You say potato, and all that.
“I can’t do this when you fight me. It’s impossible.” I annunciate, slowly and loudly, but there is still no sign that you have any understanding of what I mean.
“I can’t take your jumper off when you hold out your elbows to the side like that” I try again, and you reply with a sad and slow head shaking. You ask again how you got here and say you don’t remember how it happened. You want to know where you are and I try to explain, again, that you have been here for four years now and it’s your room.
Suddenly I need to cry, and turn to arrange things unnecessarily in a drawer. “Come on. Let’s get that jumper off, just don’t stick your elbows out, okay?” I try again, forcing my voice into a more compassionate register. You flop like a bag of rags onto the bed once more, your absence more damning than any harsh word.
“Did you clean your teeth? Remember, I asked you to go to the toilet and clean your teeth?” The pool on the tiles and the empty pot by the sink tell me all I need to know, and the head shaking returns.
“I don’t know what’s happened to me lately, I can’t remember things,” you offer.
We go through the motions, me repeating by rote our morning routine, even though you will forget once the light goes out. I shut the door behind me and breathe – go to my room and turn on the monitor that alerts me to any movement, any time, throughout the night. If you wake, I will listen quietly as you tell me that you have been taken, once again, by a man who wheels your bed into a field, where you watch a parade of women in white, who do not speak. You are not frightened, but they do not speak.
These days we seem to navigate so many spaces:
a 40-year-space in your brain that my dad once inhabited;
a place where my lost child was cherished;
unnamed faces smiling from family albums;
gaps in your address book, friends and family scored through.
A big space in my life, where my mother used to be.
(“Routine” was short-listed for the 2016 Deana Morris Prize for Fiction)