CN: Parental emotional abuse
I have been clearing out my bookshelves since the morning; it is four forty-five in the afternoon. I am sitting down, tired, shaky, waiting for the terror I have twisted myself into to slowly unfurl. Things are strewn across the floor – bin bags, pens, elastic bands, a bear. My eyes rove and fixate on objects; I try to decide what to do with them and get lost in spirals of panic, then gradually pull myself back to calm each time. I have spent more time sitting like this than I have actually clearing. This is completely normal and to be expected; for a clearout day, things are going well. I breathe slowly and pick up one object at a time.
I have just moved into a house with my boyfriend. His mum has come to visit us, bringing a car-load of his stuff, the second or third car-load. I help unload, but have to stop: standing in the living room surrounded by carrier bags of children’s books, cuddly toys, magazines, projects, crockery, cushions, table top gaming models.I burst into tears. When he comes to comfort me and asks what’s wrong, I have no energy to pretend:
“I’m jealous that your mum brought all this stuff. I’m jealous that she brought it today, and I’m jealous she kept it all these years for you.”
I am moving to France, which is a betrayal. It is five thirty in the morning at Heathrow airport. My mother has come with me in a taxi, which I didn’t want, but cannot complain, because after all I am committing a betrayal. My suitcase is 2 kilograms overweight; there is a charge. I have 2 full bottles of shampoo in there which I begin to take out to avoid the charge. My mother does not want me to take them out. She wants to imagine me arriving with everything I need. She says she will pay the charge. I say no need (we are poor; I am twenty).
She bursts into tears and cries loudly in the airport. Everyone is looking at us, she says. You do not follow my advice, she says, because you do not love me. I just want the best for you. She will not stop crying. I pay the charge.
She stops crying. I’m sorry, she says. I just had to get you to listen somehow.
Never autosave your passwords. She is angry about things that she read in my email inbox. She throws a glass across the room. It doesn’t break, so she picks it up, throws it again, and hits the jackpot. She leaves to pick my sister up from therapy, and on the way out of the door, tells me to clear up the pieces of glass. I brush them into the dustpan on my knees, which is no more than I deserve.
My diaries, in which I try to emulate Georgia Nicholson, Bridget Jones or Jacqueline Wilson depending on mood, have a habit of falling open into her hands. Even the ones I hide. Especially the ones I hide. Nothing I own is mine and this is normal.
There is shouting and the sky is falling. I am wrapped like a cocoon around my little sister. I can see myself in the memory as if from above. In that moment I am a house, I am a garment, I am everything we own.