Our Absent Moon

It was a week of good mornings. Each day began clear, with an exclamation at the curtains’ withdrawal of—‘Wow, beautiful morning!’ only for the cat—the only other being in the room—to not care at all, but to meow for breakfast, all four paws down, her body slightly angled towards the door. It was the vastness of space’s navy and then this tiny golden cuticle; all unmarred by cloud, mist or trail, the stars themselves concealed, an absent moon. The draught is cold through an open door, the dawn colder still. In a corner by the bicycle store, a chickenshop box, dappled with grease yet intact, fit snug, vibrating in the wind. The sun rises, too. The cuticle extends. As people get onto the train, a cold draught forces its way down the car, pushing chins into collars. Between the trees, the sun rises, too. The trees are silhouettes, the branches and twigs. My art teacher said—‘Never use black paint. Nothing is black. Look harder.’ The trees, branches, twigs; were they black? I looked harder. Each branch was without buds, but they would come soon enough. There was frost, though, turning everything pale. And there were visible breaths rolling over the platform. Puddles in the forest froze. The stream burst its banks, swelling from something feeble to something cold & grand. The field lies dormant. I read a headline on the unfolded newspaper before me, parallax. All is grim.
    `My uncle relapsed, took the train to my hometown and asked my parents for a whisky—
    ‘I got it for him, but I didn’t feel comfortable with it!’ said my father.
    ‘If he’d asked for it at the end of your chat,’ I said—‘you wouldn’t have got him that whisky.’
    ‘No, I wouldn’t.’
    ‘But you shouldn’t have got him that whisky.’
    My mother—‘He’s weak!’
    ‘You’ve got to stop saying that. Please tell me you haven’t told him that to his face.’
    ‘I told his wife.’
    ‘For fuck’s sake…’
    My father was drunk—‘You shouldn’t judge!’ He waved his fork at us both.
    My mother carried on eating. I rest my cutlery on the bottom of the bowl, sighed—‘No, youbelieve that only God can judge but I’m an atheist and I don’t give a shit so I’ll judge whoever the fuck I want.’
    (‘Is it all right if I get seconds, darling?’)
    ‘Broadly speaking.’
    ‘You shouldn’t!’
    (‘Yeah, sure. There’s loads.) If you didn’t judge people, you’d be fucked by now.’
    ‘You. Shouldn’t. Judge.’

    I had invited my parents over for dinner, noting to myself that I was no longer in therapy and would have to deal with the occasion, before and after, on my lonesome. My father had been drinking beforehand, reading through the local paper in a small pub next to the station; upon his arrival into my pink hallway, he loudly recalled the articles stuck in his mind: the closure of a postal sorting office, pet of the year, a ladder theft from atop a van between 16:40 Wednesday and Thursday morning. ‘That’s what I want to read!’ He put his coat on the rack, both of them, mother & father, entering my living room noisily, asking where the cat is. The earth dimmed its own light. Ana Frango Elétrico played. Sugar, lime & mint mushed at the bottom of a glass. Often times I wondered if my father had always been this way, whether he grew stranger with age, or I more sensitive to his ways; or both. After dinner, while my mother and I cleaned up, he slept on the sofa with his head fallen backwards, mouth open. ‘Shall I let the cat back in?’ ‘Not yet. Let’s clean up.’
    In the supermarket, beside the till, above the gum & batteries, was a black bucket of daffodil stems tied by a couple of blue elasticbands. Each was green, foetal perhaps, plucked prematurely, soft, smooth to finger. It was not yet mid-January when spring was pulled from her soil and shoved beneath our nose.