You know what I hate most about Mum?—how she can just ambush a stranger with her chatter and tears and friend them out of the bloody blue—a total complete utter stranger! It just pisses my head off being in the middle of it, like I was this day, literally.
It was a wedding, and I was seated between Mum and this other mum, this wide woman with a very spacious bum that took up three people’s seats. Her hat was a bloody roof and the smile under it was from here to Australia—world-wide!
Then Mum began sniffing and sniffling. . .
A wedding is supposed to be a happy thing, isn’t it. I didn’t see why anybody would crumple up in quiet tears. . . But just as soon as the church organ began crying Here Comes The Bride, and surely there came the Bride, all white and wispy, Mum’s tears came along; while the wide mum’s smile widened further.
‘She’s so beautiful,’ Mum began, through her tears.
‘Mm-hn,’ the roof-hatted mum agreed; her son quickly disowned her, with a hard, refrigerated stare into space.
‘I just hope her marriage is just as beautiful. . .’ Mum continued.
‘It is always like this in the beginning—beautiful, full of beauty—‘
‘But how long can beauty last?’
‘—the vows, the promises, the words, all beautiful, sweet on the tongue, words—’
‘—but ten years down the road and the beauty has faded into lies, into deceit, into—’
‘Your husband becomes another man; another person’s husband. His ex-wife’s husband—’
I was beginning to admire this great woman for all the varieties of Mm’s she had to offer, in the right pitches and tones, without letting on that she wasn’t actually paying attention to the load of crap that was being lamented. . .
‘—all men are just alike, all over the world! I just hope our boys don’t grow up to be like our men, and—’
Now that the maternal monologue was coming too close to home I squirmed and tried to steer it away, with a nasty belch—foul!—that drew the irate gaze of the monumental mum upon my head, and also drew more than an Mm out of her:
‘My boy is a fine gentleman, already, at his young age.’
The sarcasm wasn’t lost on me—I was the intended target. I looked at the “fine gentleman”—his age couldn’t have been a few months more than mine. He had an areaboy’s haircut and scowl. . . A fine gentleman indeed. At my own age, which to Mum wasn’t young, she had said I should begin to act like ‘the Man of the house’ and quit misbehaving like a kid. But since we didn’t have any house now for me to be the Man of I just remained a boy, happily.
‘My boy, he draws and sings and acts and dances and plays the violin and plays polo and plays—’
‘Muhm, I’m going outside to piss,’ the fine gentleman-boy said, and left his mum leaking his official can-do list to Mum who was smiling liquidly as if the boy was her son.
I was burning, but more, I was curious: a fine gentleman that could do all these things must be more than just a fine gentleman—he must have like superhero powers or something. Maybe he wasn’t even going outside to piss!—maybe he was going outside to change into his costume to go and save the world from a nuclear attack or something, or to save Lois Lane or somebody else pretty like that. I had to tag along! I would ask him if I could be the Robin to his Batman—I hope he won’t think I’m a faggot or anything. . . Well, he doesn’t look completely straight himself, for all his fine gentlemanliness; there was that shade of femininity in the sullen, indignant pout of his lips at his mum.
I caught him at the back of the church—I had crept up on him so I wouldn’t startle him and have him spray urine all over himself. But he wasn’t pissing! He was smoking a cigarette—a Benson & Hedges. He was smoking it like a man, a fine gentleman in a cigarette commercial; his eyes were closed, his lips serious, although relaxed around the cigarette, almost sensuous.
‘What do you want?’ he asked, behind his closed eyes and smoke rings.
I was impressed. He must have smelt my presence, or something.
‘Nothing,’ I said.
‘Then get the fuhkaway from here.’
‘What if I wanted something?’
‘A. . . cigarette.’
I was only a social smoker.
‘To decorate my lips with,’ I replied, and laughed at my own crack, like a lunatic, or a bad comedian.
His face didn’t move.
‘Mothers,’ he began, solemnly, like a preacher, ‘Mothers are just stupid, plain stupid. . . Liars, just always saying shit, making up shit; bragging emptily at each other, like it is a fuhken competition—my son this, my son that, my son shits, my son farts. . . back and forth like hens.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said. I was sorry he felt that way about his mum. Or mums. ‘My mum is—’
‘Your mum,’ he snorted. ‘Your mum ain’t sheeeet. She’s the worst. Your mum, she’s a freak—weeping like that at a fuhken weddin’, like some mourner or someshit. . . All mums are the same—there just has to be something wrong with them in the head.’
‘I think it has to do with us.’
