Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Barking Frog: Pathway to the Dead


ONE

I cracked an egg open into her face – right between the eyes.
            Be a man Andy, said the internal scream beforehand, me egg in hand. Think of yourself as a gangster, continued the inner other me, a gangster wouldn’t put up with what you’ve been through. That was the barefaced truth of it. I was on the wrong side of thirty-five and it was finally time for me to be a man. No one on this earth would have put up with what I had been put through. And so there it all was. In the kitchen. Mum’s old kitchen. Now my kitchen. Morning touching noontime. A combination of damned circumstance – a brutal tiredness from working through the night, her stony traitor silence and my head-talk about being a gangster – had brought me to this act of violence. The fuse of my patience now burned to melting, the egg then fired spectacularly from palm to forehead.
            Splat!
            I suppose I did feel a bit like a gangster in the immediate moment that followed through. A monstrous sense of power, control. Like a gangster leader. But then again when I say I felt like a gangster leader, I don’t mean that I was some sort of feared modern-day offspring of The Krays; I guess I would always be in my mind's eye a romantic gangster, still somehow dangerous, but playful at heart, an old fashioned Al Capone type, feet pointed up on a desk, puffing away on a fat Cuban cigar from afar, enjoying the triumphant news about the St. Valentine’s Massacre. Hmmm. Valentine’s Day.
            But I do now think I really did feel the power and control of a man putting his woman in her place, with that egg. Some moral authority as fractured bits of shell grazed her delicate skin while yellow and transparent phlegm dripped down her thin pointed nose and into the waiting hole of her astonished mouth. I clenched my eyes shut. Everything silent, everything still. When I opened them she really did look such a pathetic wonderful sight. I almost forgot myself and all that she had done to hurt me; I almost grinned. I didn’t grin because I am undoubtedly the kind of person never to glory in domestic violence let alone any kind of violence. I am simply not vicious by nature. I abhor violence. Always have done. But now, now that I have come to think about it all, I’m all twisted about the facts.
            What I mean is, is that I guess I know exactly how they would have both reacted if they had got to read any of this now. They would have definitely laughed and then spitefully sung to the world about how if I was any sort of a gangster I’d have been a U certificate gangster, bleeding Bugsy Malone. Bugsy sing-along Malone.
            Splat!
            Thank God for Eddie. Always remember how he showed the way. I will. Because it could have been so easy for me to have been swallowed up and spat out onto the pavement. The dead spit under your shoe.
            That’s what drove me forward. In such a short space of time, I fatally had so much to prove. That’s why I got sucked in. Because everything about me, the real me, was clearly at stake.


