Humming along with Radiohead I am cleaning the bathroom. While I am pinching my faded Indian wraparound skirt between my legs and squat down to clean the toilet I am thinking how my mother would disapprove of all of this: the music, the cheap cotton clothes, the actual fact that I am cleaning a dirty bathroom. After all the money she invested in me, her bookworm daughter. It was an easy fit, this label, with my older sister being the sporty tomboy, mad about horses and cowboy games and my brother simply being the son. When people ask me where I am from, I am always tempted to say, arrogant academia. My mother’s country. It’s a place where you ask, what instruments do you play and what was your first foreign language at school. It’s a place where sport means tennis or horse riding and where you never ever wear two different patterns and blazers are always dark and jewellery and make-up must be discreet. It’s a place where your ignorant visitors are tolerated with a tight little smile always followed by the standard question, and what did you say your parents do? It’s a place where the cheap paperbacks are hidden behind the complete works of Goethe and the science books and where music means classical symphonies. Here drink comes in the correct glasses, white wine in small oblong ones, brandy in solid tumblers and vodka straight out of the bottle behind the dining room door.
I flush down the detergent and move on to close the shutters in the upstairs rooms to keep the heat out. I turn around and there she sits in the armchair, her legs elegantly folded over, cigarette in her hand, the tight little smile again with just that hint of condescension reserved for me and me alone.
Whoosh! I say and clap my hands and she disappears.