It had been years, and by the time the day came, she was ripe for it. Off the bus from college this Friday evening, home he was to her, stood in her kitchen, looking helpful—helpful was the way Jimmy looked.
—Mam. I’ve something to tell ya.
A silence brewed that she swiftly interrupted. It might be his moment, but it was her moment too and she was going to have it her way.
—I know you’ve something to say to me, she began briskly, I’ve been expecting it. Indeed I’ve been waiting for it. It isn’t blind I am. I’ve a good strong feeling I know what it is. So we can make this easy. I’ll give you my response right now plain and simple and there’ll be no need for you to say it at all.
He nodded. Nervously. Good she liked him nervous.
—Fellas do have companions, she started.
He nodded affirmatively. Ha! She was on the right track. She wasn’t born yesterday. She’d let him have it.
—Lookit, Gerry and Joseph back the road there.
Less certain. Another short nod.
—You’re going to make life very difficult for yourself if you continue with it. I imagine you’ll have no wife.
He agreed quietly and politely.
She delivered her verdict in sleek, clipped sentences, like ham coming off the slicing machine.
—It’s not that I didn’t wonder. I want one thing understood. I’ll say it the once and you won’t hear it from me again. If there’s no way round it, don’t bring it home to me here ever. I can’t have it across my door. It’d kill yer father. But what you do is your business, d’ya hear. You can come anytime. But just you. And if there’s any of the girls having weddings or the like, you’ll come with a girl. I don’t care where you find her. I don’t care if you’ve to pay her. But for your father’s sake, you’ll be alone or with a girl.
She paused, briefly trying not to think of two of them holding hands. The flatness of two fellas against each other or them rubbing each other made her fierce uncomfortable. She wondered could two of them be together without mebbe touching each other. Finally, after a long pause between them, her speaking.
—I’ll see you get a little extra in the will on account of you spending your life alone. I’ll keep an extra cow for a few years to prepare for it.
He stood, smiled, and embraced her. You’re remarkable.
She brushed him off, telling him, Go way outta that, put on the kettle and make yourself useful.
Later, when she was within, adding turf to the fire, he called out from the kitchen, Mam, I’m off.
She knew it then, she knew she’d lost him, she’d lost him in a whole new way and she hadn’t been prepared for the foreignness of this feeling. It didn’t agree with her at all.
Move over Molly Bloom, Anakana Schofield has mastered the hundreds of voices that make up one person, and the negotiations, confusions, and occasional consolations that transpire among them. Her story of an extraordinary/ordinary mother and how she lost her beloved son is a journey into the heart of love and the fragile bonds of the self.