The water that descended from the gutters, and the noise it made, that gurgling sound, made her think of mountain rivers. The city, absent and desolate, gave voice to its silence late one evening.
The only thing to broke this silence was the evening news: “Hello and welcome to News 24. The top story tonight. Record frost. Temperatures drop. Snowfall is predicted at low altitudes as Northern parts of the country freeze over…”
Melanie curled her feet under her Grandmothers woolen blanket and sunk deeper into the living room sofa, listening closely to the journalist’s voice.
She knew how cold the winters got; she didn’t need to hear it from anyone else. That last winter left a scar on her heart, like a stain of old memories, painful memories that she was only just coming to terms with.
“Hey let’s watch something else Mama, the news is so boring.”
Alice had eyes that were the same colour of a summer morning. Her hair hung loose just below her shoulders, a deep amaranth red. The freckles that dotted her cheeks reminded her of a painting that she had once done for her as a child.
“Here, take the control.”
“Hey Mama, why do you keep touching your scar? Does it still hurt?”
“No baby, it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
No, not anymore. Her shoulder didn’t burn with the same intensity. She had come to accept it as a part of her body, almost like a tattoo that had faded over time. It was something she would look at every now and then as a way of remembering everything that she had been through, like a memory printed in an ink that had been made with a mix of decay and loneliness, of lies and daily doses of death. Small dose, administered intravenously of course, small enough so that she didn’t realize that the heroin, her companion and her friend, was slowly killing her.
Alice was still young, and had a calmness about her that was well beyond her four years, a calmness that allowed her mother to put her to bed without too much fuss.
Sitting in the kitchen with the lights turned off reminded her the time that the electricity had been cut off because she had spent the last of her money on one last hit. She relied on candles to light the house. In front of her lay everything she needed, her ever-faithful tools. She fastened the belt around her skinny arm, scarred with the tiny pinpricks of her solitude.
She let herself go.
When you over dose, all your pain just disappears. The substance over rides it.
You feel like you are behind a wall of glass, and the rest of the world lies just on the other side. It’s a pain killer for the soul. She slipped quite easily into her little world where hurt and misery didn’t exist, onto her back and under the weight of a slow-witted breath and into the warm flame of the candle.
A nauseating smell penetrated every corner of the house. It was the smell of burnt flesh. That dull stench of a forgotten steak left on the campfire for too long. Like the reek of a person that has let themselves get dragged back by forces stronger that the desperate screams of little Alice as she tried to wake up her mother.
Every scar that remains is another little reminder, like an old tattoo that is always ready to remind us of our past.
“Mama, why do you always touch your scar when it gets cold? Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?”
“No my love, it doesn’t hurt, sometimes it just reminds me of things… Now let’s go to bed, you’ve got school. You heard the weather man, there’s going to be snow tomorrow!”