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Freedom

He parks his undernourished arse at the foot of the bed; gently, so as not to disturb the patient. “Hello, Mum. Sorry I’ve not visited sooner. Rehearsals have been manic.” He hangs his head. He is surrounded by reassuringly sterile smells; his tinnitus angered by the intermittent ‘boop-boop’ from the old woman’s heart monitor; a machine that seemed abnormally familiar considering he’d only ever seen it on TV. A shamed sigh runs on until it turns to words. “Can you still tell when I’m lying?” He looks for a reaction he knows will not come. “Yeah, you can still tell.” A placid draft from the open window cools the tear-tracks on his pockmarked cheeks. “I’m sorry I never made you proud, Mum.” He proceeds to apologise for all the things he’d thought about during the sleepless hours of every pill-popped night of the past 30 years or so. Sorry, for not giving her more to brag about at bingo. For all the phone calls he’d never returned. For the time he kissed a boy and his dad found out. For the one and only time he’d told her to fuck off. The dark fog that sat behind his eyes seemed to dissipate. His words had freed him; awoken him. As he places a pillow over his mother's face and presses down hard, quietness gives way to the soul-chilling sound of the heart monitor as it moves from staccato to legato, from ‘boop-boop’ to ‘boooooo…’ with infinite Os and a never-arriving P. He was doing this for her. “Are you proud now, Mum?”

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