Accepting Stories

It no longer surprises me when I meet someone and instantly think “Yep, I want to get to know you better.” It’s also no longer surprising to me how often this happens.

There’s a common saying about luck: luck has to find you before it can bless you. The more chances you give it to find you, the more times it does. The more I actively look for and take chances, the luckier I am.
It doesn’t stop me thinking I’m useless with people and will never get with the sort of people I’m worth.
I’m reading another self-help book, and this one seems decent. It was recommended to me by my counselor. It’s called “The Happiness Trap” and it makes a shit ton of sense.
I won’t go into too much detail – that’s what the book is for – but something that’s resonating with me is the view that our thoughts are just reactions. Our thoughts are just stories and words reacting to the stimulation around us. They are not the truth. They do not predict the future. And they aren’t always helpful.
Because I have the thought that I’m useless with people, I try hard when it comes to people I like. I obsess over their reactions and play with infinite ideas for dates and jokes and sex. It’s all a waste of time and energy.
Because – in all my arrogant humility – I know I’m good. I know I’m worth it. And that’s a helpful thought.
I received a letter from my father the other day. It made me so angry. It took me a while to realise that, actually, it only made me feel so angry. Realising that stole all the energy from my anger and allowed me to look at what was causing it.
This letter is the second time he’s ever told me he’s proud of me.
The first time was at my school’s final ball. At that stage in my life, I didn’t like wearing nice clothes, believed sex was for marriage and thought dancing was stupid. I’d been feeling my then girlfriend’s pussy and arguing with myself whether marriage required a church or not. I was also dressed in the most ludicrously-fitted suit to ever drape a body. I didn’t want to go to the stupid ball and listen to stupid speeches by stupid jocks about the stupid friends they’d made at the stupid school, and I definitely didn’t want to do any stupid dancing: I wanted to stay at the hotel and make out.
My girlfriend decided that sex was only for marriage and vanished herself to the bathroom. My father’s impeccable timing led to him knocking at the door to help me with my tie – school taught me nothing other than how to climb trees.
I was quite distracted. My mind was in a large amount of “what the [non-offensive swear-word]?”. I felt queasy and guilty and lost and horny and my father pulled me into a bear hug and with a tear-filled voice whispered “I’m so proud of you.”
It was about then that I started to realise I didn’t give a fuck.
I didn’t tell him this. I awkwardly hugged him back and said thanks. I noticed he was crying. It was the second time I’d ever seen him cry. The first was when his father died. We’d loaded the wood-shrouded body into the car together. We turned and my gran was stumbling out of the church, her face wrenched into a grimace of grief as the boot door hid her soulmate’s body. I looked at her face through my soaking tears and all I could think was “she looks hilarious.”
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to burst out laughing at the sheer stupidity of it all. Behind me, I heard what sounded like my dad laughing. I turned in horrid wonder, a grin spinning onto my face, but he was crying.
I realise something about my father: to him, family is everything.
It’s not to me.
I hate this seven-page letter. I can’t write anymore.
——
And that’s not a helpful thought. I wrote everything above five days ago. This post has been sitting on my screen since then, reminding me I need to write. It just hurts so much. So I kept reading the book.
It offered some new ideas.
Driving analogies work best for me.
Taking a corner at speed requires a subliminal balance of traction and angle. The better the angle, the less correction, the less traction needed. The less traction, the less resistance, the higher the speed.
It’s all pointless if you enter the corner backwards.
The state of your car before the corner is vital. It must be steady, balanced, perfectly paced and perfectly lined. The better the entry, the less fiddling in the corner, the faster the exit.
To better myself, I need to accept who I am now. I cannot move through the next corner successfully without being at peace with all the things inside me.
It feels like I came out of the last corner correcting crazily, feet blurring in a panic on unresponsive pedals as I saw at the wheel. I’m still not back in control, I’m still gripless and lost but I have time. The next few corners look simple and unmentionable. I don’t know what comes next, but I have the time to accept me before it comes.

Repulsive Control

“Your emotions are a clue. Witness them, feel them, respond to them; never attach to them.”


