I stand, open-armed, at the close of your week, absorbing your joyful sobs whilst placing a glass of something much-needed in your hand. Come dawn, like a lover, I whisper sweet birdsong nothings in your ear, occasionally relinquishing to let you slip once more into reverie. I rouse you with a nuzzle or a gentle squeeze, my hug the warmth of a heavy dressing gown or a long, aromatic bath. I smell of fresh coffee; bacon sizzling and crisping in the pan; or of warm, flaking almond croissants just out of the oven.
I am long, lazy columns in Sunday supplements; morning candles breathing sweet vanilla through the hall. I am easy conversation sieved from the previous week, slow words and phrases floating in and out of the kitchen as family members come and go. Mine is the song of lawnmowers, of infrequent buses and church bells that cry like lost cats across the city rooftops. I am the hoodie, the scuffed trainers, the most comfortable pair of jeans. I am heard in calls for the ball across a frosty practice field or in the euphoric roar on a terrace, and the clink of drained pint glasses at the clubhouse. I am crisp roasties and apple and cinnamon tart; or else I lie, languid and pensive, in the depths of a rich claret by the side of your sofa. I am all the pleasant thoughts of good friends and family that lull you into afternoon naps. I am the Sunday evening dramas that cushion you from the week to come. I am Summer plans and dreams of retirement rolled into one: the golden thread that stitches the mundane fabric of your life together until it becomes something beautiful.
…I am also the ground that gives way beneath your feet as you hover beyond the school gate. I am the slow, dreaded walk back to brooding tower blocks that stand as sentinels to your Hades. The black dog waiting beneath your bed, I shift and growl this way and that, unable to settle; ready to worry and stretch the long hours of night into the dreaded grey silence of dawn. I am lonely hearts columns and re-read romantic novels; reflections of haunted faces staring from windows. Mine is the sound of soft sobbing through a thin wall, the coming and going of random voices at odd hours, the thudding of a fist against a door. I am the soiled t-shirt at the back of drawer; the dregs of last week’s cold take-away. I am crushed lager cans, cigarette burns and spent needles, unopened eviction notices and running mascara.
My song is that of midnight music channels, of sirens and stand-offs; high-rise dramas that edge ever closer to the strange-familiar box you try to call home. I smell of sickly-sweet energy drinks, of polystyrene cartons and burnt ready-meals. I drag you through crowded shopping malls and soft-play theme-pubs where you are passed between ambivalent carers as an unwanted gift.
I should be loved by you, but I stuff your empty hours with tight balls of fear and anxiety.
I am the cracks that are beginning to show, the failure that bookends the part of your life that too many have already given up on. I am the maggot that feeds on your broken flesh until you are no more than those who created you.
I am the week.
I am the niggling thoughts that precede the six o’clock alarm. I am rushed coffee, school runs, insincere questions about others’ weekends. I am last minute photocopying, looming deadlines, pointless meetings on close horizons. I am toppling piles of books, lost worksheets, snapped protractors and giant penises scrawled on the backs of chairs. I can be a frown, a burst of laughter; the pulling together or the tearing apart. I am a rushed salad tuppaware lunch. My questionable scent is that of perspiration, of inspiration, of cheap deodorant sprays and bleached changing rooms. I fill the air with noise: bells, cheers, groans, why-can’ts, what-ifs. I am caring and ambivalent; the doing-too-much and the not-doing-enough. I am your passport to the weekend.
…I am also the delicious warmth inside the radiator by Main Entrance. I am an open smile flashed from behind Reception. Mine is the song of long lists of familiar names being called, bells to the second, questions and answers. I am snacks and drinks machines and hot dinners, harassed canteen staff and queue camaraderie; I am questions and answers, classroom banter; the try-it-again, the you-can-do-it, the calm and patience. I huddle with the gamers in damp schoolyard corners, I am the stolen glances and shy smiles across familiar rows of desks. I am your order, your safety, the knowing what happens over each hour, each week, each year. I am the relief of sure-fire routine, of being the same on the outside, if not within. The one who is your direction, your moral compass. The one who has your back. I am the week.