The chill of the room makes him think of Miriam’s skin yesterday. How he’d ran his thumb slowly along her waxy cheekbone, in a gesture that would’ve been mistaken for tenderness, if there had been anyone there to see. He had subtly pressed down on her jaw; an attempt to shape the smile they had given her into the thin line he was familiar with. But it was no good. Her face was as unrelenting as her mind had been.
On the drive over, he’d thought about the sitting room. The china ornaments, the taupe leather chesterfield, and the photos in their gilded frames. He’d wondered if the pictures of him would still be there. Of course they were. It would’ve been harder to explain their absence, and control was too important to Miriam. Dad had said so too when he left. There was no give and take.
His room looks like it has been tipped on its side and righted again. There is one empty shelf amongst the clutter. He holds his thumb and fingers in a pinch and hops paw prints through the dust. This is where the magazines were, hidden in shoeboxes, which now sit empty on the floor.
She hadn’t knocked. She’d caught sight of the man on the cover and simply removed the magazine from his hands. He’d sat on the edge of his bed and heard the bin close; the kettle boiling; a cup clinking as it was loaded in the dishwasher. Her bedroom door. He’d gone off to halls not long after.
He imagines her ransacking the room, searching for aberrant traces, her hands imbuing every object with her joylessness. Rubbing his coated fingertips together, he remembers reading somewhere that dust is 80% skin. Every surface, every edge is shrouded in it. In her. Motes hang in spears of winter sun, and a singer, doubled-over and roaring into the microphone, is impaled on one. Perpetually frozen in silent rage.
Her stifling floral scent is in his nose. There’s nothing to be salvaged here, but the floorboards creak with relieved tension as he takes his own weight with him.