From my point of view, I’ve been away from this blog for several weeks. I made sure to load up several posts before, so at least the serial Saturday posts could continue!
I’ve had several medical appointments and assessments which has left me tired. Not the type of tired where you want to go to bed, but MS tired, where I haven’t even been able to engage my brain to drum up enthusiasm to do anything that took up any brain power! To cap my week off (as I write), I finally got my Covid-19 vaccination. I had no side effects straight after, but the next day, well that was something else! it was as if someone had turned my MS up to an eleven. Sitting up, transferring to my wheelchair, bending, you name it, everything was turned right up. Now, a couple of days later, I feel better, but overcoming the tiredness is a challenge!
While I have a few moments of clarity and some energy, I wanted to make sure I could schedule a few more posts. I’m writing this on the 22nd Feb, so that’s how far ahead I am now!
Last time, Nancy had arrived at a reception of sorts and was being encouraged to talk on the phone…
Read the previous posts HERE, but now, on to part #11.
She’s not going to leave me alone until I do, so I spin around and snatch up the phone. “What?”
The voice on the other end of the line begins to cry. Jesus. I’ve got to deal with this now as well? “Nancy?” I take one long, deep breath and let it out slowly. Do I feel calmer? No.
“What do you want mum?”
There is the briefest of pauses before Nancy’s mum speaks again. “I want to know why you did it.”
There isn’t any hatred in her voice. I thought there might be, but I don’t detect any in her voice. Confusion? Yes. Disappointment? Perhaps, but no anger. Without realising it, my hand goes to my throat. My voice is stuck in that throat, as if something is preventing anything getting up.
“I want you to know that I love you, but I want you to help me understand why you did it.” The voice is calm, which, perversely, acts to enrage me. I have a string of obscenities on my lips to fire at her, but at the end of the day, it’s my mum. She’s done nothing to me, except love me. My hand is now encircling my throat. I’m choking. I can’t pull in enough air. My mum is crying now.
“It was a mistake.’ It is all I can think of to say. And it was a mistake. I’ve never told anyone what I did, not even my mum. She must have heard on the TV. Maybe now was the time to tell her. She needed to hear it from her own daughter. “Just a mistake. They wouldn’t leave me alone. I asked them to stop, but they wouldn’t. It was just a mistake.” If I say it enough, I might make it true. I am struggling to breathe now. It feels like the top button on my blouse is too tight.
“But why would you leave me?”
I fall to my knees. My stomach feels like it has dropped half a mile. I claw at my neck, popping a button in the process.
“Can you imagine what my life is like now?” She has stopped crying, but I can tell she is still upset.
“I’m sorry.” It sounds so shallow as I say it now, but what else can I say? “I can’t come back now. They’ll take me in. What can I say? It’s obvious I set the fire.” I try to get back to my feet, but my lungs are burning, and I sag back to the floor. The room is swimming. I’m not sure what’s happening to me. There is something. Something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Everything is growing dark. I drop the handset and stagger backwards. It’s as if what I did was yesterday. I can remember with absolute clarity not just what I did, but what I felt, what I thought. Thirty-seven people had died in the factory that afternoon. It’s a number burned into my memory. Twenty-five of them were women on the shop floor, most of whom I can still see when I close my eyes; Rita, with her red seventies-era hair do; Samantha with the slightly-too big-for her-face teeth; Debra with the glasses; Sandra with the bra that pushed her tits up towards her chin. Then there were the others: twelve men from the offices; white collars that never ventured out into the factory. They had probably tried to help some of the women. Those I feel sorry for. Well, all but that prick, Belshaw. It was probably him that did it. It was him that had pushed me and pushed me. Him, he deserved it, but the others? I thought for a long time after that I’d done the wrong thing. Did so many women have to die because I didn’t like being chatted up? There were other options I could have taken, and as I stand here thinking about it in the cold light of day – or whatever time it is – options that I ought to have taken. I could have told Belshaw to cram his report up his arse and then walked out; I could have just closed his office door, walked downstairs, unclipped my badge and placed it on the reception desk before leaving, never to return. I should have done that, but no, instead I killed thirty-seven people whose only crime was name-calling and teasing. Some of them wouldn’t even have known me. To them, I was just the girl that the shop floor made fun of. They probably only knew my name from all the chanting from the women.
The days after the fire all seem to blur into one. I can’t remember if it was a day ago, a week. A month? I just remember running from the factory. I ran and ran, no destination in mind. Eventually I remember being on a bus, I couldn’t say where to, wasn’t bothered, as I recall. It just needed to get me away from the fire. I found a hotel – a cheap one, as I had next to no money. It was anonymous. No one asked me any questions, and I booked in and shut myself in my room. I think I had been looking for some quiet, but there was none to be found in there; I could hear the screams of every one of the people that died in that factory. They were only in my head, but they could have been in the next room. Some just screamed, others called out to loved ones that they would never again see. I imagine some of them had children, children that would be waiting for mum or dad to come home from work. I imagined Belshaw in his office, hammering against his office door, probably wondering how this could happen to him. Well, it was his behaviour that had led to this, at least partly. But did that mean I was right to do what I did? I think probably not.