It seems that, when i write my blogs, I quickly forget what I put in them. I put that quote in my blog a month ago and completely forgot about it.
I reread my last few posts a little while ago. I’d noticed so much about myself – things that could make a difference – and then I went and forgot it.
It reopened wounds and pains I’d forgotten. And so, when I got really drunk and found my knives, I decided to add to the scars I have there.
Except, that’s not entirely true. It is a lie to say I cut because I got drunk; I’d been looking for the knives for over a week. I knew exactly why I wanted them. And it had nothing to do with what I’d read in my blog.
Since the 21st of January until now, I’ve had sex a grand total of once. Someone had a million reasons why She no longer wanted to have sex with me: Her sex drive had disappeared, She had no time, I cried when things upset me, but the ultimate reason was quite simple: I repulsed her.
The one person I’ve slept with since was quite adamant she isn’t attracted to me. To the point where I want to duct tape her mouth shut and say “I get it. Now shut up and do some squats; your ass is getting fat.”
The German bought me a bottle of Shiraz bottled by “Arrogant Frog”. She told me the image (of a well-dressed french frog) reminded her of me, which I liked. I told another friend. He agreed, but said I reminded him of a bullfrog: not many people want to touch them.
I love driving. I love being in a car. I love high speeds and sharp corners. I could drive for ages, happy with an engine and four wheels.
I love – in particular – being on the edge. I love that small margin between a fast turn and crashing in a ball of fiery regret. I love driving faster than the norm, but not so fast that I can’t react, that I can’t stop myself from crashing. I love being in control.
I detest myself when I’m not in control. I get angry when I drive too fast to react, when I take a corner too fast, when I don’t put the car exactly where I want it.
When i woke and saw my bleeding arms and drunken texts, I realised something: i haven’t been in control for a long time.
It needs to change. I need to change. I need to take back control of my life. Of my health, my emotions, my drinking, my thoughts – everything.
It’s easier said than done. And what I need to remember is that I can’t do it all at once: one area at a time – the rest will follow.

Angry Ships

I figured that if I downed the whole bottle, the anger would be smothered, buried far away. So I tried. It was shit beer, but it had an alcohol content, and that was nice. But, when the empty bottle came down, my only thought was “Right, who should I throw this at to prompt the best fight?”

That obviously wasn’t a good idea. So I turned to the guy with the epic car, gave him $20 and he took me for an incredible blast in his gorgeous, rally-derived car.

He drives like I expected: he trusted the WRX more than he should have. I didn’t care; crashing and dying would have been a beautiful way to go.

We survived with huge smiles.

The anger returned. It just sat there, staring at walls without holes and wanting to change them.

I don’t know where the anger came from. I was simply sitting there, enjoying my drink and the company, when it emerged fully formed. And it just wouldn’t fuck off.

I tried everything I knew. I tried to focus on pretty girls – that worked momentarily. I tried to talk to cool guys – that worked momentarily. I tried to breathe, tried to smile. tried to walk and nothing worked more than temporarily.

It was like a hot black stone sitting in my chest. Everything ached around it. And I could not get rid of it.

It sucked. It sucked right up to the point that I realised calling it anger is half the problem.

I told (yet another) pretty German about my anger issues. She’s now a bit scared of me. When I shared this snippet with Dutchy, she moaned at me, claiming I don’t have anger issues, I’m just under a lot of stress.

I’m sick of her being right so fucking much.

It’s not anger; it’s just energy. It’s a fuel. It is not necessarily dark or deceitful or hurtful. It’s just something I can use if I’m willing to deal with it.

I found an old picture today. A picture of Someone. It’s a picture of Her, lying on a bed, completely naked. It’s a picture I’ve edited with mediocre skill. And it’s fucking beautiful.

I miss Her so much.

She is a manipulative, selfish, unreliable bitch and I wish the very worst upon Her but god I love Her so. I want Her to feel a tenth of the pain She caused me and I want to laugh at Her when She suffers but I know I’d always step in and help Her. I can’t bear to have Her suffer pain.

In many ways, Dutchy reminds me of Someone (though Someone has a better bum). I think, mostly, she reminds me of Her in the way they both use people and fuck people up. I think part of my attraction to Dutchy is that I hope I get to watch her be hurt the way Someone hurt me.

