Forgive me (you won’t forgive me), but I don’t know the best form of address for you. It was never right and you hated it, I know, when it changed, when it became all formal because we’d grown apart and I’d “changed”. That was after the divorce, I suppose. It’ll be in a diary somewhere. The one you said I’d try to publish. The one you said I kept only to “show you up”. The one that led to the promise that I wouldn’t be invited to your funeral.
Do you remember saying that, I wonder? You were on the second bottle of vodka at the time.
This is meant to be a rejection. That’s the idea. You’d think it was daft, of course. No. That’s not a “you” word. You’d think it was fucking imbecilic. You’d think it was me showing off again. Showing off and showing you up at the same time. Fucking fat-head that I am.
This is meant to be a rejection. And it is going to be a rejection. I have much to reject.
I’ve managed to mention the fucking fat-head thing. Maybe I’ve gone in with that too soon. Maybe I should have left that for the punch-line. Like you used to. At the end of the night, on the third bottle or the fourth. I wasn’t counting. I wouldn’t have dared.
There were others, though, and I’m saving them up. Because this isn’t the diary. Because the diary didn’t know what it was and reading it now – oh, you’d be surprised – I always tried so hard to see it from your point of view. I can’t believe you didn’t read it, but if you didn’t, you need to know this – I tried, I really did, to see what it was like for you in that woodchip and artex walled house after he’d left you with nothing. Or you’d thrown him out. It really depended on where you were in the bottle as to which story we got.
I was there the night he went, though.
You weren’t, as I recall.
I tried so hard and I took it and I took it and I took it. Even what you said about the period.
Is this what I am rejecting? The names I’ve been called in the past that I’ve held onto – because I was always a one for holding onto grudges, you said. Because self-important pricks would hold on to arguments from two decades or more ago.
No. There’s more to it than that. You told me – spittle-flecked and booze-soaked as you so often were when awake – that I thought I was better than you, that I was better than everyone. You told me that if they knew – if those friends of mine – all three of them – knew who I was really, they’d all reject me. All of them.
You knew who I was really.
You told me that almost every day. Whether you’d read the diary or not.
Maybe you told yourself you didn’t need to. After all, I’m the type who’d lie to himself. I’d do that. Thinking it would be published. Which was only ever an idea of mine because you put it there, because you fancied the idea of someone making money and a bestseller couldn’t be all that hard to write, could it, and the typewriter you’d got from Frank next door had to be put to good use for something and if I thought I was so fucking clever then why didn’t I get on and write one? Said even after you’d hurled the typewriter against the airing cupboard door.
I never did get the space bar to work properly again.
But you knew, you said – you knew who I was, really, and if only Graham and Robin and Jonny and the others knew, they’d reject me like a shot.
And there we are at rejection. Again.
And then, when I changed – as I might have said we all do; we all can’t help but doing – you said I was more and more like him, and that made me worse still, and if I wanted to be like him, perhaps I could join him? Fucking fat-heads together. Why not? I was nothing to do with you. I couldn’t be yours. Not now mummy had become mother.
I should have been a period.
Ah. Yes. The midnight, one in the morning, three in the morning, standing in my doorway with the bottle in your hand “should have been a period” rant.
If only I’d been a period back when you were seventeen, I’d never have been any of those things at all – genuine or not, fat-head or not, “changed” or not. I wouldn’t have dared call you mother.
If only I’d been a period, you wouldn’t have me reminding you every day of everything I wanted to do or thought I could do or believed about myself when there was nothing good to believe in because there was Nothing Good There.
Is that what I’m rejecting? From the woman who, five years later, wouldn’t know what degree I was studying? Who, ten years later, couldn’t name any of the jobs I’d done – and, yes, it was wrong of me to put you on the spot like that, it really was, but I needed to know that you didn’t know. Or told myself I did when it was all there in front of me to know. What the neighbours wouldn’t believe of you. Even the ones who’d heard the crockery break.
The woman who didn’t go to weddings or graduations or birthdays or family occasions of any kind. Ever.
I never did have a birthday party.
Boo-hoo, you’d say. There are kids starving in the world, you’d say. And then there’d be bruises. Let me tell you, those wooden-soled Dr Scholl sandals bloody hurt.
Is it your assessment of the boy no-one would like that I’m rejecting, or your [mal]treatment of him all that time?
Is it your failure to know who I was really, or my feeling that you knew me all too well and everything I did and everything I have done ever since has only been an attempt to prove that I’m something I’m not?
I am writing to reject something else. I am writing to reject the idea that it is still necessary – decades on – to have this argument with myself, here, in these words, when these words – perhaps like the diaries I still have and, no, never published (even I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to presume that might happen) – will never be read by you. I am writing to reject the need to keep coming back to these memories and the arguments I never had with you and the words that can’t be unsaid and the words that will never be said.
I am writing to reject the need to write the words I am writing.
But, then, he would have said that, wouldn’t he? He would have excused himself with that lie. The fat-head boy. And then he would have written the words anyway.
Mike Hickman is a former academic and (very much current!) writer from York, England. He has written for Off the Rock Productions (stage and audio) and has recently been published in the Blake-Jones Review and the Cabinet of Heed.