She wants to be the girl in the passenger seat, feet up on the dashboard, playing with the radio while he drives. Outside, the glass is clinging to a thousand little drops. She tries her best to count them before the windscreen wipers quickly flick them off. She watches him squash his eyes at out-of-date signposts and neither of them can admit that they are lost.
The place hasn’t changed much – heating still on the blink, stale biscuits in a chipped jar from the last time they stayed – but she loves making tea this way, placing the grubby tin kettle on the hob, listening for the hiss. They know each other’s movements so well. It’s the brilliant dance they do; they’ve been doing it for years.
She loves the way he leans himself against the kitchen door; she thinks of him reliving his childhood from the back porch. They’ve come here to remember, in all that November mud.
Tonight, she’ll build the fireplace and won’t let him help. They’ll play board games with the bits missing, not really trying. He’ll fall asleep, and she’ll sit up holding him to her chest like glass, holding grief like the whole house. She imagines being able to send grief in an envelope. How heavy would it be if you weighed it? Where would she send it?
She knows in the morning the clouds will sap the sun and the windows in the house will be wet. She knows they will walk their grief in other people’s wellies. Him, taking in the silver lichen trees; her, running and being angry at him for standing still.
The fire burns out. They go upstairs. Flop into a bed that’s damp with cold. Him worrying about the grey hairs, her worrying about ghosts. She decides it doesn’t really matter where they go. This will follow – even the sunniest place in the world won’t fix it. They are piles of wet washing with nowhere to hang themselves out.
He buys fat mushrooms from the supermarket, rich in vitamin D. This makes her cry. After the mushrooms, they walk in silence again, this time by the water. She tells him that swans mate for life and he gives her a look as lonely as the sky.
She moves her hand across the bed sheets. They’re like the ones she’d had as a kid. She remembers the clean smell when her Mum tucked the corners under, her pretending the bed was an island, the carpet the sea.
She pushes her face to his shoulder and hears him breathe. She wipes her nose on his sleeve. She wants to wake him up. Thinks they are like the random painting on the wall of two parrots with pastel coloured wings. She imagines them flying, but they are leaning on each other like two worn out trees, knowing that if one of them gets up to leave, well, that’d be it.
Laurie Bolger is a poet and performer based in London. This year Laurie is touring her one woman show ‘Talking to Strangers’ as well regularly performing from her debut poetry collection Box Rooms, showing that poetry can be your friend. ‘How Much Rain Can A Cloud Hold?’ is Laurie’s first short story.