I am not the first person to have bought a wrong card. My so called father was infamous for a Valentine’s Day fuck-up himself. Just before Long John jumped ship the first telltale signs of complacency were hammered home on a snowbound February back in 1986 when he bought Mum a ‘Home-Welcoming’ card.
            ‘Settle in with love’ was the printed message inside and there beneath he stained his name and slashed some squiggle that was in no way a crisscrossed twin-kiss like he said it was; it was the scribbling of an idiot, a miniature self-portrait sketch of a slippery snake.
            I kept that card. I never told anyone that before. What was the point until now?  But I kept that card. Tore it out with my bare hands from the pit of our swollen stinking wet bin. Mum’s burial ground for love lost. She never knew I watched and listened to her stuff it in there with such brutal force complimented by primal grunting. Stuffed it down to the bottom she did, so her elbows disappeared. Mum then rose and stood erect in thought or thoughtlessness and then wiped her hands on her jeans. I waited for her to go upstairs before I made my move. Never a problem for me getting my hands all filthy. I knew I was fighting a war. And all wars are filthy. And my justification, when the time came, would be all the more sweeter now I had that card. For I now had my proof. The cherry on the cake. Part and parcel to the damage he done – that wrong card; I always knew that one day I would get the chance to ram that card down his throat. Thank God for Eddie. But I don’t want to think about Eddie right here. Eddie can wait. He’ll get his stage all right. It’s already written. For now I’m thinking once again and again, deeply of Mum. Mum was so distraught about that ‘Home-Welcoming’ card. Hardly surprising the way things were back then. ‘Settle in with love’. What bollocks.
            When she flipped-open the envelope to reveal the foolish card, the wrong card, the mistake, all he did was snigger at the error of his ways. That was about all Mum could take. What with everything else that had gone on behind the scenes. He laughed in her face when she called him an idiot for buying the wrong card. Her all tearful, him sniggering, then cackling. What a nerve he had. It’s not necessarily in your blood, you know, carried from father to new born so that you walk in the shadows of those who trod before you. No, not I. I am not as he lived. I am not dreary and dripping in spite. I am not bad as a rotten egg. Not like him.
            For sure I’d also given over a wrong card. But I never laughed. I handed the card to Mandy with a loving smile and then I went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. I had immediately gone into the kitchen not just to prepare bacon and eggs but to allow her the freedom to open the envelope without me fixed in her face. The way some fucked-up people are when they hand you a ‘gift’ and wait expectantly for an appreciative reaction. I thought that me stepping out of the scene and into the kitchen was the right thing to do. The right thing for a considerate boyfriend to do. Allow her some space, to open that important expensive relationship-saving card contained within a large pink envelope. Because even though we all now knew that I knew about everything – every squirt of her stinking shame – and how I had been right all along in all my accusations, and it was made perfectly clear by me in how I felt about what she had done, I truly thought all was now fit and well, everything coming up roses; maybe I should have got her roses, perhaps that was my downfall.
            Of course it didn’t matter a fuck. Roses or no roses the end result would have still played out the same. And anyway, I didn’t think at the time to get roses because I had genuinely thought that that big magnificent card was the ultimate emotional rescue. I was saying, loud and clear – FUCK IT, FUCK HIM, NO, NOT HIM, DON’T FUCK HIM AGAIN, PLEASE DO NOT FUCK HIM AGAN, DO NOT FUCK RICK FUCKING BANDY AGAIN PLEASE – AND BANDY? WHAT SORT OF CURSED NAME IS THAT SENT TO HAUNT ME, SPITE ME? – no, sorry, sorry to have brought that all up again in capital letters, but can you really blame me after what you have done to me, no, sorry, I didn’t mean to spew that up again, sorry, more importantly, it’s all water under the bridge to me, water under the bridge, under the fucking bridge, see, I can deal with it, I am an adult, mature, the ability to see different points of view in a calm and measured manner, I can go on, deal with this, absorb the pain and shit it out the other end, job done, now to kiss and make up, see, the way I perceive our current status, is that we do still have a future, a stunning future, a happy future, I KNOW WE CAN STILL MAKE A LOVING FUTURE, AND THIS, THIS CARD IS MY RELATIONSHIP-SAVING EMOTIONAL RESCUE, MY OFFERING ON THIS HAPPY LOVERS DAY TO YOU. Yes. My thoughtful card, another plaster pasted over the spot where ruin wanted to still seep. That’s what I thought, what I wanted. But, it transpired, I had got it all wrong yet again. Even though it was Valentine’s Day, I, the dumbest animal that ever lived, had somehow purchased a birthday card.
            It still said, I LOVE YOU, in it. I was certain I had checked the card thoroughly in the newsagents before purchase. They had little in their ‘Valentine’s’ range, so little that was appropriate to me and her, and I saw this card, this gigantic card – To My Wonderful Loving Girlfriend – and there was nothing, no mention inside the pamphlet pages (that I now wish were blank) about a birthday except, as it now transpires, in small joined up writing at the back end of the message.
            No, I definitely never noticed it was a birthday card. I never read the four pages of endless empty love messages in such detail. Surely no bloke does. It was like a small book. All those inner pages. It cost me a bleeding fiver. No, I thought that ‘To My Wonderful Loving Girlfriend’ embossed in snowy white capitals on the cover was definitely the right card for me to get. Despite all the revelations, what I now knew for certain, I rightly thought it was the right card – that in the face of such wounded pride, I had proved myself to be more of a man than he’d ever be. And even though it was the wrong card, the more I think about it now, the more I remember how I was immediately drawn to it; its visual splendour, it’s surely worthy rich price. No, I never noticed it was a birthday card.




