She’s late. About thirty years late but she’s here now. Almost. The metal handle is cold under her palm and as she pulls it down, the perspiration causing her hand to slip; she wonders if she should just go with the instincts of her body, let go and run. But it’s too late. Much too late and she hears the soft and deep Irish accented voice of a man travelling through the void which has appeared and is yawning wider and wider between them through the open door. Her legs are numb and she wonders how they will carry her down that aisle of light from inside the room which floods the corridor through the doorway. But they do. Strange powers this man has, indeed. And so soon.
‘Maria? Pleased to meet you. Sit down there, won’t you?’
Her eyes adjust to the light and her mouth organises rehearsed responses to the formalities of introduction. He summarizes her case history and she listens from above. He seems kind, wears a brown jacket and has sandy hair. He leans sympathetically towards her and gazes directly into her eyes, searching. Because of who he is, she wonders if he knows that she is watching from up there, that her answers aren’t real, that she is somewhere else. She drifts off again.
He shows her a room. It’s the one she’s been avoiding. He takes her hand in his and it is just the right temperature – tepid – and it is square and firm. She can feel by its smoothness that he is hardly older than her but that he is strong. He is there. And that’s the last time she thinks about him because she is looking at the shelves around the room.
There are tears, bottled and labelled, going right back to when she was a little girl. The first time she fell off her tricycle. The first day at school. When she couldn’t learn her French verbs. When she lost her first boyfriend. When she lost her father. Her husband. Her cat. They were all there. They looked neat, all facing the same way, ordered. About half the way along, the bottles were empty and clean, sparkling and waiting to be filled with laughter.
There is another shelf underneath, in the shadow of the one above. It, too, is home to a line of bottles. She has to squint with her eyes to read the smudged labels. They look as though they have been fingered, opened too regularly. The insides of the glass in each one are stained and dark. Instinctively, she knows she has been there before, that there is no need to look inside them now. She sees that this shelf is full.
‘Yes?’ and she returns his gaze and smiles.