Handbrake

4 May 2016

Six years old. You are eleven.
Our mother parks her boxy corolla
outside the newsagent’s. The road
is flat-like it’s been eyeballed
with a spirit level. She counts coins

from her unzipped purse, pencils the expense
in her notebook and speaks an instruction
I can’t remember. Perhaps it’s easier
to leave the two of us in the car
needling and elbowing each other

on that vinyl seat, until one of us
claims the space (measured in stitching)
we think we deserve. But as I watch
her swish away from the car towards
the headline bills and lurid lotto ads,

I long to follow her. To browse Holly Hobby
swap cards and smell the strawberry
scented erasers. Instead, I watch you
climb into the front seat and wait
until you catch my gaze in the mirror.

Don’t tell, you say and lower your hand
onto the brake. Your finger rests
on the button. “I’ll let go.”
You practise a release and laugh.
I stop looking and scream, my throat

wide open like the foxgloves
that bloom years later in your garden,
the day you tell me what he’s done to you.
Our mother returns. Keys open the car.
One day we’ll all crash.

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