DISTANT

By: Diego Melita

 

I am sitting on my bed, looking out the window. It is raining outside and the greyness of the sky makes everything look gloomier. I watch the drops slipping fast as they collide with each other. In the background, a long line of cars advances and stops to allow pedestrians to cross the street. Nobody seems to realise that the sky is getting darker and the rain will soon be heavier.

I hear the phone ring and my mum’s voice, speaking broken English, coming from the room next door. She must be talking about work. She has been very busy recently, and she has not looked after me a lot. She just stays in the room next to mine, sitting for hours in front of her laptop. When I try to catch her attention, she pushes me away saying things like “I can’t right now my dear, go back to watching the TV,” or “my dear, go back to play, I’m busy now.” Her calm voice hides the fact that she wants me to go as soon as possible.

Her job dragged me to London. I remember the first day here. As we left the airport, we immediately went to take the tube to get to the city centre. It was packed. People who waited for the train were spending their time on their phones or listening to music and some were staring into space. I couldn’t help noticing the big tunnels at the opposites of the platform. In spite of the fact that the whole place was well lit, the holes were completely dark. I was scared. My mother was looking at them too and kept silent until the train arrived. I wanted her to hold my hand, because I was scared of being dragged away and swallowed into the emptiness. I pulled her jacket and called her. As I looked at her, I reached out for her hand, but she didn’t notice and, after glancing at me with a tired look on her face, she went back to stare at something before her.

The days following we just ran up and down the city. Mum kept on telling me that she needed to do important stuff and in that moment we couldn’t waste our time. I was tired of getting on and off trains and walking between all those people. I almost got lost once, while I was trying to keep pace behind her. Even though it was just for a few seconds, I had felt completely alone. I looked around, trying to stand on the tip of my toes, looking for her in vain. I had started calling her, catching the attention of some passers-by. Among them, an old lady with a wrinkly face had told me something which I didn’t get. Scared, I ran away. Luckily enough, my mother had stopped some metres away to ask for directions. I hugged her, then she ran her fingers through my hair hastily, without saying anything. Didn’t she notice I got lost? I was happy anyway – she could have told me off about it.

We arrived a couple of weeks ago and I don’t feel at ease here: there’s nobody who speaks my language and I don’t understand any TV programs. I have no friends, I don’t have my toys, I don’t like what I eat and the house is too small.

I get up from the bed and I approach the door to watch my mum for a while. Her eyes are chained to the screen. I need to call her, even if there’s no reason for doing that, but I just wait for her with a pitiful gaze on my face, hoping to catch her attention eventually. Meanwhile, the rain has become more violent and the sky is completely black. I try to call her but she doesn’t reply, and this arouses in me some strange sensation of embarrassment. I don’t know why. She’s my mum. It doesn’t make any sense for me to feel like this. Either my voice was overwhelmed by the sound of the storm or she totally ignored me. The air in the room seems to be detached from myself. I feel like there is no way to reach out to her, not even to say hello. There is some kind of force that prevents me to get close to her.

The embarrassment turns into discomfort and I begin to wonder if it is worthwhile retrying. I don’t know if I want her attention anymore. I should not bother her while she works, I don’t want to make her angry and distance myself from her. In the end, I work up the courage, but, as I open my mouth to speak, a bright and sudden flash shines upon the room with a deep and unnatural rumble, and it literally crushes me, echoing in my head.

I run away, slamming the door behind me and then I throw myself under the covers. I shut myself in a fetal position, I plug my ears and I bar my eyes to not see. The lightning continues to crash and the walls to vibrate. A strange bitter cold comes over me from tiptoe which I pull back immediately, then I start to shudder. I try to wrap myself as much as I can into the covers, my only protection. I wish I had my mum next to me. I think of how I got to a city where everyone speaks a language I don’t know and where my mum is so detached. She should have asked me what I thought of moving here and of her new job. Instead, she told me at the last minute, all smiles of excitement for some reason I couldn’t understand.

I’m still under the covers with eyes closed and I hear the thunder starting to move away. It’s not raining heavily anymore and that unexpected frost of terror seems to have disappeared.

I swallow and I feel a bit safer now, so I open my eyes and take off the covers. I am surprised to see my mum at the door, with her arms folded. She was there watching me all the time, wasn’t she? I run to her at once, taken by an irresistible urge to hug her. She reacts with naturalness, lifting me up and holding me. I start complaining of the new city, the house and her coldness towards me. Then she starts to rock me and she relieves me with her placid voice. She explains that she has an important opportunity and that if she works hard in the next two months, she will have much more time for me after. She says I have to be patient and she apologizes for not having warned me in time. Her hug and her speech give me strength. I stop complaining as she lets me curl on the bed, then she leaves, kissing my forehead. I watch her as she leaves the room and I realise that the wall between us never existed.

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