Which is a truly horrendous thing to say. Because the mere fact that that woman can smile every day is enough to give me hope. That she can go through everything she has, that she is as fucked up as she is and that she can then stand there and say in pure honesty “I’m ok” with a smile on her face is remarkable. To me, she is proof life is never too hard.

That proof makes me want to try again. That proof gives me hope. It tells me I could go back to Someone and say “Hey, I still love you. I want to try again with you. I believe this time you can win, this time you’re strong enough, because I’ve seen someone else do it, and I think you’re better than her.”

But I can’t go say that. There are numerous reasons I could use for it, but there’s only one honest one: I don’t want a relationship.

Because what I want is labelless.

This energy I have makes me lonely, it makes me lonely because it scares me. It constantly asks “how can I make the given situation more enjoyable/entertaining?” and occasionally arrives at answers like “throw bottle at Dutchy and pick fight with Hulk”.

I’m learning to control it. I’m learning to turn the focus away from me and onto others. Because it’s useful. Because it gives me the strength to say “Where I was sucks, I’m going somewhere better and I have nothing to fear.”

Because it’s stupid to be scared of myself. It’s stupid to long for the past. So I’m stepping forward, without any darkness, one small step at a time.

Fuck You

My brother is one of the bravest people I know.
I got angry today. I got so angry, I completely lost control and attacked the people that care for me the most.
This involved calling my mother an “arrogant bitch”, telling my brother to keep out of it or “I’ll hit you in the face”, and following this threat by grabbing him by the throat and smashing the back of his head into the stairs.
I told him if he followed me, I’d hit him again. Mom tried to calm us down. He leapt between me and mom, determined to not let me hurt mom. He shut himself in my room with me and told me to “put me into hospital, see how you feel then!” to which I responded “Fuck off, I don’t feel.”
And then I grabbed him once more, opened the door, and threw him across the hall and into mom, who crashed backwards into the wall, winding herself and falling to the floor. My dazed, supportive and loving brother then tried to help her up. A pang of shame filled me and I went to help. He tried to push me away.
I responded by swinging one arm into his chest and throwing him into a pillar, from which he then fell and lay crumpled on the floor.
Fortunately, seeing my brother crying on the floor gave mom the strength she needed to get up, pushing me aside. They disappeared upstairs, leaving behind the memory of their scared and bewildered eyes.
I packed a bag and left.
My granddad used to beat my grandmother. To stop him, my dad would provoke him, get in the way, and take the beating himself. Sounds familiar. My granddad at least had the excuse of being a drunk. I just have no control.
And now my brother is as upset with me as I am with my dad. Probably more so. It’s not like my dad ever attacked me. He just stole from me, insulted me, ignored me, criticised me, belittled me. He no longer even knows who I am. He told me today that I am “shy”. It’s like he’s been in prison for the last five years, not the last five months.
Fuck him.
And if I can hold that attitude towards my father, then I can perfectly and utterly understand how my brother feels towards me. I’ll get round to forgiving my father at some point. I hope my brother can someday forgive me.
But, I left. When my mom was freaking out about moving, when I was supposed to be organising all the moving and the packing and getting all those heavy damned things from one household to another, I left with a fucking heavy bag rolling along behind me, and sat down at a bus stop.
I watched the cars drive by, hoping against hope that the bus would arrive soon and that no one I knew would drive by. I ignored my mother when she pulled up. She eventually left.
I’d started to calm down. I’d gone from that angry place to that “what the fuck just happened, lock it behind a door and make jokes” place. Do you know how many weird looks you get when you’re walking through St Heliers in a nice jacket and cool boots, lugging a heavy suitcase behind you? Now add in talking and muttering to yourself and you end up with a bunch of fucking confused rich people.
It was a little while later that I realised I’d forgotten a sleeping bag. And my passport.
I’m such a shallow arsehole, I’d packed my bag full of clothes and forgotten what I’d be sleeping in and how I’d get anywhere. I’ve lived such a pampered, sheltered life, I don’t even know how to run away properly.
In the process of rectifying these discrepancies however, I realised something.
I’d only reached out to one person for help. She was the sort of person who’d spot an attention-seeking text immediately and just ignore it until she had time.
I’d asked her for help via text because I knew she wouldn’t respond. That allowed me to carry on doing whatever I wanted under the belief that no one cared about me and that she was a bad friend.
So I came home and phoned another friend. I told her what had happened and I opened that door I’d locked and I cried until my nose clogged with snot and then I just hiccoughed.
No, I’m not okay, but yes, I will be okay. Right now, I feel stuck in a place where anger is delicious and the thrill of a fight is beaten only by the thrill of driving sideways.
I’m lost, I’m uncertain, I’m lonely and I’m scared and fuck you if you don’t think that’s ok.
‘Cause I’m still here. And that’s all that really matters.

