4. In which I return to my childhood
When I was seventeen I took the second vaccination. I cannot say that it was anything like the first because it was not but the side effects were just as severe. I went back to Cardiff without anyone’s approval and stood in the road outside the house where I had, ten years previously, watched a door frame stain with my sister’s blood and my mother’s reddened hand prints.
The building site where Mai’s corpse was hidden is now a well-polished, middle-class assortment of blue garages and window boxes. There are children’s bikes and twenty pound notes and a small, patchwork ghost who traipses the pathways of my brain.
In Cardiff I downed an ocean of liquid gold in the hope that it would turn me numb but, in the end, all I could think of was that I owed my pain to a little girl in my class who’d cared enough about Mai and me to tell her mother about us. She’d let slip the fact that we were starved both of a healthy lifestyle and of a healthy family and her mother also must have cared enough to interfere. It was not until a decade had passed that I, watching a child feeding ducks over my sister’s grave, registered the lethal injection of that vaccination. I’d been given an overdose of care on that day ten years previously and I had been making mistakes ever since. When I look back now I feel I ought to remember the name of that girl but my childhood was a scrap book of faces that held me at distance and I remember her no more than I remember the shoes I wore to school that day. I ought to know who saved and ruined me but I don’t because I have never cared much about those I surround myself with. They’ve always been emotional buffers; objects to haul myself upright with.
In Cardiff I decided that, had I known the name, I would have sworn to despise her and her mother with all my miserable years. I realise now that I am incapable of mustering up such hatred because doled out too much of it elsewhere. I also now recognise that that woman never intended to because a murder and so I cannot blame her for it. She was trying to love me because calling the enemy you’ve never faced and daring to correct them with kindness takes considerable compassion. Guts too. That’s something I’ve only learnt through practise.