Part 1

‘Walking that way tonight would not seem strange,

And still would be allowed’ 


No Road, Philip Larkin

She is passing her fingers through her hair.

The air is quiet, dense, unavailable.

She pulls her hands away from her hair and begins moving her bracelet between her hands.

Her mother states in a tone that suggests otherwise, ‘you’ve got everything haven’t you’.

Her daughter nods and attempts to distract her from their destination, and describes the particular aspects of their journey in between.

How strange this weather is. How difficult these gears are. How unclear the directions.

It is a typical ‘this is how things are’ conversation that goes on as they attempt to sustain a baseline of normalcy in anticipation of chaos.

The sound of her mother’s voice merges with the lower, undulating tones of suited gentlemen arguing on the radio. The clouds fill until they burst, scattering the patches of fields outside the window with rain.

After some back and forth, her mother reaches for radio’s sound control and turns the volume right down until it is as quiet as it can be without turning it off completely and turns her head slightly towards her only daughter.

It is a gesture that says, ‘is there anything you’d like to tell me.’ Without vocalising it explicitly.

This was a typical occurrence in the car on the school run on the way back home, when her daughter was being particularly quiet. The car would acquire silence, as though the sounds of stranger’s talking was the only thing preventing her turning her inward world into words.

The quiet atmosphere is weighted and it makes her feel uncomfortable.

Despite her discomfort, the car still drives. The regular objects of suburbia, chipped postboxes, uncollected recycling bins, rise into the forefront of her awareness.

They approach a stretch of road where these objects disintegrate, out of the relief of space a sign emerges that reads ‘Wood Green Community Centre’. That tells her they are near, less than a five minute drive away. Everything acquires new and heightened emphasis. The sickly feeling in her stomach intensifies. Her mother’s indicator sounds loud and aggressive. The sound of rain being swept across sideways by the windscreen wiper appears more prominent, more intentional than it really is.

The main road is converted into a country lane as the car takes a right.

That is when she sees him.

His posture is shrunk. His eyes are facing downwards. She wonders if he is okay. Why he is walking this time.

From what she can see of his eyes they appear dark and puffy. She can feel the kind of lowness a person emanates when it has been standing inside them a long time.

The pretty garden figurines that stand behind him in front of the rows of the terraced houses seem incongruous. They seem unfair.

This is how we co-exist.

She watches him until she can’t see him any more. His diminishing shadow bordering unkempt strands of spreading ivy.

Through rows of oak trees there is a surprising, unprompted arrival of pummelling light.

It opens something up within her, a slight glimpse of possibility that beyond frontiers of the dark sky, something else exists.

It will not always this. Only this. This time. This day. This fear.

She tries not to think of when he will arrive or how he will be feeling.

She tries not to think of what is causing his posture to be drawn so low or his eyes to darken so intensely. The gravel crunches and combines with the sound of the falling rain.

They draw up in the driveway. She begins to gather her things before her mother has parked the car.

‘Are you sure you don’t want me to -‘

‘No mum I’m good’ she says softly and then adds, ‘Thank You.’

Her mother parks the car, pulls up the hand break and takes her hand in hers.

Her eyes soften, there is that gentle undulating acceptance that resides between a mother and her child.

‘I hope it goes okay.’ She knows that she needs to let her go on a day like this, for her to be alright.

Another silence passes between them just after they hug and before she closes the car door. Her heart races and her hands tremble. She walks towards another door, the green wooden one at the front of the community centre. She tries to focus on slowing her quick breathing, as she walks towards it. Dreading and inviting what she might find on the other side of it.

if you’re enjoying the story so far, head on over to part 2 to find out what happens next.