It’s November 5th, and I have let Zorinth go to see Pirates of the Caribbean on his own, and come back on his own.
November 5th 1976, my sister and I were crossing a road, on a zebra crossing near home and she was killed and my leg got banged up. (That’s not why I walk with a cane. I walk with a cane because I then spent the week after, the week while the doctors were deciding she was actually dead and giving up hope, walking around on a broken hip. Don’t try this at home, especially if you are eleven and still growing.)
November 5th, in Britain, is Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night, celebrated loudly and enthusiastically with fireworks. Every bang and scream and explosion of pretty lights has lacerated me for years. It’s not just that it is the anniversary of my sister’s death, it’s also that people are celebrating it loudly. It was almost worth emigrating just to be away from that. The combination of memories and bangs and the dying of the light always put me into a depression at the beginning of November.
For some years, I wasn’t able to go out on the fifth. I’d stay in bed the whole day. Eventually I started being able to deal with it a bit better. In daylight. If it wasn’t raining. Headlights and belisha-beacon lights and flashing blue-lights on rainslick roads can get to me all year, but on November 5th they remain beyond bearing.
It’s really stupid to let an anniversary get to you, but knowing that doesn’t actually help, if it does. I’ll miss her at all kinds of cues, this isn’t missing her, it’s remembering…
…starting to cross a road, talking, being in the middle of a conversation, and then lying in the wet road afraid that a car would come from the other direction. Standing up, on a leg that hurt, and seeing her down in the rain, on the road, in the flashing lights, and knowing people’s heads do not do that, and standing over her body in the road until a car going the other way stopped and they got someone who got police and ambulance.
(The original car, and drunk driver, had run. They caught him but he had no penalties because he had a disabled child at home and needed his license and his drink. These days the law wouldn’t be that pathetic.)
The ambulance men dragged me away from her. They asked my address. When my grandfather and my mother got there five minutes later (I said it was near) they’d been assuming I was the one unconscious, because I had told the police Emma’s name, but not mine. They were relieved, for which I have actually never forgiven them. All the same, for the first second, I was almost pleased to see my mother, that’s how bad it was, until of course she started behaving naturally and made everything worse. They let her go in the ambulance, but not me. I didn’t ever see Emma again after that, and I quite consciously felt like Eowyn standing over the body of Theodyn and signally failing to defend it.
Let’s just not talk about the similarities between my mother and the witch-king of Angmar for the moment. That’s not the point.
There’s a Pink Floyd song on the album The Wall which contains the line “Mother’s going to make all of your nightmares come true. Mother’s going to put all of her fears into you.”
I’ve tried really hard not to do that with Zorinth.
Consciously, I know tonight is no different from any other night, no more dangerous. He’s thirteen, I let him take metro and buses on his own.
He’s had a Ped day (random teacher day off, what they call “Baker days” in Britain) and we’ve done some stuff and now he’s gone on his own to a 16h15 showing of a two and a half hour film, he’ll be home about 19h30. I let him go, quite cheerfully, and I am home on my own. It would have been a lot harder in Britain, with wailing and banging fireworks. But I am being brave, I’m staying in on my own, I am not putting my fears into him, I am letting him take his own risks at least a little bit, even when I am (and I am) irrationally afraid.
There are good things about knowing, knowing all through, that someone can die and be gone forever between one sentence and the next. It can make you appreciate the moment. It can make death generally easier to deal with thereafter. But it can also make you clingy and over-protective when you love people. I try hard not to be, with mixed results.
But he’s out there, and Rysmiel is in Seattle and all of you are where you are, and I am here, and we’re all OK.