Dream Dates

We cleaned our teeth together. She looked as lovely as ever. Work had been long; I was tired. We were talking, gently and quietly. I think I mentioned Downton Abbey.

She told me how she’d watched it with her other boyfriend the week before. I smiled and asked how that had gone – I knew it wasn’t a show he’d enjoy.

She cleared her mouth of toothpaste and grinned, stretching up. It had been fun, she’d said. She hadn’t seen much of the show.

She went into detail as I finished cleaning my teeth, leaning against the wall in a way that dragged my eyes all over her body. Her smile grew. I approached her as she talked, reaching out for her hips, wanting to pull her to me, wanting to kiss her the way she deserved. She caught my hands and stopped me, licking her lips as she went into extra detail. I matched her smile and pushed through her hands, running my finger under her top, onto the soft skin of her stomach.

Fear shone in her face. She backed away. I stopped, confused. My finger left her skin. The fear disappeared. The desire returned. She carried on talking. I reached out once more.

Again, and again, and again this happened. Acid boiled within my chest, searing to my skin; pain blocking my words and cutting my emotions. The pain was so intense, it woke me up.

It had been a long time since I’d had a dream that odd. Anger, frustration and an overwhelming sense of confusion forced my body completely awake. The scene I’d dreamt was reminiscent of the last nine months – albeit in a condensed situation. There’s only so many times a person you love can tell you you’re attractive whilst not wanting you before you stop believing them.

My counselor’s words were easy to remember: I wasn’t angry; I felt angry. Words I’d read followed simply: “Your emotions are a clue. Witness them, feel them, respond to them, never attach to them.”

I breathed deeply, and tried to analyse what was going on. Obviously, I was still torn up by the complete lack of intimacy with Someone. I was never going to get answers to that. I was surprisingly ok with that.

It showed me my fear: that those I’m attracted to aren’t attracted to me. That everything I have to offer isn’t enough.

It also told me why every time there’s a new person on the scene I try so desperately hard.

And the cool thing is, I don’t have to fix my fears. I’m aware of them, now. There’s a decent part of me that’s rolling on the floor, laughing and saying “well fuck you then if you don’t find me good enough. Your loss.” There’s a more sensible part that realises that’s a cover. That it still will hurt to have my fears realised, but that that’s completely ok – and normal.

I’m ok

It took me 10 minutes to pile all of her things on one side of the room, ready for her to pickup. I didn’t feel a thing. There was nothing as I picked up her collection of perfumes and nail polishes, nothing as I piled up her books,nothing as I took down her clothes. I knew she wouldn’t take long to get here. Once she was here, she could take her stuff and be gone. Out of my life. Nothing left. Just me – free.

For some reason, I couldn’t quite read the words on the cds. I couldn’t work out which where hers and which where mine. I just kinda stared at them, trying to classify them – if they’re about cars or movies that make me cry, they’re mine, otherwise hers. But I couldn’t remember which ones made me cry.

She arrived whilst I was still bent over them. And she just kinda stood in the room, staring at the growing pile of stuff in the corner. Her eyes sprung a leak.

It’s not like either of us have an easy life. It’s not like either of us is worse off than the other. It’s not like either of us is not giving their all.

But there is so much fucking anger inside of me, I’m struggling to forgive. I’m struggling to see another side of the picture. All I see is my view, and my view is all that matters. Everything else is an excuse, a reason to not love me, a reason to not want me.

It’s so hard to keep trying when you feel you’ve given your all, and the only thing left is your anger and you don’t want to share that at all.

