I leave his house without kissing him goodbye and hurry down the empty street. I hear him bolting the door behind me and I am glad to be alone.
I sit on someone’s garden wall and rummage around in my bombsite of a handbag for a working lighter before giving up and walking down to the bus stop, kicking the leaves up as I go.
I contemplate my desire to join the army, thinking that the army would be the best place for me, that they’d sort me out. Then I remember that I can’t join the army because I’m too mentally ill, I failed all the preliminary psych tests and they would never take me on even for office work because I’m a liability, a loose fucking cannon.
Plan B: become a florist. That’ll calm me down. But first I’ll have to prove that I can be trusted with scissors.
And so I stand there, on the borderline between Greater London and Hertfordshire, between sane and insane, between tired and wired, waiting for the last bus which may have already gone.
I shut my eyes with little effort: they are almost closed anyway, swollen from the crying. The mist helps. I make a mental note to ask my dad what the difference is between mist and fog but I probably won’t remember to do so as my brain is as good at retaining information as a colander is at holding sand.
All I can hear are faraway planes, fast trains and distant sirens. I wonder what tonight would sound like in 1916: deathly silence and the cawing of a crow. Perhaps, hundreds of years ago, I would’ve heard the stars shifting and the creak of the exhausted planet turning on its rusty axis. The rumble of a procession of boy racers in their souped-up motors jolts me back to the present moment and I remember that everything is awful.
Somewhere in the world a house is on fire. I can see it burning, I can see the family watching as their life goes up in flames. The children are screaming and the mother is weeping and the father wants to go back inside to rescue his Rolex. The smoke stings my eyes but that’s not why I’m crying. Not really.
The headlights of the bus appear through the fog and as I search for my ticket I am unaware that my dad has 19 hours left to live.