I have this recurring dream. I’m back in Clark Street where I lived for the first twenty-one years of my life. I am standing in the “big yard” where endless games of football and cricket were played on warm summer nights.
Ahead of me, arranged in a horseshoe shape, are eleven two-up, two-down terraced houses with their postage stamp front gardens once lovingly cared for but now choked with weeds. All the windows in all the houses are broken, and the front doors are hanging off their hinges.
I turn to my right and walk up the passageway leading to the rear of houses with numbers 7 to 11. I stop outside the third house down, Number 9. Our house.
The back door is on the ground. I step through the doorway into the kitchen, which is big enough to accommodate the tin bath we used for washing ourselves once a week. To my left is the sink with its solitary cold water tap. I turn it on but only dust comes out. In front of me is the stove. One of the burners has been switched on, and gas is escaping. I turn the burner off. The hiss continues, but there is no smell.
I step through the doorway into the living room. The walls and bits and pieces of furniture are charred black. There is an overpowering smell of burning. My thoughts immediately go to the drip feed paraffin heater which was our only source of heat. I always said it was a fire hazard. The fireplace where it used to stand is now empty.
I think I can hear the faint sound of music. The Bush Bakelite Radio is still in its usual place, but it is an empty shell. I move towards it, and the music stops.
My attention is drawn to a rustling movement in the corner near the gas meter.
There is a broken wooden chair with its back to me. I go to it, and there, I come face to face with my mother.
The shock takes my breath away. She stares straight at me but shows no sign of recognition.
“Mom, it’s me. I’ve been looking for you. What are you doing here?”
There is no response.
“You can’t stay here, Mom. You have to come with me.”
Still no response.
I take both her hands and try to pull her from the chair, but I can’t move her.
She continues to look straight through me. I back away and tears stream down my face. I can no longer bear the sight of her sitting there in squalor. I turn on my heels and run. Back through the kitchen, back into the yard, back into the street. I run for what seems like an eternity until I reach my home.
Exhausted, I fall into bed and a deep sleep. Then comes the dream again.
I am back in Clark Street where I lived for the first twenty-one years of my life.