I first got the news between a gutter and a wall. I was shrugged up against the wall trying to block out the wind so I could light a cigarette when I felt my phone vibrate. The message was from my mother. Poor sweet. She still wasn’t used to the things – she’d only just become liminally aware of them – and all her messages were still delivered in capital letters. DAD ISNT WELL YOU BETTER COME HOME, the message read.
For a second I considered deleting the message and just pleading ignorance when my mother finally called. Hopefully, that would be just after the son of a bitch had died. It’s such a cliché, such a trope: the child damaged by the parents; the deathbed amends; the forgiveness, and the tears. I’d have preferred to avoid the whole scene, but, on top of certain psychological traumas, I’d also inherited my father’s sense of responsibility, of duty. Don’t take this to mean that I think I turned out OK, though, because in many ways I am truly fucked up.
An example: 7pm every night, I head for the toilet and I just sit there straining to take a shit. This is regardless of whether I feel the need to go at all. Thing is, 7pm was when dad would get home from the pub, usually spoiling for a fight, and, well, if I was taking a shit...
I took off for rural rural RURAL New South Wales the next morning. It was a ten-hour drive, most of it through parts of the country with no mobile phone reception. This meant that to entertain myself I played that game where you overtake P-platers, get in front of them, and then slow down for no reason. Yeah, I got a little more than just the old man’s work ethic.
By the time I got to my parent’s place, my father had died. Exit, stage left. I got back in the car and drove straight home. What a waste of fuel money.
Written on Wednesday, 19 January 2011