It’s the same every morning. I wake up and I ask myself one question. Is today going to be the day that I decide to speak again? I search my mind momentarily and always end up shaking my head and saying no, not today. When I made the decision back then not to speak, it was quiet. I clenched my fists, looked downwards and when I looked up it was decided. The night my Mother left I was devastated. When I close my eyes, I see her in front of me as clear and as real as that night. She sat by my bed shaking me gently as though trying not to wake me up but needing to speak. I feel the tears rise and brim to the top with the pain of missing her whenever I think of it. She said something about how it would make me strong. In her mind it would put me under the kind of pressure such as could produce a diamond. But I was always okay with being made of brass.
So, I stop my crying in its tracks. I gather together all of the strands of love that existed before she left, and I pull myself back to together with my vocal cords tied up in a knot.
I lift off the coverlet and swing my legs out of bed in two precise movements. After I have gotten dressed, I go to the kitchen to make my breakfast. Getting up at 5am every day guarantees that I will have some time to be alone with my thoughts before the other lodgers get up.
As I layer honey over of my porridge, I think about the day ahead. I know what to expect. Pouring the milk carefully over the top I study it to see if it will seep down to the layers below. I eat each spoonful slowly while looking towards the sunlight coming through the window. While the coffee is brewing, I walk to the window and stare out at the beauty of my surroundings. The bird calls are beautiful in the morning.
I live in a former stationmaster’s house which no longer operates as a train station since the line was shut down. It is now a lodging house for people like me – people who are alone. The trains used to go by this very window I look out of every day. The tickets used to be sold from here too. Every morning when I drink my coffee I dream of the past and wish those old trains would leave from here again so that I could get on one and go anywhere I wanted. Then I walk along the old tracks to the bakery and listen for the low, rumble of a train that never comes.
When I get to the bakery, I heave myself into the swing of the day. I work frantically as though I am a thief ransacking a house before I must clamber out a window in haste. Inching past someone watching the sway of their hips to judge when is the best time to manoeuvre past them in the hallway. Spread the flour, knead the dough, open the oven, bang it shut, start again. I seek out this flow and rhythm in action to find the perfection that lulls me into the mid-morning, lunch, evening and onto late evening when I shuffle home tired. The quiet allows me to listen and try to understand. The rhythm soothes me and helps me to accept that I don’t have the answer to my eternal question. The painful question being, ‘why did my Mother leave me?’
My employers talk about me in front of me as though I am still a child. They project upon me valorising traits. I know I don’t deserve them. They think that I am a person of quiet compassion thinking gentle kindly thoughts about them. The qualities they project onto me seem to bounce right off me and back on to themselves in their own mind. They think that because they have supposedly seen a positive trait in me then it must exist in them. It had its origins in them after all, or so they think. Because I don’t speak, there is never any clear evidence to contradict their viewpoint. In that way they are never proved wrong. As we are kneading the bread, ‘Oh Sarah you are the best, I hope you never leave us, you are a fantastic worker’. As long as I am working hard, they do not deem that it behoves them to look any further at me to discover the real person within.
There is a woman who counts the money upstairs. She suspected that I had slept with her husband when I first arrived. When she muscled her way down into the kitchen and took in the fact that I was mute she packed up all her suspicions in a tiny suitcase and went back to her office. In her small mind, being mute must be highly correlated with being dumb. Now when I come upstairs at times to bring her her tea when she is with her friends, she waits for me to leave and when she thinks I am out of earshot she says smirkingly, ‘there goes our resident dumb waiter’. But I don’t mind, when I think of her husband I remember that I had left him happy as a bird swinging on a perch in a cage.