I grow up in a city with low, loaded skies that make it difficult to grow up.
Most of the time it is safest to stay close to the ground, to walk where you need to go quickly and without making any noise; to help with what needs doing around the house without complaining; to comb and plait your hair neatly; hang out the washing; take the rain; tuck yourself up in clean, bristly sheets; dream small dreams.
When the sun does comes out, as it occasionally has to, we sit for an afternoon in the garden, my mother and I, eyes closed, speaking only when it's time for the tea run, moving only when it's time for tea. Then we boil up the potatoes, cut up the onions, melt the butter, and eat silently in the garden when my father comes home from work, the shadows getting longer and longer as time marches into night.
When the light eventually gets pushed out, I go to bed but not to sleep. I sit by the window watching the stars slowly appear, as though someone is switching them on. I feel small, but not pushed down. In those moments, I feel like I'm floating up, up, growing, and life is amplified, unravelling, but beautiful, and slipping through my fingers like vapour.
My mother says dreaming is pointless and that looking upwards only makes you trip over things. Marry a man with a job, get a house, have kids. Sorted.
I turn 16. It rains for 60 days straight. I get a job in a chicken factory. I work there for 2 years; thousands of chickens come in alive and leave dead. Something in me dies. I meet a man 3 years my senior. I don't know if I love him. We marry. I am crystallised, or fossilised, or crushed into tiny pieces.
The sky moves forever, regardless. I get pregnant. I sleep and dream of a sky that is forever churning, thickening like cream becoming butter, pinning me to the ground.
My son is born on a sunny day in May and I am instantly in love. That night, after my husband has gone to bed, I open the curtains in the living room, stare at the moon full and low, my son sleeping in my arms, his breath low and new, and I am floating, buoyant with love, but anchored, and grounded, at last.