feet? There was an ashtray by the door, cigarette butts crowding inside, and the smell of sex, how to describe it, something alive and decaying, a sweetening decay. Whatever, it was there, my soon to be ex-wife smelt it months ago, when she burst into my room and screamed that she knew what I was doing.
Was it the un-orderliness and chaos of my room that came with two men fucking that told her…or was it a guess from my structured ex, my ‘put the clothes neatly over the chair’ lover?
A lover I had taken on at twenty, and kept without wanting to think about it.
A lover, who had given birth to the blue eyed daughter staring up at me from a dream, her gaze neither pleading nor angry, and all the more penetrating for it.
In the bathroom, where his toothpaste and spit ran down the sides of the white sink….I thought of my wife screaming that she would not allow me see our daughter anymore, that I had become worse than useless, I had become dangerous with my drinking and late nights and taking home of strangers.
I nearly argued that he was not a stranger, that I met him three years ago in the gym I pretended to go to once the affair started…two people looking at each other and not being able to turn away, was it as simple as that?
The fear, the doubts, the pain, the shame, it gets locked away somewhere, so now all I remember is him walking behind me to the car…had I waited until he was ready to leave, had I given him the nod, had I known what the fuck I was doing?
The details get lost, and yet it is the details that are important, that I strive to hold onto. I want to remember the feel of her hand on mine, the sound of her laugh, her voice so light and airy.
I want to remember the trust in her eyes, but instead I see the dull acceptance of her gaze telling me, “this is it Daddy, this is how you are going to go, in an upside down car in the middle of the night, if you don’t stop what you are doing”.
Stop what? My reflection was hammered by the light in the hall, left on from habit now, because she never liked sleeping in the dark. I leaned towards the gloom until the smell from the toilet made me abandon all search of youth, and move slowly to the door of her room.
The single bed was made up untidily, the floor empty of toys, the silence breathtaking. I whispered, ‘goodnight’ and the loneliness made me walk down stairs, in search of a beer.