He sits hunched at the kitchen table in a dark cap and sunglasses tinted orange. A murky blue curtain on the window opposite is part way drawn to reveal only a slice of the waking morning.
He’s already thinking about how he must drive to the supermarket today. His eyes dart around him. What if they see me, he wonders. What will they think?
His hand trembles as he raises a spoon of Rice Bubbles to his mouth. Droplets of milk dribble onto the table and down his lap. He takes a napkin to dab at the spill on the table first, then on his lap. His eyes scurry once more, for people watching. What will they think?
He flings the napkin onto the table, his lap still damp. His head droops so no one can see him, or his guilt.
The supermarket. I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go, he tells himself over and over. I promised I’d get chocolates for dinner.
He picks up his glass to sip some juice. Again, his hand trembles, sending juice as rocky waves. He quickly brings the other hand up to help steady the surf.
They know I’ve done bad things, he tells himself. I am bad. I’ve got to get those chocolates and get home again, quickly.
He finishes breakfast and grabs his wallet and keys from the kitchen bench. He heads for his car through greyness that no one else can see, peering fearfully for the neighbours that watch him. He fumbles his keys to unlock the car, and lunges for the door. Get in quick, get in the car!
He starts the car and rushes out the driveway. He breathes deep. Get to the supermarket, get the chocolates and get out!
Five minutes later and he parks the car away from the cluster parked close to the supermarket door. Flitting eyes look for anyone around him. He lowers his cap and props his sunglasses up higher on the bridge of his nose, wishing they were darker. He breathes deep, and lifts his heaviness out of the car.
They know I’m bad. What if they’re filming me? Then they’ll know for sure. Got to get the chocolates. I promised.
He strides into the supermarket, his head and eyes watching the beige, lino floor in front of him. His heart quickens with a glance up to read where the confectionary aisle is. He walks the most direct route to aisle seven, turns into the aisle and standing there, is a sister. She sees him and smiles. He forces a smile back, which is more a grimace.
‘Hello,’ says the sister. ‘You’re shopping?’ she asks, surprised.
‘Yeah, just for chocolates for after dinner tonight,’ he says. ‘These ones.’ He grabs the nearest box with a hand shaking more wildly than at breakfast.
‘Look at your hand,’ says the sister. ‘Why is it shaking so much?’
He nods as if signalling to someone. ‘They’re watching me. I didn’t want to come here,’ he says.
The sister smiles. ‘I know. But you came, and no one’s watching you. Look around, there’s no one here.’
He scrutinises the aisle with the eyes of a rabbit startled by headlights. He doesn’t answer.
‘You know it’s all in your head. It’s not real,’ says the sister.
‘Mmm, that’s what Mum says.’ He draws in close to the sister. ‘Don’t you think they’re watching me?’ he asks.
The sister smiles. ‘It’s in your head. You’re a good person.’ She kisses his cheek. ‘Now go home before your hand shakes off.’
He giggles heartily, revealing a glimmer of his old self. He kisses his sister and dashes to the checkout, paying without lifting his head from his wallet. He marches out to his car with a few quick glances around him. He unlocks it and bundles in, throwing his bag on the seat beside him.
He’s home in record time and once there, heads for his studio. He shuts the door behind him and draws the blinds closed. He sits quietly and paints under artificial light, while the sun and all its rays dance merrily outside.