On Writing, Tech, and Other Loquacities

The collected works of Lana Brindley: writer, speaker, blogger

It was a year ago

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In the kitchen, it’s all action. People everywhere. I’ve been planning the menu for weeks, and had done most of it by the time the first guests – my parents – arrived. I saw Dad briefly, he gave me a kiss on the cheek and I could smell alcohol on his breath. I said nothing. He looked around with haunted eyes, then opened the fridge just enough to slide a beer out from the bottom shelf, and then slunk outside to consume it. In the few minutes it took him to do it, Mum had sifted through the pile of recipes on the kitchen table, eyed up the pre-prepared dishes, and had started running the water to wash up. I knew that, whatever menu I had decided on, Mum was now firmly in control. A year ago, I would have fought with her over it. Now, it just didn’t seem to matter that much. I stayed in the kitchen long enough to refill my wine glass, and then went outside to find Dad. He was sitting out in the garden, under a spreading tree. I sat beside him and we drank. Together, giving and receiving comfort, yet lost in our own thoughts. Thoughts that were, possibly, along similar paths, although we did not share them.
It was a year ago that my Dad stopped cracking jokes. It was a year ago that my mother’s quirks became full-blown neuroses. It was a year ago that Jamie didn’t come from home from work. It was a year ago that I turned 21. It was a year ago that everything changed.
My mother came bustling out from the kitchen, and my Dad gave me a look that made me think of wildlife, stunned in the headlights on the side of a country road. She started talking before she was completely in earshot, and all I caught was “… tablecloth, you do have a clean one don’t you? A nice one?” I nodded, gave her directions to the laundry cupboard, and glanced at Dad as I stood up. I drained the last of my wine, although it felt as though I had only sipped it, and meandered back inside. Aimless. Suddenly, despite having been excited about the party, and about seeing everyone, I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I went to the kitchen door, intending to refill my glass. Through the glass panel in the door, with my hand on the doorknob, I saw Mum tut-tutting over two different tablecloths, things bubbling on the stove, and my sponge cake in pieces on the benchtop, ready to be turned into trifle. I can’t stand trifle. My hand dropped from the knob, and I found myself heading down the hall instead, to my room.
I closed and locked the door behind me, and wondered idly if I still had my stash in the wardrobe. I hunted around, shifting jumpers and scarves, dusty from where they had been stashed last winter, waiting to be taken down again in a month or two. I sneezed, and my hand touched cool glass. I retrieved the bottle, took a long swig, and grimaced. Then I put it back behind the ski pants and woollen gloves, to be forgotten about.
I lay down on the bed, and tried not to think about anything. It’s impossible to think about nothing. Even if you imagine nothing to be a vast blank emptiness, you’re still thinking about that emptiness. You can never completely clear your mind. I must have started to drift off to sleep, aided by the vodka, because I imagined a knock on the door, and it crept open a little, even though I knew it was locked. I wasn’t surprised to see Jamie through the sliver showing at the doorjamb, although of course I should have been. He pushed the door open a little wider, and I caught his grin. That grin that said, I’m doing something I shouldn’t be, but you’ll forgive me, right? I grinned back, but didn’t speak. I didn’t want to shatter this daydream of mine, didn’t yet want to let myself back into the reality that Jamie was dead.
He came in and sat on the bed, his weight shifting the mattress. He was wearing a shirt I didn’t recognise, although they were the same old work boots on his feet. He smiled at me, reached out and touched my hair, brushed it back out of my face. He leant down and kissed me on the forehead, and I closed my eyes, breathed in his smell – aftershave and sweat, grease and leather. I smiled, and opened my eyes again when the warmth of his lips faded, and the bedsprings gave a squeak. He was standing and, without a word, he walked back to the door. He looked over his shoulder, dropped me a languid wink, and then he was gone. The door gave a soft click as it closed. I listened for footsteps, and then laughed at myself for this foolishness.
I stayed in bed a little longer, still trying deperately to stay with the fantasy, and to allow the fantasy to stay with me, but it was already fading. Eventually, voices from downstairs stirred me awake, and I realised I had been asleep for about an hour. They would be wondering where the birthday girl was, no doubt. I stood up, and noted absently that the bedsprings didn’t squeak. This realisation was enough for the last gossamer threads of my dream to dissipate into the air like steam.
I went to the ensuite to wash my face, brush my hair. In the mirror, in lipstick, the now-empty case lying open in the sink, were the words, “Sis, Love you 4 ever. J”.

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