Once upon a time, in the house of dust, there lived a boy and his mother.
But then, back then, the house was just a house and the mother was a woman and almost, sometimes, a wife.
And if you stood in the garden and looked over the roofs you could see into the school playground and sometimes,the mother, the woman, the almost wife would stand there and watch, trying to see the boy in the playground.
She was never sure if this watching was a good thing or a bad thing and she never told the boy that she watched.
She was never sure if that was a good or a bad thing.
But mostly, she stood in her own bedroom, waiting and watching. Her eyes travelling along the cul de sac and onto the main road that led past the school and into the town.
In those days, those once upon a time days ,there was no phone, no inter-connectedness, so there was only waiting and watching, playing those tricksy games, trying to fool the fates
” If I see a lorry on the main road, he will definitely come today”
“If I walk downstairs and refuse to look out of the window, he will come just when I’m not looking”
” If I say, very loudly, I’m going to bake an apple pie, he will be here to eat it this evening ”
And sometimes, just often enough to make the watching and the waiting not an act of madness, she would see him, see him turn into the cul de sac, suitcase in each hand, his pace slowing as he reached the garden gate, him trying not to look annoyed as the gate squeaked, needing oiling, still hanging on one hinge.
And once she saw him, she wanted to run out of the house, leap on him, smother him with kisses, but, in the cul de sac it was the 1950s, it was still the 1950s into the 60s and even the 70s and her neighbors already watched her watching and she knew that the boy played alone in the playground, walked to and from the school behind the gaggle of children from all the other houses and so, she waited behind the front door, counted to 10 before she moved down the hallway, trying to look as if she had been disturbed in the middle of some housewifely task.
And when the man, the father , the almost husband was there, she watched the boy, watching him, waiting. The boy drawn even further into himself, sometimes, when she stood in the kitchen at night, watching the man standing at the very edge of the garden, smoking into the darkness, she would see the boy, back against the fence staring at the father, the man, but, all her attention needed to be on the man, all her attention needed to will him, this time , to stay.
Sometimes, she wondered what the boy saw, wondered what he read in the man’s angry gestures, the cigarette thrown into the bushes, stub glowing red for a second or two before the damp leaves extinguished it, the slamming of doors, the silent eating of indifferently cooked mince.
She wondered what the boy learnt as she watched him, watching the man, the father, the almost husband and sometimes she wanted to ask him, but, there was really no space between when the man was there and when he was gone, she drifted back into her own waiting and watching and the moment was gone.
Eventually, the man, the father, the almost husband stopped coming at all and the boy became taller, almost a man himself and she found herself watching for him.
She found herself standing at the bedroom window, neck craned to catch the first glimpse of him as he turned into the cul de sac, his brief case always in his left hand, his pace slowing as he reached where the garden gate used to be, stepped over the rotting wood and took the front door key from under the broken flower pot.
One day, when she was standing, watching and waiting, she almost didn’t recognise this almost stranger, almost man walking towards the house.
She wonders what he remembers of the father and starts another round of waiting.
The house slips further into becoming the house of dust.