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  • I remember reading a book once, about heroin addiction. (Candy, I think it was called, by Luke Davies.)

    A personal account of addiction, it detailed at one point, how an addict has an incessant need to pick and squeeze.

    To pick at their nails, squeeze at blemishes or hairs on their face, at scabs, at pimples, at spots, at dead skin, at whiskers. If I recall, there is some connection in the brain of an addict between the release of a rush and the release of pressure on the body.

    Despite being addicted to cigarettes for 26 years (and giving up successfully over four years ago) I have never really comprehended the relentless need to pick. It annoys me in others.

    Pick, pick, pick.

    :: :: :: ::

    My father died twenty years ago. The black skirt my mother wore to his funeral was laid out the night before, ready for her to slip on, freshly pressed.

    Her cat must have spent some time sleeping on that black skirt the night before.

    Sitting next to my Mother at the funeral, my own insides screwed up in grief, I noticed her picking cat hair off her skirt. Head bent down, seemingly oblivious to everything else surrounding her, picking. Sitting on cool well worn oak, slowly inhaling the scent of incense of centuries, wrapped warm, as she picked.

    Methodically, her focus to the exclusion of all else, she picked.

    Over her head, my siblings caught my eye. We shrugged.

    Pick, pick, pick.

    :: :: :: ::

    Today, I spent four hours cleaning up my Mother's shit. I do not mean that figuratively. I cleaned faeces from her bed, her floors and from her clothes.

    In a few days, I shall return, and clear up more dregs.

    I shall buy more fresh food, and make pretence of that she will eat it. I will clear the fridge out, discarding the lies of last week’s fresh food.

    I shall cringe as I recycle bottles and goon casks of the wine she simply cannot resist. Her body cannot tolerate it, but she cannot manage without it. And as I obsessively count and calculate the volumes, I cringe at myself for enabling this, by being the one who relents when she asks me to buy it.

    I will open windows in a vain attempt to air the house from its stale smell of decline and cigarettes. And watch her as she nervously waits for me to leave again, so she can make her way around the house, fragile, desperate to close the windows again, from fresh air and from the world.

    She just wants to sit and smoke and drink and pick.

    Pick, pick, pick.

    :: :: :: ::

    My Mother has a little dog. My lovely husband and I bought him for her some years ago. He is a companion. He loves her unconditionally. He does not judge her.
    He is a long haired little thing, and he sheds his dog hair with profusion, all around her house.

    It is a fine long hair that seems to get onto and into everything.

    I notice her extracting dog of hair off her clothes constantly. It evidently brings her some form of comfort. It irritates me intensely. My tongue is swollen with recriminations and the desire to be cruel, to tell her to stop the picking.

    Head bent down, she is absorbed in the simple and never ending task of pick pick picking off dog hair.

    There is little or no conversation.

    I just watch her pick.

    Pick, pick, pick.

    :: :: :: ::

    This was written about 18 months ago. Amazingly, my Mother, since a period of hospitalisation and a house move last year, has remarkably turned her back on this old lifestyle. I am so so so proud of her. She is amazing. I will take every day I get.
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