‘Yeah. I mean, we just go on doing all this stuff they’re so mighty proud of that they feel they have to show us off to the world, to other mums—‘
The boy laughed, and choked. . . ‘You know what, kid. You should be a mum, you’d make a good perfect one. . . Have you read this book. . .’ (he closed his eyes, searching for the book—the title, the author. . .) ‘uhmm, by. . . this very lunatic writer. . . uhmmm. . .’ (then he opened his eyes suddenly, and looked at me for the first time) ‘Do you even read? I mean books, not comics, or porn mags. . .
‘I do,’ I said, a bit too proudly for the occasion. My Dad makes me, I was going to add; but I didn’t want him to meet the rest of my family just yet; the little he had met was enough, for now.
‘You do,’ he snorted. ‘Well, I don’t, I just stumbled on this one somewhere and I liked how it began, the first few lines, like—If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.’
I was impressed by his memory; how he could recite that whole bit like that.
‘The Catcher In The Rye,’ I told him, ‘by JD Salinger.’
‘Yes! That one! Cray-zee! That boy could have been me—or you!—or any-body!’
‘That was the boy’s name—Holden—I can’t remember his surname. . .’
‘Who asked you to remember it?’ he asked disgustedly. ‘I only made reference to the stupid book because of one part where a mother was going on boasting about her son, and the boy was talking about how mothers just want to hear what a hotshot their son is, even when he is just an idiot!’
‘So you can’t do all those things your mum says you can?’
Snort, ‘I can’t do shit—ask my father.’
I didn’t know his father—I couldn’t have asked him.
‘Now get the fuhkaway like I asked you to. I hate talking and smoking at the same time, wastes my fag.’
I was getting the fuckaway, sadly, when he called me back—‘Hey, now don’t you go back in there and start weeping about how you saw me out here smoking or anything. . . I’ll have your eggs for breakfast if I hear anything about it, you hear?’
I heard, and nodded. And swallowed.
‘Good. Now be a good mummy’s boy and keep gettin’ the fuhkaway.’
Inside the church:
‘— and my son, he was the best student in History last term, and he. . .’
Mum was smiling her on. I felt sorry for her, that she didn’t have anything to boast to this other mum about, about me—well, she could have made something up, mums do it all the time. . .
‘Where’s he?’ Mum asked me.
‘Who?’ I asked her.
Oh. When did her son become “my friend”?
‘He’s pissin’,’ I said, and set my face in a no-further-questions-please mould.
Mums, sons, friends, husbands, ex-wives. . . the world is just such a complicated place, with all these complicated relationships to manage. . .
The church was a Methodist one, so it was boring; filled with old people from top to bottom, even in the choir and all. And the whole place was warm and tight as a throat, so much that I couldn’t breathe, and there were sad hymns everywhere. . .
I rose up to go to the toilet again, the real toilet this time.
Church toilets are usually the worst, the filthiest—the state of the bowls and the language on the walls and doors—there were f-worded sentences, and scribbled and human shit everywhere, all over doors and floors. And the stale shit-piss stench rose to my nostrils like the sweet-smelling savour of burnt offering to the highest heavens.
I was just turning around to run when the fine-gentleman-boy entered, a strange, sad smile in his eyes, as if he had been looking for me. ‘There you are, kid!’
There I was. Kid. His lips, when not smoking, looked innocent, sweet. His palm, when he touched me, was as soft as rotten banana, and almost the same colour—that yellow halfway to brown; his smile was liquid on his mouth and melting down his chin as he smiled it. The bastard. . .
Yes, he touched me, like a bloody Father, a Reverend one, as if he was blessing me, or healing me, or something; he felt my cheek, the left one (on my face), then his palm slid downwards to the front of my shirt, as if looking for breasts, frisking me for nipples or something. He stopped at my tummy—‘You’re solid, your body, it is’—my stomach growled in protest—nobody had ever called it ‘solid’; it took offence, and withdrew in sullen indignation.
When his rotting palm reached somewhere about my appendix (the palm felt like a doctor’s now, palpating, rather than the policeman’s it had been on my chest, searching. . .), my own palms, which had been asleep on my trouser pockets, suddenly flew into a panic and covered my crotch which seemed to be the boy’s palm’s destination!
His face fell forward and crumpled. ‘What,’ he said.
‘Shit,’ I answered, ‘I need to pee.’
He smiled. ‘Pee.’
‘Pee,’ he repeated, his smile stretching. . .
Then it hit me—he wanted me to pee for him to see—he wanted to watch my piss! Lord! What sickness!
I gave him something to watch—I peed in my pants; the darkness just grew out on the front of my trousers and spread downwards like the map of an island. The boy’s mouth hung open as if to collect the urine. It wasn’t what he expected, the sick bastard.