She enters the dark house silent as a cat. The persona she was moments earlier vanishes, a coat-skin slips off her shoulders to the floor. Muscle by muscle she morphs into mother-mode. Her body braces itself as imagined fields challenge hers. “Surely they’re all fast asleep.” Guilt reminds her that they were left all alone. “But I was just across the road.” She’ll exit that option only to set another scene for guilt to star.
Tao had forgotten to exit her Facebook page. In the dark, the screen magnetizes Eleanor’s attention. A slideshow runs left-of-screen. Girls with dark make-up, mouths always open, eyes engaged, present their countenances to anonymity, casting into the infinite virtual world of ‘friends’.
Eleanor can’t stop. Aware of the downright vicarious crassness of her curiosity she plunges headlong into a parallel life as she deciphers her daughter’s handwriting. Horror and pleasure merge. Word by word, a secret world unfolds. Being a mother means knowing everything.
On the train, feeling small Tao puffs herself out, like a pigeon, using a grounding exercise she learnt in ‘modern’ when she still conformed to the image of the perfect little dancing girl (like the one on the music box – all pink). In this carriage, pink has been permanently erased from the chart. And anyway she can’t imagine how she ever could have desired those pink shoes? She now has to suffer walls that each day remind her of the folly of her pre-teens. She wishes her mother would catch the train to experience the crush and the sustained threat that the crowd emits, real or imagined. In her head, it’s real.
Her eyes have definitely shrunk, or does she control the light she allows in or out in her mother’s presence? “ She has blinded her soul from me, I am left with a death stare,” her mother tells herself, trying to control the waves of nostalgia that assail her and leave her alone in her primal abandonment.
The ciphers of her daughter’s new tribe, the shaping of the words by her tongue, the unfamiliar slope to her shoulders, elude Eleanor totally.
Tao has left. Her presence flourishes in the gargantuan swathe of entwined, unfurled, amorphous cloth on the bedroom floor, a picture of the turmoil her mother feels as she tries to piece together a boundary she does not manage to stake.