When I was a little girl, I was sleeping over at my best friend’s house. In the middle of the night, I woke and walked, pyjamaed and sleepy-eyed down the hallway, following some distant sound that I heard, some song. It was dark and I felt my way along the hallway, turning left into the kitchen where the moonlight made seeing easier. On the other side of the kitchen was a long, heavy sliding glass door – the sort that little girls need to throw their body weight against to open. From that door, you could see the pool in the backyard. We didn’t have a pool. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and just go watch the moonlight play on the water in the pool and wish I had one too. I wasn’t watching the pool that night. I was quietly following a song. The tile floors were cold and not very clean. My friend’s mother was called Sally and Sally wasn’t much of a housekeeper. She wasn’t much of a housekeeper but Sally could sing.
When I peered around the corner, I could see the living room, dimly lit, with Sally sitting in a kitchen chair she had placed in the space between the sofa and the television. The place where someone would be watching if they were sitting on the sofa and the television were on. She was facing the silent television with her guitar, her hippie-long hair pulled back in a ponytail and she was playing her guitar. She talked a lot about playing the guitar but I had never actually seen her do it. I had dusted the guitar a few times when I helped her with the housework but I had never heard its song. Her eyes were closed and she was singing. A glass of whiskey sat on the floor beside her. The carpet was stained. I wonder how many of those stains came from spills of late-night whiskey songs. I don’t know what song she was singing but I remember it felt sad. I remember that I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay but how is a little girl supposed to tell a grown-up that? I said it quietly to myself, watched her for a minute and went back to bed where her daughter was still quietly sleeping.
In the morning, Sally was sitting up in bed. She was that way a lot of days. We girls went in and sat on the bed with her but she didn’t have the energy for play. I asked her if she would play the guitar for us and sing us a song. She said she didn’t feel like singing anymore and we played with lip-gloss instead, pretending we were grown-ups or maybe just glamorous.
I never saw Sally play the guitar again. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe that was something she only did in the middle of the night; a sort of dream she lived while the rest of us were sleeping.