I’ve been putting off writing this. I’m feeling unlovely tonight though, and I don’t know what else I can do. Can I still write for you? I’m at the beck and call of a latent deity who keeps me in the dark. I envy your self-mastery and mystery. I wish I could put me out of my mind as well.
Anyway. Back to the story of bad blood.
In 1994, when I was 10, my mum moved in with her current boyfriend. As you read this, try to remember that they’re still together. Try to imagine a love like this.
My memories of this time are odd. I spent a lot of time trying to repress them and forget about them, or lying about them all, or simply getting the memories slightly wrong because things happened that I was too young to understand. Some of it has become clearer as I analyse my thoughts, but memory is a faulty thing and the mind has ways of trying to fill in gaps or change things in order for the narrative to make sense.
Things weren’t exactly great from the moment we moved in, but I can’t remember whether it was a gradual descent into torment or if it all just went to shit overnight. Both he and my mum were (and probably still are) alcoholics. He was very nice when we moved in, but I think that was just a bit of a show for my mother. As it became clearer that he wasn’t too keen on having me around, she followed suit.
These memories are in snapshots for convenience.
I mentioned elsewhere that they didn’t feed me properly. I didn’t get food some days. I used to ask for food and he would say no, because I wouldn’t be asking for it if it wasn’t there. Pointing out that it is there and that’s why I’m asking for it just got me in trouble. So I got skinny, like a whippet. I was all hipbones and eyeballs. I was too scared to take food from the kitchen because I once ate an extra Yorkshire pudding when I had taken the plates through and he hit me for that because it wasn’t mine to take.
He didn’t hit me a lot, but it did happen and the threat was always there. Whenever I’d been smacked before by other people, it had always been on my arse or the top of the legs (‘because it will sting but it won’t do any damage’) but he used to hit me round the head. And it was always so unpredictable. I once rode my bike out into the road and a car had to brake a little swiftly to avoid hitting me, so he dragged me off my bike and hit me instead.
I spent a lot of time crying. I wasn’t allowed to cry in front of them. I would be sent to my room.
One of the huge problems I had, was that he was an absolute dick when he got drunk and decided he was going to listen to music. He played his music loud, and there were huge speakers in the living room so it could be heard very clearly in any room in the house. How big a cunt do you have to be to play Tubular Bells of all fucking things at 2am, knowing damn well the kid in the room above is gnashing her teeth because she can’t sleep and she has to go to school in the morning? Loud music and sleep deprivation are used as psychological torture methods. And he was an alcoholic, so this happened very frequently.
Would it be facetious to brag about how resistant to interrogation I must be?
Speaking of torture, I used to be able to hear them having noisy, rough sex and even to this day I feel uncomfortable when I hear other people fucking.
To make things even worse, my body decided it was also going to join in on the torment and I crashed into puberty. One night I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed when my mum came in. She refused to have a lock on the bathroom door in case someone got locked in, so I spent my entire time living there in a constant state of hypervigilance – I can only assume that he was out that night so I’d let my guard down. She looked down at me and got a bit puzzled. ‘You’re dirty?’ she said. I shook my head. She realised it was hair and laughed. This would have probably been a good time for a ‘birds and bees’ kind of chat, but instead I hissed: ‘Don’t tell him.’ because I knew she would and I knew he would make me feel uncomfortable. And she did, and he did.
I felt uncomfortable around him a lot. Every night he used to make me kiss him goodnight on the lips, which I hated, but I don’t remember anything truly bad happening. The weirdest incident was when I woke up with him lying next to me in my bed, and my mum had come in to get me. I can’t remember if she came in before I woke up or if I called her. But he was asleep, and she said he must have come in to tuck me in (which wasn’t something he had ever done before) so she put me in her bed and got in with me – but she wanted to sleep on her side, and she didn’t want to lie on his side in case he wanted to get in, so I had to sleep on the very edge, spooned into her. I fell out twice. He didn’t come to bed, but I did hear him get up and go downstairs a few minutes later. He was usually one of those people who passed out wherever and then slept for 10 hours, so it was unusual for him to wake up so soon.
I don’t remember what happened after that, but that is exactly what happened and it’s exactly the same way I told it back then.
I only stayed a year. My mum got pregnant at some point and he got more abusive. He used to send her to the shop for crates of beer when she was absolutely massive and scrawny little me would tag along, partly to help but partly in hopes that if I went then I could get a Pot Noodle for my dinner. I don’t remember if my mum still drank while she was pregnant; I suspect she did, but I’m not going to lie about it. I do remember the routine of them arguing late at night and then us leaving and walking to my grandparents’ place, where I would be safe and fed and happy. She would tell me all the things we were going to do now we were free, and talk about where she wanted us to live and what stuff she was going to buy. Then the next day she would say ‘I’m just popping back to get some clothes,’ and leave me for a few hours before calling to say everything was okay and there was a taxi coming to collect me.
I don’t remember when I refused to go back. I remember the worst argument they had, her with only two months left of her pregnancy and him flushed with the drunken anger of an idiot, both of them screaming at each other. They came crashing past my bedroom, and I was scared but I had to go and help her because this one sounded bad.
I remember screaming out my bedroom window for one of the neighbours to help, for someone to call the police or something. Perhaps if he hadn’t tortured them with Mike Oldfield they would have had more sympathy towards other members of the household. Perhaps not. They were bystanders. Nobody called the police.
I arrived at the top of the stairs just in time to witness her try to reach the door and him grabbing her by the hair, hitting her in the face and then moving to pull her back upstairs. He got a few steps up with her screaming and dragging behind him before I managed to react.
‘I’m calling my dad!’ I screamed. What the fuck else could I do?
I don’t know what I was expecting, but he let go of her. He came after me. I ran to the phone in the living room and picked up the handset but he caught up, ripped the cable from the wall and pulled the phone from me. I remember how furious he was.
But I don’t remember what happened next. The whole thing is just blank. And I’m sorry, because that’s a rubbish way to end the scene.
I don’t remember if we left. I don’t remember if my mum stopped him hitting me. I don’t remember if I escaped and hid myself away until it went quiet. I have no way of knowing. My frightened little head disengaged itself from reality until it all went away and I made some friends called Dissociation and Amnesia.
The important thing is that I did get away from them. And they’re still together. Isn’t that nice?
This was more words than I ever meant to let them have, but so be it. It’s not quite the end, but it’s a happy place to leave it for now. I’m safe at home with my grandparents, and the trauma hasn’t hit me yet.