Auf Wiedersehen

In a year and a day, I’ll be jumping on a plane to Germany.

I’ll have been in NZ for seven years. I don’t know why it’s important. But it is important that I leave exactly seven years after I arrive. There’s currently only one stamp in my passport.

I’ll happily admit: I’m running away.

I don’t know what from. I don’t know why. But fuck being here any longer. I love this stupid little country and I’m coming back to see even more of it, but I’m tired of it, tired of the way people live here, tired of the restrictions I feel I’m constantly living under. I’m tired of watching life pass me serenely by.

The thing is, I always tell people that changing your situation doesn’t change you. You can’t run from your problems, you can’t run from who you are. So part of me thinks that heading to Germany goes completely against what I believe – except, it doesn’t: I’ll happily carry my baggage with me.

Of course, I have and will have expectations of Germany – hot guys, cute girls, Porsches and Beemers fucking everywhere, all the things that matter in life – and there’s a strong possibility that too much dreaming leads to huge disappointments.

But that’s true for life. I blame it on movies and books and stories: you never see a scene that doesn’t matter. At no point during a movie will a boy walk past the house of a girl he likes and nothing happens. He will certainly not simply walk, lost in thoughts of said girl, and notice a few minutes later where he is.

And so we live with this stupid expectation that Everything Matters and that Something Will Happen.

And it fucking won’t.

Sitting around waiting for life to happen is only worthwhile in a movie or book.

So I can’t sit around waiting. ‘Cause nothing will happen. I’ll get stuck somewhere, content in the belief that things will magically get better or return to where they were, which is seldom better than right here.

No, I have to happen to life. I have to go and happen, I have to make my own stories. I have to make the changes I want to see.

Of course I could do that here. I could completely happen here. But I don’t want to. Nothing in me wants to stay, nothing holds me here; everything pulls me away. So I’m going to happen somewhere else.

Most people my age have settled. In a few years they’ll be married and kidded and bored and longing. But they’ll be safe. They’ll be comfortable. They’ll be happy and secure and content and dreamy. They’ll have things to work on, they’ll have work to do and a family to grow. They’ll have things to be proud of and people to love them always, unconditionally.

Not one aspect of that appeals to me. And I’m perfectly ok with that.

Because I could totally settle. I could find a lovely woman and settle into an analysis position and make my home here, make my mark right here so that when I die my memorial stone will say “BRB, gone to fetch my girl. See you kids soon.”

But so could anyone. And nothing makes me better than them for that role. There is nothing in me that makes me the sort of guy you’d marry and live forever with. Mostly, because I’ve never really wanted that.

Yes, I said I did. Yes, I love kids. But I feel that there has to be more to life. There has to be more to my life. I can’t simply raise some perfectly imperfect cultural mongrels and consider my life well lived. I just see no point in that.

What draws me is stories. What draws me is people. What draws me is love and sex and laughter and cars and drivers. Because I’d rather be broke in the passenger seat of a Porsche on the Nurburgring than wealthy in the driver seat of a Porsche on Tamaki Drive.

So I’m dawdling to Germany. And we’ll see what I do from there.

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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.

Dutch Cuddles

I’ve got this amazing business idea.

It will cater to guys looking to propose to their girlfriends. It’ll give them the certainty they need to propose. How? By testing their girls.

That’s not as academic as it sounds. What we do is simple: I use every trick in every unwritten book to try and steal “his” girl. If she stays with him, he’ll know she’s good to marry.

The German thinks it’s a brilliant idea. Then again, she wants to stop studying towards being a teacher and become a pornstar, so she might be a little biased toward sexier job descriptions.

I, on the other hand, am just amazed it works.

Because there is no reason in the world why any girl would want to leave her stable, steady, employed, loyal partner for me.

And yet, they do. Every girl I’ve slept with in the last 5 years was in a relationship when we started fucking. Granted, there weren’t many – a hugely enjoyable total of four – and one of those was in a healthy open relationship. But it intrigues me as to why you’d leave what apparently you’d always wanted for me.

Of course, I haven’t “won” every girl. Memories of Sunglass Girl still make me blush. Then there was the Swede…god that was embarrassing. Curiously, those were both single.

There was also the Canadian. I have never been more instantaneously attracted to someone. I have never put more effort into a short encounter. It was the first time I actively followed every pick-up-artist technique. But she was heading back to Canada. In under 12 hours. To a boy with waiting arms.

She didn’t come home with me.

