The Empty Room
By Kristin Dockar
The curtains were still closed, and the window shut. The bed was a chaos of rumpled duvet and grimy sheets. Clothes were strewn over every surface. It was impossible to tell which were dirty and which were clean. The ashtray was overflowing filled with cigarette butts and the remains of a joint. The desk was awash with papers, books and files. The computer screen flickered out a ghostly light, the power button flashing silently green.
Various mugs, plates and cutlery lay under the bed alongside empty crisp packets, plastic drinks bottles and McDonald left overs. The sense of mess and chaos was overwhelming. The bin was stuffed full and over flowing. The whole room looked like a tidal wave of stuff had washed over it. No sense of space, just complete clutter.
Mel pushed the handle down and opened the door fully. She had just intended to take a quick peek. She stood cautiously and surveyed the scene in front of her. It was probably the worst she had ever seen his room. Treading carefully over all the stuff on the floor, she pulled the curtains and flung the window open. She moved over to the computer to switch it off but accidently knocked the mouse. The screen lit up and looking at it, she froze. It was a chat room conversation.
‘Come on sunny boy, time we met up, don’t be a twat. I’ll be at the station in 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s me. I’ll be wearing a Nike hoodie, black with white letters’.
Mel’s heart thundered in her chest, she felt as if she could hardly breathe. Robbie was only 15 years old. Who was this? Which station? When did he leave? She hadn’t heard him go out but then she never did. He had perfected being secretive to an art form. As she sat down on the bed, moving some of the stuff to clear a space, she saw her son’s mobile. He had forgotten to take it with him.
She realised in panicked frustration that she couldn’t even call him and that made her heart race even faster. She felt dizzy and thought she might pass out, it was difficult to breathe.
Surveying the chaos of the room, she realised all her errors in agreeing to maintain his privacy. She thought of the conversations she had with her son where she had agreed his room was his ‘private space’ and she wasn’t to go in unless invited. She thought it had been so grown up, both for him, and her, letting go a bit. What a mistake. He was 15 for God’s sake and in no position to dictate to to her how she behaved in her own home. And, where was he?
Horrible, painful scenarios flashed through her head. The message on the chat room sounded like it was from a bloke. Had he suddenly become gay? Would she not know that? She realised how little they communicated now. Where had that sprung from? They had always been close, protective of each other. She had read all those articles about your ‘developing teen-ager’. How you had to understand they needed space, that separating was a natural progression in their development. Well, sod that.
She felt tears welling in her eyes. She’d give anything to see him walk through that door.
She thought back to 15 years ago when she and Mick had decorated the room. They had painted the walls primrose yellow because they didn’t know if the baby would be a boy or a girl. Her dad had made them a beautiful pine wood cradle which he had varnished. As the months went by they had added bits to the room. Soft toys, a chest of drawers on which they placed the changing mat, laughing about who was going to do the most of that. How happy they had been. They hadn’t repainted the room until Robbie was 10 years old when he protested that he was too old to have a ‘baby’s room’. Then they had painted it white and red, Arsenal’s colours and he had been so happy.
Now she looked at the white walls with all the Arsenal memorabilia and the tears ran down her face. Mick was long gone, when Robbie was 13, a very bad age to lose your dad.
‘What you doing in my room? I thought we had an agreement?’
Mel looked up and saw her son’s surly face. ‘Where have you been?’ she roared, ‘I’ve been worried out of my head. I saw your chat’.
He held up a bag. ‘McDonalds. I felt hungry. All that studying. Come off it mum. You don’t think I would go. Just mucking about’. He sat down next to his mum and put his arm round her.
Mel felt her body sink and relax.
‘Oh, thank God’ she thought.