I am composing this blog verbatim in my mind as I wait for silence.
My mother worked in a battery farm. She took me there once – goodness knows why.
It stank (and possibly still does). That said, even if it hadn’t stank, I would remember it as having stank. Nothing comes good of bad smell. Or perhaps we refuse to find fragrance in what is obviously ill.
Row upon row upon row of cages sparkling with bulbous eyes: there is truly nothing more dystopian in our green and pleasant land. The featherless grasping, the malformed beaks; my mother took me along the rows, with seemingly benign intent.
My mother never seemed to talk of much in any depth. Now even less. When she has to speak her bones, she has to grasp at half-remembered axioms, sayings, cliché.
But she walked me along rows of desperation and showed me what it meant to be made animal.
Years later, she took me to the old people’s home where she now worked. I met Ada, whose name I remember and face I forget. I felt dutiful chatting with Ada and gratefully took the sweets she gave me. I was on the cusp of my teenage years and impatient to be elsewhere amongst what I assumed to be the living.
My mother showed me the common room and the sleeping quarters of the elderly. Later, when she worked in a call centre, she allowed me to sit with her as she took distress calls from the frail. “Is that you, Mary?” they would ask her.
These distress call exchanges would all end with my mum saying “That’s fine then.” and ending the call.
That’s fine then: an axiom all her own and worthy of place next to Vonnegut’s “So it goes.” Phatic, inessential and profound. Nothing and everything.
My mother walked me around the battery farm and the old folk’s home. She told me nothing.
I had been waiting for silence and it had been within me all along.