I found myself thinking closely about Shani for the rest of the week.

I said before that if a girl I fancied had been really upset, I would’ve made my move. I would’ve exploited tragedy and heartbreak. Of course I would. I’m human. I’m cruel. I do stupid things without considering what they might truly mean. But I’m not the only one.

Shani does it too. Or, rather, she did it the day we found out that a ninth-grader had died in school.

I think I can use my parents to illustrate what I mean about my not-girlfriend.

They have their art studio at the back of the house behind the kitchen. Dad works in finance now along in the town of Lewes, and Mum still paints when she’s not out with her walking group. She’s so very much better than she was a year and a half ago when we picked her up from Sligo Mental Hospital. Okay, she’ll never be perfect again, but she’s recovering very surely.

I don’t know if her ongoing painting is a dwindling sign of insanity or not, but I know her art is no longer an arrogant passion. I think she’s come to realise that it can be no more than an amateur hobby now, and consequently her work, I have noticed, has become less sloppy and abstract and a bit more inspired. Her paintings are still childish and unworthy of external purchase, but they seemed to convey a little more than an unanswered plea for attention.

Yes, all those years that I moped in my mouldy bedroom feeling bitter because my parents did not seem to see my lonesomeness, those same parents were in just the same crisis as I.

That is one of my greatest regrets. Family are people who stick by one another whatever the situation. Family value one another above all – and their friends truly respect them for that.

What family had I? So blindly self-centred were we all that we could only soak ourselves in indulgent misery while the others suffered. Why could we not open our eyes and look around to each others’ suffering? Why could we not see and support one another through the clinging fog of bereavement? Why did we dwindle so jealously in the depths just to spite those who would not lend us support, though those others never even saw our suffering?

That can only be labelled as spite for an unseen crime, like smacking a child for repeating what they have heard to the wrong people.

I had a dysfunctional family indeed. Maybe I still do. But we’re improving. We’re all improving.

I seem to have strayed from the point. And yet all this does fray therefore from my main thread.

My parents used to have what they called ‘artistic temperaments’. For my mother this meant frequent fits of staring, locking and barricading doors rather excessively, installing a cat flap in her bedroom door and expecting us to use it or don’t bother her, and forced forgetfulness. My dad used to complain of insomnia and depression – two conditions that I knew to affect me severely, but I never mentioned it. I only cursed his claims in a glaring silence.

These ‘symptoms’ annoyed me greatly, but my mum was the worst; perhaps her ‘artistic temperament’ was influenced by her developing mental disorder. But I know I can’t attribute it all down to that. I can make a few allowances, but I know what she was doing to me.

“I saw a magical view from the upstairs window this morning,” she would say to the hallway, in the shallow, bright voice I learnt to despise. “The sun was just rising across the land, a golden ball of fire against the bright blue sky. And I felt its rays coming right across the top of the rooftops and weave through the chimneytops, and come to my window to greet me to the day. It was the most miraculous thing I’ve ever seen.”

The End

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