Her stuff’s back where it belongs now. It stayed sitting in the corner for a day. It made my room lonely. Where before there’d been little essences of femininity, there were now simply stark walls. So I returned it all from where it came, I replaced those touches that sparked off memories and thoughts and good ideas and my room is mine again.

Am I happy?

No.

Every day is the same day with different spelling. Every day, the same patterns, hopes, dismays, dreams and anger blaze through. I’m slowly being crushed under a weight I can’t hold.

I’m not fucking giving up. God no.

There is no going back. There is no “it get’s easier.” It fucking doesn’t. don’t fucking lie, it never gets easier! It only ever gets harder, there’s always more to add on, there’s always more to do, there is no quick fix, there is no point, there is no attainable dream.

The only options are to give up or to get stronger. Stronger and stronger, till what was heavy is light and light is unnoticeable. Stronger, until what took everything takes nothing and smiles are easy once more. Just keep fighting, keep pushing, keep holding on. The only easy way out is death, and that comes eventually so I may as well keep holding.

I don’t know if it’ll be enough. I don’t know if I can make it through. But I’m going to try. Though it hurts and every part of me is telling me not to, is asking what’s the point, I’m going to try. Just in case I can.

Autumn Dyes

Chef was nice. I’m talking about a movie by the way. A movie about a chef, surprisingly. It has the worst starting dialogue in a movie ever. I was considering falling asleep when I heard it. Then it ended. So I stayed awake.

I was glad.

It is – quite simply – the story of a chef who quits his job to do what he loves. And that’s pretty much it. There was no conflict. There was no critical point. It was simply the story of someone who gave not a shit about money, did what they loved and accepted help from those who offered. It was the story of being genuine.

It was the absolute perfect antithesis to a tumultuous weekend.

Nothing in particular went wrong. There were just things. Little, insignificant, immemorable moments that – on the face – seemed positively average, yet added up to a desecrating anger.

Anger is often described as a fire, as something hot that burns or smoulders. It feels more like a stone to me. A sharp, heavy boulder that weighs everything down. I scream and pound it with all the energy I possess in a futile attempt to budge it and it simply remains, holding me down. Immovable.

For the last month, it’s been ever present. And every time a stress or complication adds to this ginormous weight I flail uselessly against it, daring it to stay, begging it to move, crying for it to disintegrate. It simply remains.

And I don’t know what happened last night. But something in that simple movie chipped a little sliver off that mountain and it dipped infinitesimally in weight. It was just that little bit lighter. Something cracked, something fell and I suddenly realised that, actually, it’s going to be ok.

I love winter. If I could choose for every day to be one season, I’d choose the fractured skies and broken temperatures of winter. I’d choose stark trees and warm jackets and fires in the early dark. I’d choose the answer “Brr, cold” to the polite asking “how are you?”

But Autumn is my absolute favourite.That sensual little nip in the air, the abundance of sweating scarfs and the burning trees. It is beautiful because it is fleeting: everything is but a promise of what is to come. The scene before me will not repeat for a year. Tomorrow is completely different from today.

I know everything will be ok because today I stopped as I walked and stared at the burgundy fire that fed upon a tree. And though the dog pulled in the direction of tantalizing smells, though people hit the grass to walk past, I stayed and stared and I smiled. I hadn’t quite noticed it’s autumn. I hadn’t quite noticed the fleeting beauty around me. I hadn’t quite noticed just how lucky it is to be me.

Indescribable

The car trip felt inescapably long.

I sat in the back, tensely watching traffic. We couldn’t be late. I wondered if we had enough time – I didn’t want us to get there too early, waiting was not an option. I surreptitiously withdrew my phone, patiently feeding it information, agonising over its delays as I waited for it to tell me how long the trip would take. I tried to keep it quiet in the deathly silent car.

“Head East.” said my phone, the strong, feminine voice making all four of us jump.

The silence broken, people rushed to fill it. And they aimed their questions at me.

I couldn’t cope with it. I was unravelling, these questions were inane, irrelevant, I couldn’t handle them. My answers were snapped off, my tolerance extended by the situation we sat in. Eventually, the silence returned.

We arrived early.

We filtered out of the two cars, one member at a time. We stood for a fragile moment in the dirt-packed car park, and then strode off.

