Kettle screech jolts his two-minute nap. Five a.m. Half asleep, he pours boiling water into coffee-drenched mugs. Half asleep, it takes him two seconds to realize – the hot watered surface has become his skin. These white walls stifled him. He found his excuse, at eighteen, to leave the house, even for a bit. He took the bus, an hour and a half away, to get to a pharmacy.

Half asleep, they say:

first degree burn

slightly red skin

almost like a sunburn

Summer was here and she was happy. Busy. Her heels, rhymed steps against dirty gray sidewalks. She waits for the white man and crosses over to the flower shop. Her second favourite in the city. Red, yellow, white tulips for her stopover. Before her important dinner. She rings the bell, shouts her greetings, and drops the flowers in someone’s arms.

As she leaves, she looks back. And over her shoulders, she sees

Guilty flowers

A happy child

And herself – the absent mother.