Pretty much, I have no problem with destroying relationships. That whole “sorry, I have a boyfriend” doesn’t sound like an excuse to me: It’s like saying “sorry, I’m wearing socks.” I can’t even find it in me to consider it unethical or wrong. I’m told that it’s wrong, and I’ve had a friend tell me very seriously that if I ever stole a girl from him, he’d be incredibly upset at me. Which confuses the hell out of me.

I just don’t get it. It’s like women are objects, to be stuck up on a wall and admired and woe betide anyone who removes them. It’s like women aren’t allowed to choose.

So, imagine my confusion when I fall in love with Dutchy (and her small bum) and then freak out at any sign she might return the feelings because I don’t want to ruin her relationship.

Weirdest series of thoughts in my head. “Oh, she might have feelings for me. That’s hot. But then she’ll have to choose between me and Hulk. He’s boring. But he’s been so good for her. And she’s so happy with him. Why would I want to ruin it? Wait, why do I care?”

I like that, though I know I have little to offer, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d be chosen over him. My arrogance is appalling.

Regardless, it’s the first time I know I’d back off to save another’s relationship.

Of course, there’s no need to back off: I channelled my usual honesty (with perhaps a hint of German influence) and asked if the feelings were returned.

And holy fuck does that chick have issues. I don’t know which of us was angrier with the other. But through a lengthy tirade of tears (mine), mutual misunderstanding (hers only actually, I’m amazing) and exasperation (ours), she eventually realised that I was not trying to fuck or date her and I realised that her feelings for me are not even slightly near mine for her.

Which is good. Cause now I still get Dutchy-cuddles.

Happy Foots

I went for a walk this morning. It took me and a hot coffee over wet grass to a small bench and – when I looked back – I realised my feet can’t even walk straight.

I like feet. I especially like small feet in high heels with painted nails and the right amount of sensitive spots.
So when I shared a bed with Dutchy and we slept back to back on opposite sides of the bed and she kicked her feet back and tucked them between my legs because “they’re cold” I discovered I was very much awake.
And I really wanted to sleep. I’d had four hours the night before and had to walk two dogs in five hours. So I told her about me “liking” feet. Normally, if I say anything that slightly resembles a move on her, she increases the distance between us tenfold.
This time, she simply responded “Oh. I like that being done to my feet. Now I’m turned on.”
She then insisted on swapping sides of the bed. Which involved climbing over me. Which reminded me that, though she’s not my ideal (her bum’s too small, for one), she’s still incredibly hot.
She curled herself up against the wall, pushed her feet back between my legs and fell asleep in 13 seconds flat.
It took me quite a bit longer.
 I’d already accepted that I’ve fallen in love with her. Not as in “OMG I want to bang you really bad, you’re so hot” but more as in “Let’s go sit on a beach under the stars and cuddle and talk and kiss…and then let’s find a bed and fuck  – hard.”
All of which proves to me that yes, you can fall in love with someone platonically; that yes, love is definitely and inescapably a choice; that yes, it doesn’t need to be acted on; that yes, you can love more than one (or even two) people at the same time.
It also reminded me of all the reasons I don’t like relationships.
There’s a sense of entitlement to a relationship – a sense of ownership. Your actions are no longer your own, decisions are shared. You become “someone-and-Gareth” and refer to yourself as “me-and-someone” and somewhere in that hyphenated world you can lose all sense of who you are.
And that would be ok, if life were simpler. If life was all about getting married and having kids and creating a family and identifying as said family and that was all I-and-whoever wanted and had ever wanted, then losing myself in those hyphens would be perfect.
But if that were me, then I’d probably not be interested in the people I am and I certainly wouldn’t be writing.
It doesn’t matter to me if she loves me back or not.
Because when I woke up in the morning (feet still entwined) the attraction had faded with the alcohol. It’s still there, but it’s not a motivator. I was kind of happy when she left: my space was back.
And though my space is lonely, it’s mine. It’s been damaged and bruised and hurt by the expectations and conditioning of a generalised populace, but it’s still there.
It’s hard to stay in that space though. I keep having thoughts along the lines of “I should totally ask her out.” I can never work out why, though. Why should I ask her out?
And there isn’t a single reason that comes from in me. I don’t even know what answer I’d want from her. It just feels like the norm. “oh look, pretty girl, you like her, ask her out.”
I don’t get the need to add a label. And what I’m slowly realising is that what I have with Dutchy is what I’d like with many people (although, I’d prefer it if sex and lips and tongues and feet slipped into those relations).
She does not make me happy, but I can create happiness with her. Just like I can with Porsches and writing and whisky and math and drifting and books, though to a more complicated degree. And that’s what I want: people with whom I can create happiness – who preferably have sexy feet.

