09 July 1999

Story

But when my mother wrote a story, years later, it is always in the semi-detached house in Birmingham that I imagined it taking place. The bedroom, in which my brother and I slept, where we scratched the paint off the walls with the nose tips of toy metal aeroplanes, where Father Christmas left presents late one year, from our father; the small landing, on which a grandfather clock once stood; the stairwell, the steps of the staircase curving to the left at the bottom, where I would sit, the darkest place I could find, and play the late present, which turned out to be a space invaders game; the next bedroom, and the bathroom beyond it.

The story caught my imagination, and it continued to haunt me all through university: for some years I interpreted my mother through the story she had written, and regarded my mother as some kind of tragic archetype. I began composing my own poetic version of the story, but never got further than a fourth verse; now all I can remember is the first:

Tired and weary, she lay there alone,
Tied to this small room, confined to this bed;
Sleep came but slowly, and troubled by dreams,
Waking to four walls in restless fatigue.

The story went on: she was ill, made so by a thwarted, meaningless life, tied to a man who she could not talk to, because although they spoke the same words, they meant different things by them. He went out to work, healthy, fit, vulgar and humorous, and on returning muttered a few words before retreating downstairs to watch TV, while she withered in chronic depression, unable to do anything. It had become a way of life, just how things were, and no matter how much she hated him and his vulgar working class vitality, she could not muster the strength to leave. And so she stayed, spiralling endlessly downward.

Something brought this situation to a climax, but I am unable to remember what; something the husband said, some trivial word or gesture; and she, stumbling across the landing towards the bathroom - he just beginning to descend - she focused everything into one small, insignificant action, pushed him in the back; he slipped, fell, and crashed down the stairs, curving to the left at the bottom, and colliding with the solid wall. She pauses, catching her breath, then continues to the bathroom, and then back to bed.

Needless to say, it wasn’t only in my mind that the woman in the story was a symbolic representation of my mother.

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