It‘s a beautiful spring morning, and I’m in the gloom of the bedroom getting dressed. The rest of the house is flooded with light; the large windows give uninterrupted views of Rugby Road and the Botanic Gardens; fresh budding trees, sparks of yellow Witch Hazel. In the bedroom though, I always keep the curtains closed. Unless it’s a really black winter’s day, enough light seeps in around them for me to be able to see what I’m doing. Today it’s sunny outside, and there’s a beam of sunlight coming through the chink between the curtains; it severs the dimness just in front of me. As I pull a scarf from the drawer, dust particles fly up, illuminated in the radiance. They swirl: red, green, blue, and white; a serene miniature cosmos. It’s entrancing. I give the silk another shake, and more of the tiny fibres rise, hang, and slowly drift in the still air.
I am taken aback when the calm pattern changes, as if stirred up by little invisible fingers.
I didn’t do this. There are no air currents, no flying insects. It’s not natural. My heart beats faster, adrenaline pumps. Then it happens again; and again. It’s surely not possible. Children’s fingers playfully circling, making impish eddies, sweeping. Could it be?
Every day since I fled Chile after Pinochet’s bloody military coup in 1973, I’ve thought of the girls I left behind; my neighbour’s daughters. I remember them running through my house, filling the air with their infectious laughter, squealing when I tickled them. They were family to me.
Yes. It’s the only explanation – it has to be. At last my prayers have been answered and my lost ones have found me. I have missed them so, so much. I overflow with joy at the thought of their return; picture them giggling: gappy smiles, bright innocent eyes. Playing along with them, I touch nothing tangible, there is no sound. We chase each other’s traces in the sunlit motes. Then, all too soon, a cloud passes outside and they are gone. Tears bloom in my eyes, unwanted like nightshade. Sobbing, I curse the capricious Belfast weather de las putas then cry out to the mute air, imploring:
Come back, little ones. Please, stay with me. Tell me I’m forgiven? Your parents – they were Trade Unionists. It wasn’t my fault… everyone was denouncing communists. I didn’t know the secret police would take you as well. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
In limbo, I wait for the sun to return.