Entering the local shopping centre with my mother, the breezy air conditioner above the entrance feels like the warmth from a hot water bottle as it hisses down on me. As we make our way towards our destination which is Tesco at the back of the centre, Mam pushes the trolley as she comments that the clothes shop beside the butchers has been doing the same closing down sale for a full six months and they’d want to get a move on with it or else it’s just a big fat lie in order to make a few extra quid. I side glanced at her as she made that comment. Mam must’ve got a few encouraging remarks on her new hairdo in work because she’s in good form today. She usually has a general sadness about her, so when there’s even a sniff of something joyful coming out of her mouth, I listen to her like an eager therapist properly does with their most troubled client. There’s no real aliveness in her though, most of the time. And, the truth is, the only real vibrancy I’ve ever seen from her was when she picked up the phone a Saturday morning about two years ago, and shouted into it, ‘you can keep him, you whore.’ Dad’s clothes in a black bag were thrown from the top window soon after the slam of the phone. Dad shouted at her from the garden that she must’ve got that from Coronation Street or something, no wonder I’m leaving he said, because all you do is watch tv anyway. I can’t look at that soap opera in the same way ever since that infamous day. It’s like driving by an old house you used to live in. It just feels wrong.
We potter around the various aisles until we come to the real reason we are here. She checks out the special offers on the shelf ends in the off-license section. She has a golden rule passed on from her sister that the bottle must have a deep hole at the bottom of it or it’s not of high quality. I bow my head and think back to the time when I was a child in Newbridge, out the back garden, trying to dig a hole to China. If only I’d built that tunnel. I really don’t want to witness Mam looking at her most prized processions with such glee. She puts the bottles into her perfectly fitted cardboard wine carrier and places them in the trolley as delicate as a mother might do when she lays her baby to bed. At the checkout, I plonk the bottles on the conveyor belt first, followed by the food. They clatter together as they move up towards the checkout girl. It’s like the bottles are full of life now, having a chat to each other about how they’re going to destroy Mam later. That, or they are laughing at me. I put my hands in my coat pockets and dig my fingers deep into my stomach, deeper, as each bottle scans. I shuffle by Mam and put the wine into the trolley. I cover it with the family sized crisps to hide my shame. I thought all this would become easier, in my twenties.