That's the routine

Saturday morning rolls around all too quickly. Stretching the length of my bed it is minutes, if I’m lucky, before the barrage begins.

No sooner have I opened my eyes do I see them reflected in the glassy blue gaze of my daughter, hovering over me, bumble bee in her appearance.

“Morning Mummy, can I get up yet"


“When? When can I get up? Are you getting up?�"

“In a minute…�" my yawning and standard response.

“Oh! You always say that Mummy, I want to get up now�"

It’s true. I always say that. And so my little girl dances round the bed waiting for the minute to pass.

“Now Mummy, now can we go downstairs?"

Rolling out of bed my day begins. Stepping over a mound of dirty clothes to get to my bathroom of no style, I help my daughter onto the toilet, off the toilet, wash her hands, dry her hands, back over the mound of clothes and down the stairs lined with paper piles – receipts, tax claims, bills – all those things that will, eventually, be transferred onto my ‘to do’ list which is quietly creating a pile of it’s own.

Standing in my tired kitchen, with it’s garish yellow trimmings and peeling paint, holding onto it’s former glory by a swinging hinge, I peer over the dishes.

“What would you like for breakfast sweetheart?�" I always ask that.

“Rice bubbles Mummy, with no milk. Remember.�" And she always answers with that.

And so that’s how the day unfolds. It’s a household of two, catered for one. Scripted the same.

The remainder of the morning is spent shuffling the contents of my house. Clothes are moved from floor, to washing machine, washing machine to clothes line, where, and I’ll be honest, they are left to hang. I pluck occasionally from the line as the need arises, leaving gaps between t-shirts and underwear, creating the resemblance of a toothless grin swinging in my yard. From clothes line to body and back to the floor once more. Lying empty and discarded in a pitiful pile, waiting for next Saturday.

Dishes revolve in the kitchen. Clean ones put away making space for the dirty.

The circular motion of my existence is mirrored by the wall clock, ticking and tocking my life away.

10.40am – Fuck I’m late, again. I’m late. From the dirty clothes pile I pull on a top, from the wet clothes a skirt drips over my body.

“Grace c’mon! Let’s go we’re late for swimming�"

“Are we walking or driving Mummy?�" She asks that every Saturday.

“Driving darling, it’s too far to walk.�"

In the only flurry of activity which sees me moving forward rather than round and round, I pull on her pink swimmers, pink t-shirt, pink thongs and grab a pink towel.

Sunglasses and a coffee’s worth of change for me, we head out. My wet skirt catches on the roughness of the front door, jolting me back, it tears a wet hole. Or am I crying.

I have a second first that day. Not only is my journey to the pool, the first and only activity to take me forward, but my half hour at the pool is the first, and only time I’m alone, with only myself to give to and only myself to take from.

I steal $3.20 from myself and buy me a coffee. Full fat, 2 sugars, extra strong, make it large, takeaway.

I have to wait in line, but I don’t mind – 30 minutes, the duration of a swimming lesson, can be lengthened further by the act of waiting. A few minutes can be extended, by what seems like hours, standing in a queue. In no rush to be anywhere I wait, and it does, it seems like hours. The waitress mixing up orders, I silently thank her.

On deliverance of my coffee, the steamy heat melting upwards from it’s frothy cap, mixing with the steamy heat of the day, I move outside. Swinging passed the pool to smile an encouraging smile at my pink delight, bobbing happily in the blueness of the water.

“Mummy will be outside, I’ll watch you through the glass�"

“Ok Mummy, ok�"

We blow kisses through the air and the glass doors slide shut behind me. I can see her from where I stand.

Sharing a seductive moment with the milky caffeine, letting it linger in my mouth before sliding down, I still have some minutes to fill. So I reach for my phone and call him. Adult words are exchanged and we arrange to meet later that afternoon.

Sucking on the air that now fills my cardboard cup, a piercing alarm assaults my senses, threatening the bursting of an eardrum. Two short bursts and then a long drawn out bleep.

Shut up, I think.

Shit, is my next thought.

With the alarm sounding, swimming lesson over, I am for the second time, in as many hours, jolted. I cast my empty cup into the silver bin and hurriedly move back towards the pool. For the moment, I leave my thoughts of him in the outside world where I stood, and wrap my pink babe in pink towelling. It starts up again.

“Can we have sushi for lunch? What time is Shauna coming over? Mummy, can we have sushi?�"

Sushi it is and Shauna will meet us at home, one o’clock.

One o’clock and Shauna arrives on the dot. Releasing me from my motherly duties, giving me an hour’s grace, without Grace, to visit him.

Dressed in black, hair tousled, I make the trip. When I arrive the kettle is boiling and he is waiting. My morning routine washed away in the coolness of the air conditioning – as we sit eye to eye.

“Right, shall I make the coffee"

“No, not for me�"

A simple sentence for which I am grateful.

Routine fills my days, my weeks, my life. There’s the routine of bed – doors locked, teeth brushed, lights out and fall asleep. Or the routine of work – get up, get dressed, go to work, read emails, chit chat, knuckle down. And then there is the routine of him – a short phone call arranging to meet, we talk the talk, drink a coffee, fulfil our desires and say goodbye.

But not today, today he doesn’t want coffee. Unable to break my own routine, I make a coffee and drink no more than a sip. My foolish mind starts to play tricks. A routine broken, are we destined for more?

And so we sit, eye to eye, talking as we always do, minus the coffee.

I check the time, and it’s up. I have an evening routine waiting for me at home and so I say goodbye – wishing desperately for him to break our routine even further. Say something, anything, that would indicate I am more to you than nothing.

I am screaming inaudible screams.

But before I can walk out the door, we fall back into our routine, desires quenched. He dresses slowly, masking his face with the blackness of sunglasses.

There is a fumbling goodbye, followed with the faint promise of meeting again. Maybe. But that’s the routine.

I climb into my car, shade my own eyes, turn the key and drive away.

That’s the routine, begging to be broken.

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