They have come in to the book shop as an obvious means to attempt yet another reconciliation, to “bond”, as Katie liked to call it. She was determined to brush off how choosing the store had become an unnecessary, frustrating ordeal as she and her mother, Lucy, can never, had never, will definitely never agree on anything. Katie found it ridiculous that her mother would voluntarily pick a spiritless, faceless, overcrowded, multiple-storied building over a cosy, dusty, badly-lit independent shop not far from their home. “Your shopping habits are as unevolved as you are” – whispered Katie under her breath, but loud enough so her mother was sure to hear. “And your pretentiousness has sure evolved ahead of you, a child of communism stubbornly pretending to move in hipster circles, give me a break” – Lucy snapped back. “One-one” – thought Katie diverting her empty gaze down on the grey asphalt beneath her shuffling feet.
She couldn’t quite trace in memory to way back when exactly the relationship between her and her mother had become more difficult than what she’d considered “expected”, and then more impossible than what she’d considered “difficult”. Adolescence? Childhood? Omg, the womb???
They entered the book shop. Yes, it was stuffy and badly-lit, almost suffocating them with its stale air. True to spirit, the door would make nasty squeaking sounds every time it opened – squeak customer, squeak squeak customer customer – some of the books had been used and, for a peculiar reason, displayed in boxes. “Bad for business” – Lucy informed slash criticised no one in particular. But the smell, the wooden shelves, the little bit of light that did manage to find its way through the bottle-green windows and highlight a ray of dust that Katie immediately tried capture in the palm of her hand – this sensual ambiguity had to be able to bring them closer. Maybe here, in a safe and neutral space, she and her hard-to-read mother could stand shoulder to shoulder and keep their mouths shut for a little bit. She would really like that, Katie thought. To breathe next to the person she knew she must love no matter which hidden parts of herself she had to access to do that. To look at the one human whose constant source of disappointment she felt to be, and, if only for a moment, to fight the feeling, prove it obsolete.
“Now that I’m here watching the dust settle all over my OCD, what do you want me to do so we can leave faster?” Like a literal dagger, the abrupt intrusion into Katie’s momentary mindfulness has brought her back to the more familiar senses of despondency and irritation. “Mum – badly hidden desperation in her voice – let’s find you a book with actual paragraphs and vocabulary of a more acceptable level for your intellect. It just feels like you’ve cancelled personal development before it had time to, well, develop, you know? How about Intelligence for Dummies?” F-ck. Did she have to be so nasty? Going from a zero – serenity – to a hundred – disruption – real quick. “I’m sorry, mum. I am so, so sorry” – only a second too late. Katie knew better, she had seen it time and again, more often now that her mother was timidly aging: a complete facial shut-down. Lucy’s eyes, normally grey – “icy” as Katie often thought of them – were taking on a whole new colour dimension, turning into the palest blue.
Stupid squeaky door. Lucy was now pulling it with full force, dying with disdain to get out of this dank stinky space full of old books with pages stuck together and, let’s be honest, probably mould. “You have to push, Mam” – the super tall and super skinny dread-head behind the counter shouted, for a second getting his eyes off his iPhone, a robotic undertone in his annoyed voice implied he must have repeated the same phrase thousands of times.
Ordinarily, Katie would focus on him, attribute this man behind the counter a few thoughts, perhaps even drift off into daydreaming up his entire life or personality – something she loved doing, and was excellent at. Annoyingly, now was not the time – a split second on wondering whether he was single, and that was it.
Even equipped with the knowledge that the stupid squeaky door opened with a push, Katie fiddled with it. “Mum! Mum! I am sorry, Mum! – she knew Lucy would feel embarrassed that everyone on the road was turning their heads and staring as she was picking up the pace and definitely raising her voice. “I’ve been bad, Mum! I AM bad! I know, I’ve been bad to you, I am sorry! Mum! Mum!”