She worries about her daughter, why wouldn’t she? She fears, no she knows, somehow she has always known, that she is cursed.
It is nonsense of course, she doesn't believe in curses, but she has had an extraordinary amount of sheer bad luck.
For a few years things were good, once they had recovered from the shock of Harvey’s death. Not recovered exactly, but slowly laughter returned to the flat. That first time when a bird somehow came in through the back window, began flying around in the living room, the three of them trying to chase it out and at the same time stop the bird from hurting itself flying into the windows. Lewis trying to be manly but also freaking out and ducking and scrambling around over the sofa when the bird came straight at his head. Paula Adonor and Laura, who must have been seven or eight at the time, laughing and supertense at the same time until after twenty minutes or so they managed to chase it out of the front door and stood there, the three of them, out of breath and sweaty, arms around each other, watching the bird wing its way across the edge of the estate and disappear behind the flats across the road
Where did it come from, this little bird, shattering the grief they had all been sunk in? When she thinks back she remembers that in her mind over and over as the bird slowly disappeared she was saying gooodbye, goodbye, goodbye and thank you, thank you. That night in bed she wept but the quality of her weeping was different now, if before it had been traumatic, uncontrollable, tearing through her, now it was deep and emollient, a hopeful weeping, tears that watered and restored her rather than emptied her out.
Goodbye, goodbye. Life is all goodbyes, to the moment, the minute, the day before, the years and all the lives that gave them shape. And this moment, this Summer, this year? This year she has found herself nostalgic, perhaps not nostalgic really, but niggled at by the past, by twenty years ago, by her youth. She feels indebted. She has no time to feel that way, another sense of obligation, another duty she could well do without, but the pressure of the unresolved seems to mount in her month by month and a probably futile, probably wasteful demand that she set everything in order, tie up loose ends, honour the past has been needling her. Among all the other things she needs to do, among all the other worries she has, her daughter not least among them, still she seems to have found time to think about Vernon again, almost to brood, to dwell upon him. On her way to work in the morning when she is trying to read or catch up on work-related issues she finds her thoughts are drifting back toward him. A few weeks ago her heart thudded up into her throat glancing up as the train pulled into London Bridge, seeing a boy somewhere in his mid-twenties who looked a lot like Vernon, as though somehow he had never aged and could reappear like this, to sit down beside her and explain it all away. She has found herself now and then gazing at men around her own age and wondering perhaps if they might not in fact be him, trying to imagine precisely what he might look like now.
Of course it is this email, coming in out of the blue from Alex Hargreaves and the reminder of the website she set up, that Lewis helped her set up a few years ago, to put Vernon's stuff online. Perhaps so she could rid herself of it. Not have to take it with them when inevitably, the flat is sold out from under them and they have to move further out, to the coast. Digitize it then throw the actual objects away, if she could bring herself to.
That long week of waiting for Vernon to return and the realisation that somehow, mysteriously he was not coming back. At first she was incredulous that he would just cut her out of his life and then it became clear that he had disappeared somewhere on the road, drifted away into the night. She went over and over it for years of course, trying to trace his moves, understand what had been going on in his mind, the fragile nature of his psyche, back in those days, his natural intensity, the drugs, the obsessive behaviour, the recklessness.
Imagine him, poor Vernon, back in 1996 ,walking on the road somewhere between Castleford Station and Jerry’s rundown farmhouse with his army kit bag slung over his shoulder, his mind on fire, breathing softly in the dark, in the final stage of distributing all his worldly goods and then suddenly, somewhere between the point of departure and his destination, simply stepping out of the world. No body ever found, no contact ever resumed with anyone. When they asked Howard, what was his state of mind, what was he saying? he told them, well, you know, he was being Vernon. Hyped up, talking a lot of complicated things, not always coherent or comprehensible, he seemed to be himself, he looked no worse than usual. They pressed him on it, they wanted there to have been some telltale moment some key to what came later, but Howard had nothing to say. He shrugged. Look, he said, we got wrecked in the bookshop and he set off for Jerry's, I don’t remember that much about it. I didn't know, I wish I had known but I didn’t, couldn’t know it would be....
The last time. Those last times, how can we know, how can we value what we have when the future is so opaque, when all our assumptions turn out to be wrong, when our plans dissolve and we are constantly anchorless, rudderless? How can we grasp any moment and understand, this is the last time we will embrace, or make love, the last time I'll see you, speak to you, hear you say my name, touch your living flesh. The last chance I have to stop you, call you back, to confess my love, to offer comfort. Let me in.
Let me in. She rolls over in bed and hears, she thinks, her daughter rolling over, restless too in her room, the walls in these old flats so thin, and Lewis moaning in his room, locked away forever now inside himself. Someone goes past drunk and singing at one fifteen on a Tuesday morning, the antisocial, irresponsible bastard. People have work. Let me in, into your thoughts, into your fears, into the ways you’re being driven. Let me in to time, let me see how this goes so that I might avert things, twist you round, hold you away from danger and despair.
But no. Again and again no. You are locked outside any access to that which is most vital to your own life and there is only relishing the moment, here we are, alive still, full of love still, the end has not yet come for us, let us relish this bittersweet evanescence. The moment, the moment. She’s drifting off to sleep and moments return to her, swirling in, mingling and overlapping ,a comforting confusion of place and time and persona, losses restored, the dead sprung to life, the past intensely and vividly present. Then sleep and muffled dreams backed by her son’s soft and continuous moaning.