Dear Aunty or Mister,
At the end of the month, we moved in. Yes, it was during my end of term exams and no, Theresa didn’t come, because she had a second breakdown. Mammy said it was bad this time, worse than the first time. She had to go into the mental hospital for treatment. Theresa always said she never wanted that to happen because it would mean the end of her life. I cried for her, and for the life she had lost, the life she had not really begun to live.
The house we rented from Sister Mac’s was right next to the big one she and her husband and grown up children lived in. She was also raising two grandsons who, every single day, came out to play in the yard, which is between our house and theirs. Ours is a small house, with just one bedroom, so Mammy put a bed in the tiny living room for me. A living room in which the only furniture – apart from the bed – was a broken down desk we had once been given by long gone friends, a mirror belonging to those same friends, and one single chair. The chair was the only survivor out of the set of three my mother had once bought at a second hand shop. The shiny, metal legs were now rusty and aged, and the only way to make it stay upright, was to lean it against the side of the bed. I think that if Theresa was here, she would’ve been able to lie on the floor with arms and legs outstretched, and touch the walls of the living room from end to unpainted end.
There was no electricity, and no running water in the kitchen sink - a square, zinc receptacle outside the back window. The window, one, of a total of four in the house, opened only if propped up with a piece of wood. Any water used to wash up the dishes, immediately pelted though the wide hole in the bottom, into the soggy, mud-slime below. When you closed the window at night, the sink remained outside of the house, and the mixture below it made a perfect watering hole for scurrying rats and other small night animals, after the dish water had stopped falling.
Most of the rest of our furniture were already broken from all the moving we’d had to do. Mammy put her rocking chair by the only front window we had. This is where the front steps used to be. It had obviously broken off some time back, but had been removed and taken away, and the front door was then boarded over. The only steps we had to access the house were awfully narrow and looked like they’d been slapped together in one afternoon. There were no banisters, and no back boards behind the stairs themselves. Climbing the rickety structure step by single step, was always a balancing act, you had to be sure to get right every time. There were no safety nets, and the fall was ten feet below.
Inside the house, there was one other room; a small kitchen, with a tiny cupboard-like, lean-to which had loosely placed zinc sheets for a roof, and a concrete floor. This was where we washed ourselves. Like the sink, the hole in the bottom was where the water escaped once you’d poured it over your body.