I keep telling myself. It could be worse. It could be worse. It could be.
I didn’t think it could be when it ended in tears here.
I didn’t’ think it could be when we got here.
But it did. It got worse.
So now. Now. As I write. With a cold beer at my side. A dog at my feet. A kitten called O Malley the Alley Cat purring hotly on my lap because he presumptuously invited himself onto my lap as I ate a pizza in Malindi one night as the tuktuks sputtered and rattled by and he came home with us and the leftovers. His marmalade smudged coat is smooth now not standing on end as it was then, a roll of fat at his neck, his tummy no longer worm-blown.
Now. I say, even though it’s not great, because there is no certainty, because apart from this furry menagerie I am alone, it could be worse. Because if I don’t fate might laugh loud again and turn her knife so that my life is split apart a little further.
It could be worse.
My children are not with me. But they are well. My student son asks if I need a loan. We talked about this Mum, he says sternly. And I laugh. My eldest daughter is doling out good advice and condoms during freshers week as welfare officer. Hat is bravely soldiering through the first term of Lower Sixth, still not feeling as if she belongs entirely. She tells me the story of a girl whose prose in creative writing class describes her mother as a lioness. Her father is ill; her mum must hold the fort. The girl’s words describes how she wants to be like her mother; brave. A lioness, she writes. Later Hat tells her her writing is beautiful and moving. That she thinks she is a lioness already and I cry a little at my daughter’s grace. I tell her she is lionesslike too. For her titian curls, her amber eyes, her courage.
For we have dragged her and her siblings in our chaotic wake these past two years. And still the chaos swirls so that I do not know where home is. Where home will be. Where will I lay my hat which is scuffed and red and old with a drooping suede brim and beads. A dust-devil, a whirly gig we called them when we were little, that twists relentlessly, throwing up everything in its path and dustily obliterating views and horizons. Blurring clarity.
My Hat says ‘aw mum’ when I tell her she is a lioness, and gives me a Skype smiley face.
And my Ant is a thousand miles away where I cannot be because we have bills to pay and because you have to put your head down and you have to keep going.
It could be worse. I know that now.