She did though. Mandy spotted the mistake instantly. And then her mocking contemptuous silence condemned me. Not for the first time in recent times, I felt such a fool. I felt myself cower. I hated myself for cowering. That shadow of doom seemingly all around me, obliterating all light; I felt bullied all over again, which was a truly rotten feeling for any man to have. And then, I guess I just went on the defensive. You must gravely appreciate how I had already previously told her, (with sufficient notice), severely warned her how one day soon I would lose patience, show her. Okay, so I hadn’t actually carried out my threat and brought home some old tart to screw under the roof, right under her thin pointed nose; an act on my part of absolute necessity, to cause the maximum humiliation – a fair and square retaliation. No, it was of no surprise that I had had no joy there. But I had now cracked an egg open into her face. And I guess for the very first time she knew exactly what I was all about. She should have screamed. Slapped my face. Called me pure evil or a heartless moron. Highlighted – when all was said and done – how it was really me that was all to blame. How months of neglect had inevitably taken their toll. And maybe she’d’ve have been right. Yes, perhaps she should have slapped my face, reacted defensively in some way. But that’s not her style. That’s not my Mandy. She just stood there as the bacon sizzled loudly. The bacon screaming for attention while she remained frozen in silent shock, a face full of raw egg. It must be love, I still thought. Yeah, right. But then she whimpered. What was it she said?
            ‘I’m so sorry.’ 
            I should have burst out laughing at that. But I maintained gangster-mode.
            ‘You disgust me.’
            She remained unflinching; which annoyed me – I mean I said it with such cruel intent, like I was possessed. But no. She stood unflinching. Like in the immediate aftermath of the egg. So I upped the ante and went into Armageddon mode.
            ‘For fuck’s sake wake up you hurting cow – wake up and smell your sin. Cos it’s a fucking stench. It is. And while I’m setting things straight, clear up the fucking mess you made me make.’
            I then took a step back, drew breath. It was such a deep breath. I seriously don’t think I had ever sworn at her before. There’s always a first time for everything. She had taught you that! I shouldn’t laugh, so I took another deep breath, this one concealed as a calm intake. I turned and looked out of the kitchen window. It was grey out, drizzly. A fat lump of a lone magpie was sat fixed on the roof of the shed, considering me intently, eyes burning. Sorrow. It was time to take stock. But the facts stood tall. It was all too late for late demands. How could the mess really ever be cleared now? And then I decided, no, fuck it, I’d skip late-morning breakfast and so I left her. Her, the idiot, the tiny beautiful idiot. Me, so typically worrying about her feelings. How I would never want to hurt her. She needs hurting. So I left her, alone, to suffocate in her own misery. But once outside and away from the house, still I worried; would she turn off the gas; would she simply collapse in a tearful heap of guilt and pain and allow the bacon I had abandoned to blacken? Who fucking well cares? I then created further distance by increasing my pace, marching like a maniac. I had done the right thing, I had left her. Left her to enjoy her own gruesome company. All that the two-timing thing deserved. That’s better.
            I would eventually return home of course. I always returned home. Home is where I live. The home Mum left to me. Mum. Left to me. ME. That’s why I call it home. It’s my home and my wages paid the bills. My money. I worked and ached five long nights a week in order to pay the bills and buy food and drink. Not her. I worked five long nights and spend what weekend ‘quality time’ combating a futile war against tiredness. I was the one here with no life. I was the one with the law on my side. Because one thing was for certain. She never bust a gut doing her poxy twelve hours a week maximum stuck behind some tucked out the way counter.
            ‘I get so bored,’ she always told me. ‘Our corner always takes the least sales.’
            Abort that counter then. I needed to speak to the right people. Fucking sort it out. Sort out business where it’s clearly failing. But the so called right people, these right people, never seemed right for me to approach. I did get her the job though. I got her the job after all. It was me that got her off of her arse, stuck in front of the box all day watching Homes Under The Hammer, To Buy Or Not To Buy, Cash in the Attic, Bargain Hunt, Loose Women – even all daytime repeats of Top Gear. She never used to watch Top Gear with me and Mum on a Sunday. Never. But she’d happily watch them all day on Dave with Mum in the grave and me in bed asleep.
            So I got her the day job. Hoped that she’d contribute in some way to our outgoings. To us. But no. What little she earned she spent on lipgloss, clothes, lipgloss, magazines, lipgloss and wine. I don’t drink wine. Red or white. Can’t understand the appeal. She liked to drink a hell of a lot of wine. No. It’s me that kept a roof over our heads. It’s me that kept the house warm. It’s me that paid out good money – albeit the wallpaper was on staff discount – to improve the colour scheme in the three rooms that she said needed updating; tree silhouette in the hall, metallic bloom in white in the living room and bold stripe teal in the bedroom. The interior’s now all nice and new and stylish, the homely environment upgraded, perfect and cosy for when she had her lipgloss on and her lover round.
            But even with all that said and done, here’s the madness of truth. I do love her. As much as she disgusts me for what she… I do still love her. I’d be an idiot for letting her stay having done what she’d done under my roof, if that wasn’t the case. Yes, I still love her; even after all she has done to harm me, to create this dangerous being that I now am. For I never knew that I had such pent up potential to inflict such wanton hate and heartless pain. With all that in mind I intensely hoped, as I marched head-bowed into the darkness of midday, that the cracking of the egg into her face wasn’t the birth to even uglier times ahead. Because this something bad in me was new to handle. I guess even right then I knew that I had no control over it. The anger, the force from within. The lid had definitely been blown clear off; my state of mind further to an act of kitchen aggression as fragile as an eggshell.


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