Trisha watched the tail lights pull away, her smile pasted on her face, arm waving with encouragement as her daughter, Izzy, drove away with a fully laden car and trailer. Izzy and her partner Kate had finally, after saving for most of the year, put a deposit down on a unit, and today was handover. They couldn’t wait to move into their new home. In the darkest corner of her heart, Trisha was a bit old-fashioned. She would have loved to have seen Izzy settle down with a nice boy, have the big wedding and maybe, at sometime in the future, produce grandchildren for her to spoil. But the future doesn’t always go to plan, that was something she had learned long ago. Kate was lovely and Izzy was happy, and in the end, that’s all that matters.
A verse of Metallica’s song ran through her mind .
“Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters.”
Funny how the lyrics just popped into her head. She hadn’t listened to Metallica in such a long time, not since her high school days when she had hung around with Lucas, the long-haired, scruffy around the edges, electric guitar playing bad-boy. He’d been a metal-head, and she’d dated him for nearly a year, much to her parents’ dismay.
Once the tail lights were out of sight, Trisha dropped her hand and the happy smile. It was time to face her own future. She was fifty, well she would be fifty-one in four days, but for now, she was fifty, and for the first time in her life, she faced the future alone. An empty family home surrounded her in memories, echoing with remembered life.
Alone was a good thing, she told herself as she set the kettle to boil. Her mother had always said, “In times of stress, have a cuppa.” Tea was soothing and the ritual of making it could be quite therapeutic. Boil the kettle, steep the tea, add milk and sugar, sit and enjoy. The routine was familiar and grounding.
Sitting at the table, its large oval surface empty, Trisha took stock of her situation. Photos of the kids sat in their frames on the sideboard, Izzy on her high school graduation day, Patrick with his Master’s degree, cap and gown, smiling with pride. God, she was proud of both of them, happy they were off on this journey of life with a good start, exciting prospects, and a future of endless possibilities.
Missing from the photo collection was her ex-husband, Andrew. He’d said adieu, arrivederci, adios and every other articulation of goodbye ten years ago. Apparently, Andrew couldn’t deal with having a son who was gay, because within a month of Patrick coming out, her husband had walked away, straight into the arms of another woman. What Andrew thought of having a daughter who was also gay, Trisha didn’t know. She’d not spoken with him in years. Hopefully, he was still happy with his thirty-something replacement and her three perfect children. Trisha mentally slapped herself. That sounded bitter, and she was long past bitter. She never thought about Andrew and his defection, or hardly ever, or at least not consciously.
She was unsure how long she just sat there, but the teapot was empty and cold and the afternoon was slowly falling into evening, building shadows in the corners of the room. For the very first time in her life, she was alone, and she didn’t know just quite who she was, what her new identity was to be. For years she had defined herself by her role—daughter, wife, mother. Now who was she?
“Who the hell am I?” she asked the empty room. “I’m a sad old woman drinking tea, for God’s sake!” She dumped the cup of lukewarm tea into the sink and pulled out from the fridge an open bottle of wine that she’d used in the carbonara last night. If she was going to feel sorry for herself, she may as well have fun doing it. She bluetoothed the speakers to play from her phone and scrolled through Spotify looking for inspiration, music to make her feel something other than this sadness. With the lyrics of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ still rolling about in her head, she found the ‘Black’ album and cued the song. The distinctive acoustic guitar intro filled the room. She sipped her wine and closed her eyes. Oh, to be seventeen again! What would she do differently if she could go back to a time when this was the music she listened to, a time before Andrew, when anything was possible? Before the song finished, she quickly scrolled through suggestions finding something new.
“You want it all, but you can’t have it,
it’s in your face but you can’t grab it!”
The distinct voice of the lead singer of Faith No More wailed from the speakers. ‘Epic’ had spent weeks at number one when she was in high school. She laughed as she bungled the rap part. She could never remember the words, but she could wail the sung lines in her best nasal tone. She did want it all, and time had proven that she couldn’t have it, whatever ‘it’ was.
“What is it?
She sang the repetitive outro with gusto, enjoying the percussive effect of the consonants on her slightly buzzed lips. She was breathless when the song finished, as she had been jumping about in her own imaginary mosh pit. The randomised play list began the very familiar ‘woah, woe, woe woe-woe’, in a deep male synthesised voice.
“Yes!” she cried with an air-fist-bump, and she woed along with Jon Bon Jovi as he sang ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. She had no idea what Gina and Tommy had, but they had each other “and that’s a lot for love”.
“Whoa, we’re halfway there
Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer!”
Trisha wailed the lyrics at the top of her lungs, uncaring if the neighbours heard her dreadful caterwauling. The almost empty bottle of wine became a microphone, her living room a stage. She was halfway there. Half her life gone, poured out in service to others, now there was only half left and she had no idea what to do with it… unlike the bottle of wine, she thought, as she poured out the last glass during the guitar solo. A half empty bottle of wine was an invitation to drink more, a half lived, half over, half used up, chewed up and spat out life was an invitation to what? A pity party?
The iconic electric guitar solo by Slash erupted from her speakers and Trisha exploded with full air guitar complete with a lip-snarl and tongue poking through teeth. Everyone knows you can’t perform an air guitar solo without the accompanying grimace. As Axl Rose from the Gunner’s sang the first line, she was right there alongside him, her off key wailing loud and proud.
“She’s got a smile that it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories…”
She’d forgotten how much she loved this song heedless of the lyrics. It made her blood pump in a way she hadn’t felt in so long, and she posed and postured on her living-room stage.
“Whoa, oh, oh…Sweet child o’ mine.”
It was the ending of the song that spoke to her and she sang along in her best Axl impression, head banging with uninhibited frenzy.
“Where do we go?
Where do we go now?”
The randomiser played a second Guns ‘n’ Roses song in a row and she let out an excited cry as soon as she heard the opening notes. ‘November Rain’. This was her anthem when Lucas dumped her all those years ago. She had sung this song into her tear stained pillow nightly, now the words spoke to her again.
“Sometimes I need some time on my own.” She sang along with the lyrics, sometimes messing up and mumbling through the words. She loved this song, and she moshed and head banged her way into the climactic ending chanting loudly.
“Don’t ya think that you need somebody?…
You’re not the only one!”
She didn’t hear the front door open, nor was she aware of the figures that stopped in the hallway, mouths hanging open.
“Mum?” The voice was shocked enough to penetrate her wine fueled dancing and chanting, and Trisha whipped around, almost stumbling as she tried desperately to gather her composure. She scrambled for her phone and shut the music down. “We thought you might want to share some dinner,” Izzy said as she raised a bag of Chinese takeout.
“We did try to call, but… well… it seems you were busy,” Kate explained with a laugh.
Trisha felt her face heat up as she looked around her dimly lit living room. The empty wine bottle and glass lay toppled on the table. A few cushions had been tossed to the floor in her enthusiasm and she could feel herself warm and sweaty from her aerobic exercise.
“I was…” Trisha waved her hands ineffectually as she tried to come up with a satisfactory explanation.
“You were enjoying your time alone,” Izzy said. “It’s fine, we get it, but would you like some Chinese food to go with your wine?”
Enjoying her time alone? Was that what she was doing? She wasn’t moping or indulging in a pity party?
“Thank you, I would love some. I don’t suppose you brought more wine? I seem to have none left.”
Kate, ever practical, lifted a Dan Murphy’s paper bag. Trisha knew that she loved that girl. “Let’s eat.”