I watch myself from the corner of the room sitting in the armchair, at the foot of the stairwell. A small white moon shows over the fencing outside. No matter how dark the room gets I can always see. It looks emptier when I put the lights on so I don’t do it if I can help it. Brightness disagrees with me: it hurts my eyes, wastes electricity and encourages moths, all sorts of things. I sit in the dark for a number of reasons.
The curtains are too wee to close properly so the draught from the attic filters right through to the chair and makes me cold. Streetlight gets in and makes the furniture glow at the edges, like bits of sunk ship rising out of the wash of green. You notice it more with the TV off. The carpet is ancient with a sort of Persian design. In the daytime it has red and blue shapes in the centre and green lines weaving them together like ivy. Now it looks like seaweed. The threadbare bits are charcoal and there’s a black patch. Liquid black. Still wet. It seeps when I put my shoe near, bleeding at the rim of leather, sucking at the sole. I rock my foot back and forth in the wet till it skids and jerks my knee. A sharp kind of pain. I get stiff sitting for ages: my knuckles rust. Clutching at the armrests as though I’m scared I’ll fall. I can’t think where I’ve left my watch.
The green numbers on the stereo flash 3:20. But it goes fast. I know perfectly well it doesn’t matter what the real time is. This is all beside the point. The fact remains it’s so late it’s early and I have to move. I have to go upstairs. I have work tomorrow and I have to go upstairs.
I look at the ceiling where upstairs is, then back at my hands. I have to concentrate: one finger at a time, releasing pressure and rebalancing in the chair to accommodate the tilting, adjusting, redistributing pieces of myself. Hands are bastards: so many separate pieces. The muscles in the thighs tightening as the feet push down and the stomach clenching to take the weight then I’m out the chair, shaky but upright. My knees ache. I move, ignoring the carpet as it tries to nudge through the soles.
Square window on the landing, flat royal blue. Shadows of trees on the wall. It’s always a good idea to stop here, looking up at the window before you start on the stairs; steady yourself and work out the tactics. Sometimes I get the notion I have to take the stairs in one or something terrible might happen. Other times I take them one at a time and count, making sure they’re all still there. Tonight, there’s nothing. I haul up with the handrail for a rope and get filthy from the upstairs skirting. strings of oose shelter in corners, waving ghost arms. It’s time I got this place clean.
Five doors radiate from the top of the landing and every door is closed. I am meticulous about the doors because of the noise they make when the wind rises, rattling and tapping on the wood surround. They knock. There’s a mirror in the bathroom that’s best avoided. I go straight to the bedroom, kicking off shoes despite the fact that it’s freezing–you can’t sleep in your shoes– then slice between the quilt and mattress, making myself flat cardboard. I read in a magazine once that to get warmer, you shouldn’t curl into yourself but lie out full to spread the heat. I look out of the window, checking for a change in the sky, then close the curtain, reaching out with one stiff arm. I listen for the birds to come outside on the ledge. It always takes a long time.