Home. If you could call it that. The windows are broken again; I’ll have to board them up. Not that it matters, we haven’t been able to pay for heating for years. I step over the broken glass and lean on the door, it opens just enough for me to unhook the rusted latch and stumble inside.
“Hello?” No response, Dad must have left already. Dumping my bag by the door, I make my way around the piles of still packed boxes to the kitchen. A single plastic bag sits on the floor; I open it up to find a single tin of soup and a small bag of rice. The tin seems a little rusty and the label is faded, I can just make out the sell-by date…well; best not to think about it.
I leave the tin on the side for later and negotiate the stairs, jumping the broken step that leads to my room. I say room, more like cupboard. The walls are plastered with hand-written music, mostly mine, to hide the stains and cracks. My bed is a mattress, roughly cut in half in order to fit on the floor. Just by it, is a small case, containing the only luxury I brought with me from Šluknov: My flute.
I gently lift it onto the dusty windowsill and force it open. Although old and worn, I still see the dull metal as the most beautiful in the world. With care I assemble the instrument and warm it up. Slowly I peel off my glove from my left hand, revealing the scar tissue beneath. The skin covered in raised, vein-like patterns of mangled flesh, reaching all the way up past my wrist. I test my fingers, they’re a little stiff but I should be able to play.
After some consideration, I settle on a piece to play. I take it down from the wall, bringing a few chunks of plaster with it, and balance it against the case. I put the instrument to my lips and gently let the notes escape my mouth. They rise and fall at my command, dancing at my will. I feel my whole body begin to relax, begin to sway in time with the haunting melody. Our roles reverse, as I become slave to the small dots on the stave. They pull me, force me to let go of all the tension that has bound me. A rope that removes all the chains that build up over the day.
But the rope has an end, I reach the final note and let it linger as long as I can. I allow it time to echo, to resonate through my head and drive out the dark memories that I know, unlike the note, will never fade. I try to stop myself thinking of them, desperately try to forget the open fire, the warm mugs of steaming soup. But still, the next memory hits me, harder than any words, harder than any scars.
My mother’s smile. As she puts her arm around me and sings softly. Her gentle words washing over me, as my tears do now. I know there’s no point, these tears make very little difference. But they are all I have, so I give them, hoping someone, somewhere will accept their sacrifice. On my knees now, I let the flute drop next to me. So strange, how such a simple object can bring such joy, such peace, and then such pain. I lie back on the worn mattress, a spring digging into my spine with each choked breath. I try to breathe normally, but my throat is tight and all I achieve is frustration. So I lie there, mentally tracing the cracks in the ceiling, taking note of the grain of the floorboards – anything to replace her and her song.
I notice the sky darkening, I haven’t eaten anything, but I can’t persuade myself off the floor. Instead I wrap a threadbare blanket around myself, attempt to cocoon myself in the little insulation it provides. A niggling pain in my hand reminds me to replace my glove, but I can’t quite reach it. Damn. I’ll have to get up. I lever my body to a sitting position, ignoring the drops that obscure my vision. Clumsily I reach for the garment with my right arm, knocking it off the sill and into my lap. The orange reflection of the tiring sun in the windows across the road fades, replaced with a single dim, yellow, streetlight. How long have I spent looking at the stars? How many times did I marvel at their beauty? Before I realised. Before I realised how lonely they must be, carrying out their futile existence. Outshone every day, despite in reality being much brighter than our unremarkable sun. To truly shine, they would need to be closer, much closer. Stars are a lot like people in some ways. The problem is, I’m not sure where my sun is. Damn. Here I go again.
Maybe I should eat, seeing as I’m up anyway. I’m not really hungry though, I should save it for when I am. Returning the glove to my hand, I lie back again. Once again, trying to find comfort that lives far from here. I rest my head on my arms and close my eyes, not because I’m tired, but in the hope I can trick my brain into thinking I am. Big mistake.
As soon as my eyelids fall, the darkness is broken quickly, with the trembling blue eyes of my sister. With the blurred fists that flew, amongst the insults and outbursts. With the screaming red of burning heat. With my mother’s pale face as he pushes past her leaving us to clean up his mess. With the shattered glass as he throws the door open, glinting in the summer’s evening light. With the reds and greens that warned me of my imminent departure from consciousness.