Dad lead – fitting given the scenario. He held mom’s hand. He wore his darkly handsome suit.

My sister, her boyfriend supporting at a brief distance followed.

Me and my brother dragged out the rear.

Shame simply flooded me. Given our location, our dress, the way we walked, every person who passed us by knew where we were going. I dared not look for the condemnation in their eyes – I was too scared of finding compassion.

We marched down the road, stopping only to wait for the traffic light. As we waited for the little red man to change his mind, as other marchers ignored him and simply walked by, as police officers broke stride only to check for cars, I realised how ironically legal our waiting was.

He changed. We walked. We turned right and marched quickly into Manukau District Court.

We found a computer screen with the fifth page of today’s court displayed. We surveyed the waiting data, finding it wanting, and waited patiently for it to change. Page one flickered into being, A brief perusal revealing yet more wasteful data.

An indefinable amount of time passed. The screen flickered again. Eagerly, our eyes rasped across the names, disappointment and frustration dulling our senses. We waited. Finally, screen three, and there, a third of the way down, our surname, dad’s name. Court Room 8.

The simple signs dictated our direction. As one, the six of us turned and headed for the stairs.

My steps rang through the vacant foyer, every second step muffled. Petrified of setting off the metal detector, I’d removed a safety-pin that had hiked the hem of my jeans off the ground. Now, the hem frayed beneath my left leg, stifling the loud clap of shoe on tile.

With each step, a small realisation whispered through me.

Whatever happened, whatever came today, I couldn’t – wouldn’t – face it with my head aimed at the ground. Doubtless, I’d cry. Doubtless, emotions would fail to be described. I couldn’t change that. But what I could change was how I stood. Was how I looked. Was how I strode.

I raised my head and rolled my shoulders, a familiar strut sliding into my steps. I straightened my lips and unclenched my fists and looked at the five people around me.

We’re all so beautifully weak.

Cracked lines of support run from member to member; a little glance here, a touch there, a sniff here, a smile there. Little ways of letting each other know “I feel it too.”

We settled onto benches beside the court room doors. And began to wait.

The sentencing was supposed to start at 9. For reasons known best as “technicalities”, it was delayed till ten. For just short of an hour, we sat on those seats and watched as the court-house filled up around us.

People passed in varying states of dress, decorum and drunkenness, the first and last seemingly synonymous. We watched in complete befuddlement as a squat little lawyer of a man stumbled by, following an ellipse only he could see as he muttered loudly about how no one ever bothered to tell him where he was meant to be. He stumbled haphazardly into a court room, then burst back out, cavorting toward some other, distant room, his mutterings profane.

Police officers bedecked in smartly useless suits appeared and huddled, forcing laughter as nervousness showed. I don’t know what they were doing, but some were young, barely new recruits. They seemed more scared than me. Lawyers dazzled by, proclaiming loudly for their customers or targets, disappearing in a swirl of black tails. An official stumped up and down the path, demanding tetchily that people remove caps and glasses.

We talked. I don’t know how, but we talked and we laughed and we turned that time from treacle to honey as it oozed by. And finally, he was summoned.

We wouldn’t have stood faster if lightning the chairs. We convened by the doors, and he turned with reddened eyes and grabbed us one by one for a hug “Just in case.”

With each hug, he left words and imprints. Mom. Sister. Me.

“Stay strong. Look after them for me.”

And I let go. A rush of anger, of hatred, of selfishness, of remembered words, of broken spirits, of defiance, of loss, of pain, of acceptance blazed through me and I turned away, knowing my mouth contorted out of sight. Why must I pay for the crimes you commit? What about me?

We walk in to a scene vaguely reminiscent of tv.

We take our seats. On the other side sit the victim and his lawyer.

My dad is angry with him. Blames him for what happened. But I’ve read his victim impact statement. I’ve stolen glances at documents secreted away. I know where blame solely lies. And I feel so sorry for him.

I’ve imagined over the past few nights what would happen when I see him. Loyalty might seem to demand aggression, a belief that his actions caused us to be here. Whilst true, his actions are a reaction. He hasn’t done this against us. He’s done this for him. And given what dad has put him through, I cannot blame him.

