The slamming door clawed at her headache. It bounded and rebounded in the wake of the shopkeeper as he ran out into the street, wailing her name while clutching something between the palms of his hands. She turned her gaze away from his bawling lips and buried her foot into the accelerator. The idea of stopping the car didn’t appeal to her. Another scratching conversation, a grovelling apology for making him abandon his conveyer belt for a few seconds, a hurried thank you for saving her the handful of change that it must have been worth. She had stopped caring. More than anything, she wanted to sleep.
It was difficult to see through the dust that had built up on the windscreen, the shapes rolling past the car didn’t quite seem real. It reminded her of the time she had crashed her bike, a week before her parents finally realised that she needed glasses. The blurred lines had made the tree feel harmless, right until the moment she hit it. Her cheeks relaxed and she mindlessly rolled the car through a red light. An image of the shopkeeper’s red face flared and disappeared in her mind like a subliminal image sneaked into a film reel. She knew his type, the brimming sense of superiority that he would peel from the idea that she, god forbid, would forget something.
Neon lights from YouthNite dulled through the gritted screen as she pulled through the city centre. The queue had already started forming, strings of girls in crop-tops and bright dresses, smoking and laughing. It was an unremarkable club with bad music, she remembered, apart from the fact that she had met her husband in there, twirling and shaking with the rest of them. They sneaked a kiss and swapped their numbers before she was kicked out for sneaking a hip-flask into the club under her bra-strap. She would always tease him for dislodging it. The car accelerated and the club minimised into the distance along with the libraries and cinemas of centre.
She glided onto the motorway and her fingers switched the radio on without her giving them permission to. It felt like a new luxury, she hadn’t listened to the radio since the birth. The mirthful voices were a jarring reminder of how she used to speak, how people used to speak to her before human interaction had become a chain of baby babbling and bargaining. The guests she had invited into her car pricked each other with pointed jokes and she watched it like a sport.
As she pulled into the driveway, the panting shopkeeper’s face floated and burst again in her mind. She knew her husband would drip out some sly remark at the fact she’d forgotten some minutiae of his list, of course he would, men always have something to say. Well, she’s allowed to forget things: he could drive, couldn’t he?
Flicking off the engine, she took a minute to breathe; her eyelids slumped to rest on her crow’s feet. Remember, the doctor had said, all knowingly, if the baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping. If only it was that simple. A bag with nappies and formula milk was strapped into the baby seat, the rest of the groceries were scattered between discarded toys and patches of chucked up milk. Gathering her scavenged goods, she bundled herself into the living room. Her husband was folded uncomfortably on the floor, screwing together a high chair for their newborn. Prising himself from his hands and knees, he took some of the bags and pecked her on the cheek. They walked to the kitchen together in silence.
“Is this everything?”
“Uh, I think so, yeah,”
He placed them gently on the kitchen floor, “Where’s the baby?”
Artwork by Sholto Gillie