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.

Bible Porn

The first bit of porn I remember watching made me come in ten seconds.

The scene is etched into my memory. An – even by young-me’s standards – average woman, bent over the bonnet of a yellow Porsche Boxster,fucked by the hairiest man possible –  who happened to have the world’s sexiest cock.

I think that might have been the first time I fell in love with Porsche.

It was probably also the first time I had an inkling I was bi.

I’ve been lucky: my sexual preference has only been mocked by two people: One a pretty Danish girl who, on hearing I want to get back into dancing, ice skating and cycling, declared “In all possible offensiveness, that is soooo gay” which made me laugh: part of the reason I like ice skating is…well. I’m sure YouTube will help you figure it out.

The only other person who has demonised my sexuality is me.

I spent my teenage years growing up in a boys-only boarding school, where my biggest fear was showering with attractive boys. Two boys caught practicing their addition (34+35 from what I hear) were talked about in hushed voices – often accompanied with words such as “disgusting” and “gross”.

I longed for a similar situation to befall me – preferably without being caught. As this proved elusive, I instead adopted the pulpit’s perspective. It was easy to lose myself in the biblical beliefs, berating myself for my lustful longings and sinful suggestions.

I was a little confused as to “why” it was wrong: the Bible was not clear on homosexuality. At no point did any worthy writer record god as saying “oh yeah. You should only have sex with people of the opposite sex, regardless of your desires – and you should control those too!”.

Nothing explained why me wanting cock was bad.

I didn’t stop strangling myself about it. I didn’t stop questioning. And I was so busy distracting myself with hating me for who I was, I completely missed other parts of me.

I completely missed the fact that I was more than sexual. I completely missed that, as much as I wanted to date a girl, I wanted to date a boy too. I was so busy branding half of myself as “horribly homo” that I failed to notice I was beautifully bi.

There’s a wonderful song by “A Great Big World” entitled “Everyone is gay.”

If you’re gay then you’re gay
if you’re straight well that’s great!
If you fall in between
that’s the best way to be,
you’ve got so many options
every fish in the sea
wants to kiss you.

It scares me, the thought of falling for a guy. But it thrills me too. I have no idea when it will happen. I know I want it more right now because of what I’m going through. Because I want someone to lean on. But that’s not really fair on a partner. I need to love myself first. But when someone comes along who flips my heart and stretches my jeans, who makes me laugh and makes me care, it’s nice to not care if it’s a guy or a girl – though it’d be awesome regardless if they have a Porsche.

Euro Whore

Sitting on the bonnet of Someone’s car, talking to Her like we used to, not even noticing that we’d been there for two hours and She still hadn’t given me the key, I realised something: I’m a complete an utter Eurowhore.

For a good thirty minutes, we spoke about nothing but cars – almost extensively European. We spoke about the Ferrari She’d sat next to in traffic, admiring the way it’s engine note rebounded off the vehicles around Her. Moments later, it drove by us, blinding us with its gorgeous lights. I’ve photographed that car so many times, I’m surprised he still drives by my house.

I told Her about the Rolls Royce Ghost I see at work and the smug driver. We talked about the Mercedes G55 AMG and how sensual that engine sounds, and discussed in detail what straight six turbo could be blasting past my house every afternoon.

I also told Her I still love Her.

I told her about the Danish girl (who’ll get annoyed if I call her Dutch) and how Someone seems almost sane in comparison. She told me about Her new hangout. I got annoyed that She spends time there, but never spent time with me.

She told me She thought She was happier where She is now. I told her I am happier single. I told Her and She told me how nice it was to not say “I’ve just seen such and such and I’m going here now” and we both said how much we missed getting those texts. I told Her I missed Her annoying “Hey hun how is work?” texts and how I checked for them every half an hour. She told me She missed having someone to call at 2 in the morning.

We both agreed we dated too soon. We both agreed breaking up was a good idea. And I think we both cried once we said goodbye.

I told her how drunk I got; She told me how sober She stayed. I told Her how sorry I was for the things I said; She said it’s ok, but She can’t get my voice out of Her head.

I will fall in love again – often, repetitively, with broken European girls. Hopefully, I will grow. Hopefully, I’ll learn to love myself first. To soothe myself first. To not need someone to care for me, but to care for myself.

And I’m going to hold on to Her. Because the fights were epic and the conversations eternal, the sex was magic and the love was open, and there’s a part of me I’m locking away that says “I belong to Someone” and that won’t change.

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.