And as I watch his reflection in the corner of my eye, I know that I want to tell him I’m sorry. Whatever happens, I want to talk to him and tell him I am so, so, so sorry for what dad has done.

And here begins the sentencing.

God it’s tedious. TV series imply that lawyers are eloquent, smart, dazzling and loud. But this one ums more than stutterers in the rain, engages in silences that I swear are meditations and unambiguously details the fraud my father committed. He lays out, in no uncertain terms, the states legal response: for a crime of this nature: 4 to 5 years. Finally he sits down.

And now, our rebuff. A rebuff that is more hesitant, a rebuff that screws up one vital and meaningless fact, a rebuff that pleads “look not at the crime, but the bigger picture.” And he too sits down.

Behind him, before us, in his smart black suits, my father stands. He does not shake. His left hand clenches and relaxes, I see a twitch race down his right arm. Beside me, my mother sniffs, tears breaking free. I’m crying too.

The judge is a kind looking man. Headmaster, perhaps, of an old English Christian boarding house. He shuffles papers and with a posh lilt I can’t place, begins to summarise.

I don’t want to listen, I want it to be over – please let it be over, I’m so tired of waiting, I’m so tired of delays, I’m so tired of not knowing, I’m so tired of this purgatory, I’m so tired of feeling guilty for something I didn’t do – but once it’s over it can’t be changed, until it’s said anything is possible, please don’t end, keep talking, so long as you talk my father is free.

“…and, in accordance with what the Appeal Court has decided in similar cases, I must sentence you to prison. As [first lawyer] says, this should be a term of four to five years…”

Before him, the judges aid scrambles for her phone. I can’t watch. Her low voice murmurs across the room. She hangs up. A few seconds pass as the judge details what reductions he can make. There’s the sound of running footsteps, a key scraping a lock, and a door is flung open.

A policewoman bursts through. I can’t bear to look, but my soaking eyes are drawn. She is pretty. She glances rapidly around, surmises the situation and realises she disturbed the peace. Mortification reddens her face and she sinks into a seat, the handcuffs clinking merrily.

“…and so I sentence you to three years and eight months imprisonment.”

The rest is just noise.

I rise as requested. My father turns and looks my mother in the eyes and mouths “I’m sorry.” And all I can think is “I love you.”

Somehow, we’re downstairs. We’re waiting for the lawyer. We’re all crying, we’re all shocked, we’re all broken. I look up the stairs and I see the victim, laughing with his lawyer. Hot, unfair rage floods me and i blink it away. I need to talk to him. I need to say sorry.

But I need to phone Someone first. Sick and fevered, she couldn’t be with us in more than thought. I walk out to the atrium, gulping fresh air. I tap on my phone, Her blurred name appearing. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a handshake and a body move toward the stairs. I press her name and my phone freezes. Angrily, I tap it again. He’s coming down the stairs quickly, and my phone won’t connect, it won’t let me select Her name, come on you stupid thing I need to tell Her but fuck I need to talk to him.

I take a step toward the doors he’s about to walk through, my focus still on my phone, but what do I say what if he’s angry with me what if he blames me No I can’t I can’t risk it I’ll talk to him another day I need to phone Someone I need her right now and this stupid fucking phone won’t fucking connect and his hand is on my shoulder.

“Gareth, I…”

I don’t know what he said. I honestly do not recall it. But compassion, pain, sorrow, support blazed out of his eyes and I was humbled by this man, by this man whose wife cooked us macaroni cheese and pretended to ignore me as I surreptitiously moved my least favourite meal out of my way, who gave my dad a job on just one interview, who would come and talk to me when I visited dad at work, who made dad go home when he worked too late, this man who has been completely ruined by my father is making sure that I’m ok.

I gather my wits. I take in a breath as I see my mom stand and head toward us. I hold out my hand and I apologise for what my dad has done. I tell him how sorry I am. And then mom is there, and she’s repeating me, and he’s hugging her, and telling her how the people who knew her are thinking of her and are there to support her.

And then he is gone.

I turn and look back at my phone. My favourite name is highlighted. Finally, it calls her. It rings. I walk to a pillar. It rings again. My eyes have a puncture. It rings again. My body is shaking. It rings again. I lean against the pillar. She answers.

And I can’t say a single thing.