Please Call Your Mother

There is a large part of me that obsesses over anniversaries. There must have been a moment in some rosebud passage of youth that caused my subconscious to fixate on passages of time. Where my subconscious leads, the conscious is soon to follow. The dog is walking his owner.

‘I watch this Youtube channel where the guy makes these documentaries about police interrogations and the psychology of it all – they’re really good… And there’s this one… In LA, I think. And the homicide department is kinda calm – murders are down or something – so they start to go back over cold cases… and, long story short, they wind up nicking this woman for a murder she committed thirty years earlier. And so I thought that is what we could do, what I’d like to do, is go back into my past and try to sort out some of that shit.’ I sighed—‘And I’ve been wanting to do this for a while – thought about it since before Christmas – but then recently… I’ve been having trouble sleeping.’

The sofa looks out onto a car park in the middle of industrial units. The parking spaces are numbered with the unit to which they belong. Over each unit are halogen security lights that spread out like a croupier dealing cards face-up. In the midnight hours, taxi cabs park in the vacant lot; either they dull their engine, lock the doors and doze, or they pull up beside each other, roll their windows down a winter-inch and chat. It is those halogen lamps that bluely shatter over my nudity on its way to bed.

On a good morning, my northeastern window is cobalt and the right-angled wall is gold, each mirroring the other distortedly. On a bad morning, the mist comes in off the river and wrestles the industrial units into the ground. They are lost where they could once be found.

‘I’m good at sleeping – I told you this before, right? I’m really good at sleeping. I can sleep anywhere. And it takes me, like, two minutes to fall asleep. So, when I have trouble sleeping, I know that something is up.’ I was walking in circles. There was a half-empty bottle of ginger beer on the work surface. It was still cold. ‘Every morning for the past week or so, I’ve been waking up around four and then I keep waking up every half-hour or fifteen minutes. It’s strange. It’s never happened before like this – with this consistency – but it’s every morning now, and the dreams are haunting me.’

Wednesday was the six-month anniversary of my employment. I had pictured champagne for myself. Whether or not he remembered, my boss asked—‘So how do you think it’s going? How are you finding it? Be honest.’

I leaned back in my chair—‘Frankly – and I’m not blowing smoke up your arse – but if it weren’t for you, I see few reasons to remain at this company.’ I paused, and he let it hang there for a moment before responding—


I voiced my concerns one after the other, in a steady flow as though a tap had been turned. What I had not previously said to anyone, I was now confessing to my employer. After six months, I believe he has some understanding of who I am, and that I am not one to hold back or to mince my words. As I said them, I knew that he agreed, could hear his nodding on the other end of the line. ‘And when you take away the office, when you take away the banter and the camaraderie and the atmosphere, and you’re just left with you in your living room and the work… it’s not good.’ No resolution was achieved, for we often vent to the other, but at the end of it I attempted to add a note of hope. Really, I was hopeful, but that was what I found comforting at half-four in the morning. The dreams leave me with little hope when I awake; enveloped still in their shadow, I must shake them from my thoughts, although the line between what is real and what is not, my mind struggles to discern!

We said good evening, and I filled the sink for washing-up. The tap ran slow. The tap ran slower. The tap quit. No water. With some apprehension, I knocked at my neighbour’s door. The vacuum cleaner was going, tapping at skirting and furniture. He opened to me. It was the first time we had met. I introduced myself, but he did not extend the same courtesy, just looked at me puzzled from a clumsy carving of pink skin and red beard. I asked him if his water had cut off. He told me that it had, and he estimated that perhaps it was his fault. ‘Uh, I doubt it,’ I offered—‘Unless you’ve been in the riser cupboard and pissed about with all the valves.’ He was blank. I lied that it was nice to meet him and walked off. I unlocked the riser cupboard, checked my meter and my neighbour’s, then I checked the valves, and then finally I looked at the pressure gauge for the floor. It read: zero bar. I went back to my flat and called the water board. No one had reported anything. I was the hero.
There was no water to drink and I was quite thirsty. In the fridge were some non-alcoholic beers purchased accidentally. I longed to wash my hands. Dreams of champagne and cheers, of occasion and celebration, in good company. The alcohol-free beer did not quench my thirst. Before bed, I washed my teeth, face and hands in water from the coffee machine. I awoke at half-six, ninety minutes before my alarm.

It was a beautiful morning outside; one of those good mornings. At times, the birds would become agitated and there would be a flurry of excitement, otherwise there was not much else. There was work. Was it enough that the day made this trembling earth look so beautiful, so much like a Russian icon, with all surfaces and gravel varnished in gold, enough that the sky propelled fresh light out like a halo to the sleepy eyes of a small city turning towards Thursday to be born? I rocked tired in the cold draught through my open window.

It was a busy day. With my camera off, I took meetings with cigarettes and rushed cups of coffee. My phone was buzzing with mother or brother, but I had not the time to respond. At lunch, I sought a quick walk to the shop for a sandwich, and so I rushed in the brilliant sunshine – a relief indeed! – and breathed deeply the crystallised air, the heavens and embracing the rush of blood into those contorted muscles of my legs! My brother rang me again, but I ignored him in favour of music, which one can surely be forgiven for doing if they had ever heard his telephonic tones! At the desk, I ate a sandwich, picking the crumbs from my plate, taking glances out the window during insignificant moments to study the flock of birds that hurried conically down towards a discarded box of chicken shop chips. It was my turn to speak, to address a number next to the bust, the visible few, the blurred backgrounds and wandering eyes. As I spoke, I heard a distant doorbell. Strangers at this time! After the meeting ended sometime later, I grinned, having survived it all. It is always an indescribable respite after the last of a day’s meeting. My father called, but first I must call my brother back. He was enquiring if I would pick up some jewellery on his behalf; I replied that it was quite out of the question, unless he could wait until the next day. ‘Why didn’t you answer the door to me?’ he asked, and I apologised, that it had sounded so distant that I believed it was someone down the hall. We hung up and a message from my father—Please call your mother.
‘O, you’re alive!’ I scratched my chin; of course I was alive. ‘I was just putting on my coat to come and see you! Why didn’t you open the door to your brother! Why didn’t you answer my calls!’  I told her that I had been busy with work—‘Don’t you understand I have to keep the fucking economy afloat?’ She told me that she thought something had happened to me, that I was dead. ‘You can’t think I’m dead every time I don’t answer five successive phone calls.’ She was removing her coat. Am I okay, she asked. I was quite all right, busy, so forth. It was not the first time my mother had thought I was dead.

People I have shared a bed with have told me that I do not move during my sleep, that I will remain in one position for hours on end, from when they fall – after me – and awake. It causes great strain on my sedentary spine; it is such a knuckled and gnarled arrangement of bone, with its curvaceous conduit of precious cargo, that to not agitate it, even in blissful unconsciousness, is surely an affront to my body! And so it punishes me when I stir prematurely with thoughts of work and six month anniversaries. It is so sensitive! The skin on the inside of my thighs is also sensitive and I put my palms there, reconfiguring myself, large swipes of hands with the infantile thrill of exploration upon my body there. Carefully, against the pressure of dream’s hangover, I stare at the peek of dawn, cautious to not arise fully. I know why I awoke. You know why you awoke. And at that time, it is difficult to determine what kind of day it will be.