Taking Responsibility

I was in the living at my mother’s house.

I say my mother’s house but despite leaving there at the tender age of sixteen I’ve always seen it as my own too.

It was the house in which I’d spent most of my childhood, growing up alongside my three sisters; Paulette my elder sister, and my two younger ones, Denise and Juliet. it was the family home and the house in which my father lived before he passed away at just 48 years old back in the cold February of 1980.

The living room was as clean and tidy as it ever was. My mom was always one for keeping the room tidy and well ordained. Everything in its usual place and looking nice.

It was a smartly crafted articulation of warm, comfortable looking sofas and neatly placed houseware which mainly consisted of a blend of both glass and teak cupboards, their spotless clean surfaces decorated with a host of colourful, shining enamel ornaments which had been tidily arranged in much the same way and with as much care as the many pictures hanging on the whitewashed papered walls.

Familiar surroundings, only this time there was a difference. An unfamiliar, elaborate set up of music amplifiers, pre-amps, mixing desks and speakers were assembled in the corner of the room where the TV would usually have been and were switched on. I could hear both a loud mixture of reggae music playing and separately yet at the same time, the audio sound of some type of discussion taking place during what I assumed to be a TV programme.

My dad, whom I recalled being with earlier that day (although I couldn’t now remember what we’d been discussing) was upstairs. “I’d better turn the volume down.” I was thinking and I was trying to but no matter what button I pressed or which knob I tweaked and turned, the volume would not decrease.

The music deck looked new. A DJ’s dream. It was made up of a range of good quality electronic equipment, each item encased in smart jet black bodywork and sculptured to incorporate tiny green or white flashing bulbs, the occasional illuminated meter display panel and in some discreet spots some subtly fashioned white lettered labelling. The entirety was connected together in a way that was far too complex for me to fathom and on a level that confirmed my dad’s superior knowledge of musical sound systems. He knew how to string them together and get them to work just fine.

The music, a tuneful song by Beris Hammond (I think) sounded so good that it was a shame to turn it down but it was too loud and for this reason that’s what I was trying to do.

I needed to reduce the volume of the music and audio but this wasn’t through a fear of the loud music upsetting my dad. I wasn’t scared of the repercussions or anything. I just thought that if I didn’t turn it down a bit then it would be too much of a disturbance for the neighbours and he (my dad) would have to do it and that would be an unnecessary disturbance for him. And that felt uncomfortable because surely, being his son, the offspring of a man who was so technically gifted and astute plus being someone who was also quite clever, I could work out how to do it myself.

There was another (bigger) problem though. I was smoking a spliff. And not just any spliff. This one was the stinkyest, smokiest joint you could imagine. Personally, I don’t mind the smell of burning weed, in fact I quite like it but the fumes and smoke off this were acrid and was filling up the room more than even I could stand. Plus I knew that this was an occurrence that would definitely make both my mom and dad unhappy.

I opened the front window. Outside was fresh and bright like a warm summer’s day and I thought this may help but it didn’t make any difference. While I was doing that I was thinking about why I had been smoking in the first place. A part of me tried to blame it on my dad and on that reggae music that was still playing through that sleek looking sound system. For a moment I concluded that it must have been my dad’s weed even though I’d never seen him smoke in my whole life.

It was becoming too much. Silver-grey smoke was pouring like a stream out of the spliff and the smell was so strong their was absolutely no hiding or trying to deny its existence.

I held the spliff out of the window and tried to out it by dabbing the end of it with my finger tip. I noticed that I’d managed to tap at the tip a few times without it burning me – which was good. But it was still alight so I pressed my finger onto the lit end hard and long. Thankfully again, despite my actions I felt no pain so I continued dabbing and pressing until the joint looked like it was starting to be extinguished. I just had to put it out.

While this was going on I was still thinking about where I’d got this weed from and who it belonged to. It was clearly one of those high grade quality draws, the type that I normally enjoyed smoking. And as I managed to finally out it by pulling the burning tip off and squeezing it into a nothingness between my fingertips I realised it wasn’t my dad’s weed at all. It was mine.

I was the one who’d bought it and brought it into the house. I was to blame for puffing at it so hard that the intoxicating grey smoke both filled my lungs and gathered like a moorland fog in my mom’s lovely neat living-room. All of this was nobody’s fault but mine and mine alone.

I looked down at my dad’s sound system for a final time. The music was still playing and the audio of some type of TV show in which a man’s voice seemed to be the dominant feature also rang out somewhere in the background. But as I approached it again, this time with a degree of frustration, the whole scene suddenly altered and as it shifted from one time and place to another, momentarily scrambling my senses, it took me with it.

With my eyes blinking and the familiarity of reality flooding my neurons I realised that I had woken up and that I was no longer stood in the living room of my mom’s house but instead was lying on the settee in the front room of my own home.

It was five in the morning. I could still hear a man’s voice and realised that it belonged to the man on the TV who was looking out at me through the screen and talking about the family whose story he’d just investigated because they thought they had been threatened by vampires. No wonder I couldn’t turn it down during my dream. The volume had been outside of my reach and control all along.

The reggae music was still playing but only in my head. A soft, throbbing familiar tune that I continued to somehow enjoy until, overwhelmed by the multitude of thoughts now flooding my consciousness, it faded slowly away.

Through the window I could see outside into the street. It was clothed in the silence and darkness of nighttime and only the faint golden hue created by the glow of the street lights made the opposing windows, doors, red-brown brickwork walls and silt shaded roof tiles of the houses nearby discernable.

Looking about me I saw that the remote control was on the floor close by and just within my reach – so I picked it up, switched off the TV and for the next few moments, embraced the ensuing silence.