Wrocław Tenement Stories #1
It's nearly midnight and the temperature is into the high 30s. She feels another bead of sweat roll down the small of her back, joining the clammy, damp feeling in the seat of her shorts, the sticky, gritty film along her arms. She makes another half-hearted attempt at shooing her eight year-old son off to bed, already dreading the complaints from neighbours about the noise he is making. But the effort is just too much.
Instead the boy and his dog bound around the kitchen together, both apparently unaware of the crippling heat, or her exhaustion. She closes her eyes and wipes a thick sheen of sweat away from her brow using the back of her hand, before plopping down on the kitchen stool, allowing her mind to wander as the rest of her family continue to jump and twirl and shout.
On days like this she just wants to give up. The heat, the noise, the worries about bills and the sheer loneliness of being a single mother are always overwhelming. The son who never sleeps, and the ex-husband who never pays his way. The sense of loss, a life that isn't what she planned, just nine years of missed opportunities. Not that there were really that many, but she never took any of them.
And now she sits with her eyes shut and idly considers each of her regrets, picking them up, turning them over, weighing and testing each like she does vegetables at the market. But the emotion is gone, and her thoughts disconnected, like seeing each disappointment playing on a distant television screen. Tonight she feels like she could just walk out and leave it all behind. But she knows she won't.
The game is getting louder and she is drawn back to reality as the boy stumbles over the dog, crashing into her. She jumps up, ready to scream her annoyance at him, to blame him for what might have been. But the shout catches at the back of her throat and becomes a strangled sob instead. Tears of frustration and tiredness roll down her cheeks, and she takes the boy's face between her hands.
Bending down so she can see into his eyes, she notes a glimmer of fright. Normally she hides it well, but this time he has seen his mother's pain and it has spooked him. He looks away and then gently breaks her hold, turning and heading into his bedroom without saying a word.
She sighs deeply, and refocuses on today. There is still much to be done in the apartment before she can head off to bed herself. A yawn, a stretch, and she's back to cleaning the kitchen. This may not be the life she dreamt of, but it's the one she's got, and she's going to make a good go of it for her son's sake.
This is the first of three short stories inspired by the people living in the tenement building behind my hotel as I stayed in Wrocław, Poland. Each story corresponds to the number on the attached picture. As always, please let me know what you think.
Tagging @ariellcacciola @ellowrites @rumblepress @promptedink @smash_landing @annemio @booksnips as requested.