0012 | blanks

Eleven answer-phone blanks from my mother. Nothing spoken. No words. Nothing to say, but then people so often open their mouths and begin to make noise without having anything to say. All blank, except for the fuzz of a television in the background; her patient and less patient breaths amplifying their scrape across the mouthpiece; and, twice, the accidental clang of the earpiece as it journeys back towards the cradle. Listening to the absence of something is not the same as listening for something and hearing nothing. Aware of an absence, the mind begins to fill, without desire or bidding. It happens involuntarily. Mum is there in all of the empty messages. She’s there: fallen, lying on her back, outside…

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0011 | postscript

Twenty-five years after I helped to wash my father for the first and final time, I help steady Mum onto the stool, measure things in my mind, steadily lift her blackened legs up, over and into the bath. She keeps her gaze forward and rearranges a flank of grey, once-black hair, pinning it back behind her ear, only for it to fall back immediately, like a curtain between her eyes and mine. I place soap and sponge within her reach. Before giving a quarter-turn to the valve on the wall, I angle the shower into the area in front of her feet. The water jets down and is up to temperature almost as soon as my hand is there to test it.…

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0010 | the anatomy of a memory of my father

By definition, memory refers to both the impression of something that has been retained and also to our capacity for retaining it. A memory is not so much the remembrance of something once experienced, merely the recall of the last time that we remembered it. With each remembrance we are prone to degrading the original resemblance in our mind to the event lived. Memory will continue to diminish each of them, despite our best efforts to preserve them for posterity. There is a fog that eclipses so many of my lived moments. Like a video tape that has suffered too much wear, they have become distorted, fuzzy and unreliable in playback. I don’t quite trust all that I recall. They are…

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0009 | almost nothing

Drops of rain spot the window. Their journey to this plane, one of velocity and collision, one drop crashing into another, ballooning and reducing in size as they plummet. Their flight towards the glass all manically choreographed by an unseen wind, itself the puppet of an incomprehensible atmosphere above and all around. The wind scatters them everywhere and over the last half-hour several hundred have been thrown against this glass. For most, their purchase is only momentary. Some hit and abseil straight to the bottom; others slalom their way via fingerprints, grease marks and fossilised bird shit down to the sill, where their life on a horizontal plane begins to redefine them as they form pools and puddles. Yesterday, the wind…

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0008 | crisp

It’s still there on the ground when we come back. There, where it had dropped from her hands, although really from my hand, since her hands had only really been a funnel of unruly fingers through which to pass. I saw the crisp first: our tiny piece of litter from earlier. Back then, she had heard the rustle of the packet, had lifted two tiny arms to acknowledge and demand without words. She brought her hands together and locked her fingers loosely like a gathering of campfire sticks. I pulled the crisp free of the bag and tried to find her forefinger and thumb to receive it from my own. Reaching down to her; her reaching up to me. It…

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0007 | cold

The snow had fallen heavy the night before. The night before that had been the same. The day between had brought sun to melt and gloss and all kinds of traffic to flatten and buff, from the multi-ton roll of buses and lorries to the single-gouge routs left behind by the cyclists. A million prints gridded and latticed into the white too: the ghost markings of robust footwear made necessary by the weather. Pressed and raked, settled and disturbed, the freeze of night and the thaw of day: the bus made it up the hill that morning, but only just. Pete and I sat upstairs. Out of the window, the bullying pressures of all that had passed over the ground…

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0006 | rewind

Too tired and disorientated to forward-think the next minutes and fearing that they might become hours, my mind runs the sequence of entering Room 321 in reverse, in order to reach the lift, then the foyer, then the entrance doors, then the car park. She stays still in my arms. I step outside to a belt of wind that lashes us both. Ice crystals stud my hands and face, and I swaddle her exposed skin as best as two fleeced limbs can manage. Through the fog, I make out the REU of the number plate, push into the centre of the black fob and the lights give their double amber flutter. The boot door climbs. I watch it, then find…

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0005 | goodnight

‘Are you still awake?’ ‘I’ve been trying to sleep. But it’s hard to get to sleep.’ ‘I know.’ Her eyes flower from little slits. I kneel down to her bedside and rest my head almost beside hers on the pillow, but for my hand, which I place between us to cushion her cheek from the hedgehog stab of my own. Her hand comes up as echo, under her cheek, and our shielding fingers find and share an embrace. She smiles and tries to stifle a small laugh; her cheeks inflate in the same way a balloon responds to a first gentle, bellows-like demand of the lungs. ‘Do you think you might be able to get to sleep soon?’ ‘You could stay…

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