Chapter 8.

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The next morning, I find ten empty Heineken bottles on the kitchen table. I don't know where they came from. And there's a wet kitchen towel in a crumpled heap on the table, carrying the stale smell of beer. There is no trace of Dion in the kitchen, and I don't find him in the spare room where he has been staying either.

I quietly rinse out the empty bottles and put them in a box in the pantry. When I turn around, I gaze into an empty living room. The chairs look lost. I haven't touched the bookshelves at all in the last few days; they were exclusively my mother's, just like the collection of seventies albums she used to play all the time. My father's was always only the pungent smell of cigars, but that is now slowly fading.

I cross to the shelves. Two of my mother's books are piled on top of my father's cigar box. When I take it out and open it, a sweet, heady scent rises up from the three remaining deep brown cigars. Dad could spend ages just standing here with his box of cigars, without lighting one up, just inhaling the smell.

I take a cigar from the box and roll it between my fingers like I've seen my dad do. Then I take the little cutter from the box, not quite sure whether I'm supposed to clip the front or the back end of the cigar. Moments later, I lean back in my father's chair with a cigar that refuses to burn properly and that's almost disintegrating at one end, with the garden door open like my mother always made my Dad do when he was smoking. His smell spreads around the room and a heavy, sad feeling fills my stomach.

Outside I can hear the sounds of birds, and very distantly the waves of the sea lapping on the shore. There are no mechanical noises – no cars, no other traffic – but human ones every now and then. Just a few months ago there would always be noise when the garden door was open; my mom complained about it sometimes. Screaming children, music from neighboring houses, cars. But I never minded. They were a comfort to me when I would lie awake at night, my personal darkness gnawing at me like a hungry beast. They distracted me; from thinking, from giving in to the feeling of just walking into that sea until I could no longer feel the bottom.

Now all distractions are gone. Every night when the wind blows inland, I hear nothing but the waves and the voices of darkness that I have never been able to completely quench, not with all the medication in the world. They just keep singing to me, like some off-key melody.

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