You Would Leave All This
‘It’s in London.’ I listen to the pull of her breath, the slight crackle of tobacco. ‘It might not be forever,’ I say.
She lets out a snort. ‘Nothing’s forever.’
I think of my wedding day. Two weeks after Dad’s funeral. I’d persuaded myself we should carry on. He’d have wanted it – and all that rubbish. I walked down the aisle on my own, and when we came to the forever part I felt like I had a stone lodged at the back of my throat.
‘You’ve hardly been in that flat five minutes,’ she says and busies herself cutting the remains of her Panini into small squares. ‘And Dan’s just built that trellis – for the wisteria.’
He had spent an entire weekend, cursing at sticks of bamboo and lengths of string, a library book – Projects For Small Gardens – propped open with a hammer. ‘If there’s nothing for it to hold onto, the whole shebang will just fall over,’ he’d insisted. I’d pointed out it was a balcony, not a botanical garden, and gone back to my essay marking.
She’s right though, we’ve barely moved into the place - an open plan flat carved out of the top floor of an old cotton mill. Rough red brick and white stud walls. Three large windows made from smaller rectangular panes. We were sold on the view – Ancoats’ mix of Italian hill town and Northern industrial cityscape: slated roofs, the occasional glass angle, and then the canal like a thin strip of audio tape. My mother couldn’t understand why we’d want to live in an old factory, with all that noisy history, never mind noisy Saturday nights. She lives in Levenshulme, in a straightforward kind of a house: three bedrooms, a kitchen diner and a porch; a primary school at the end of the street, a fence around the circumference of her front lawn.
‘We might rent it out,’ I say, ‘At least for a while.’ I sound like I’m making excuses and I don’t want to. I stab at a piece of lettuce. I should have gone years ago. Mike and Jessie got away lightly – leaving early. She’s in the habit of me being here – same way I am – our weekly lunches, bits of DIY, mowing her lawn, fiddly stuff.