‘Your pillow’s wet,’ said Mum. ‘Did you have another nightmare?’
She worries. I know that’s at the root of it all, the checking my bed for tears, for sweat, any hint I haven’t slept. Though over the months, the worry in her voice sounds more like hurt – an accusation. Why can’t she have a son who’s like the others? Who goes out drinking, gets hung up on girls? Why the endless scribbling, the hours on forums looking for answers?
Why does she have to have the wounded son?
I try to smile, to ignore the heaviness around my eyes, the way my limbs seem to float then sink, as if I’m caught in a rip tide.
‘I’m fine Mum,’ I say, tipping cereal into a bowl, sloshing milk in after it.
I shovel grainy clumps into my mouth, let the milk dribble down my chin – my best in impression of a ‘normal’ teenage boy. She smiles, ruffles my hair like she did when I was small. My chest feels like its breaking, like someone’s prising it apart and for a moment I think I’ll tell her everything. But the cereal’s turned spongy and it clogs my throat and I can’t speak. So I don’t.
‘Don’t forget to put out the rubbish, love,’ she says.