was once a familypublished: 2012-10-13
I sit at the head of what was once my dinner table, opposite the woman who was once my mother- in-law, celebrating the birthday of the man who I was once married to. His sister is there too. Her children. My son so desperately wanted me to come. And so my ex invited me. For our son.
Everything I look at reminds me of once: was once happy, was once cooking for our friends, was once a family. The cupboard we bought, I remember how we found it hidden away in an antique store. It was the first big thing we ever bought together. The glasses it holds: they were given to us by my parents. Too retro for them, cool for us. As a child, I remember how my parents would only use them for fancy dinners with their friends. We also used them for fancy dinners with our friends.
The leather couch which felt like you were sitting on satin. The reading light next to it. I can see myself sitting in the right corner, my feet curled up beneath my ass, leaning to the right, watching TV. The secret closet that was potentially a 50s style whisky-bar we never got around to making. The placemats. I bought the cheap kind from Ikea, he found similar ones from Villeroy & Boch. Why do I miss those placemats so much? Why do I wish the picture frames I had hand-picked one by one, from various second hand stores and markets, were in my home and not there?
As I am about to leave, our son calls to me from upstairs. He says “mum! A kiss?” I slowly climb the stairs. My ex looks worried, “but I think he’s asleep?”
“No he’s not,” I say, “he just called me.” I want to say: believe me, I don’t want to go upstairs as much as you don’t want me to. Because I’ll see the headrest I insisted we keep, left there by the previous owners. And god doesn’t it look good? Wasn’t I right? I’ll notice the painting my mother painted for us, which is in the bathroom. It is of a man and a woman, naked, intertwined in an embrace. In blues. Embrace in blues.
I’ll step into our son’s room and see the cupboard I fixed up by sticking pirates onto it. Turned it into a story. Our story. My story.
I kiss my son, go back down and put my jacket on. I notice the one little picture frame in the hallway, the one I liked most. It has a picture in it of my son and my ex. I remember the day we took that. Why do I want to steal it? Why do I even care? Why do I still cry?