Our baby is crying and I wonder how Victor can sleep through.
‘My dear, the baby is awake.’
He opens his eyes, ‘Will you?’
Yes I’ll go, you sleep through, you useless shit. I suppose you don’t hear him calling for his papa. And of course he calls for him. I cannot sleep anyway, feeling as I do; as if the world has rolled over on top of me. I can’t breathe.
We’ve called the baby Maurice, after Victor’s papa, long dead. I regret that decision. I was not in my right mind when I agreed. What did it for me was something said at dinner the other night. I was asking Hillarie how she and Maurice had met. She told me, in her French tones,
‘Oh, he was married to my sister when I met him—.’
She said this and laughed, as though the betrayal was ok. Later, on her seventh or eighth Martini she confessed (though it had no flavour of a confession) that the word family disgusted her, and as she forced her glass down she broke the stem and cut her finger.
‘Are you hurt very badly?’ I asked. She was already up and making another Martini.
‘My suffering has been of long duration,’ she said.
When I’m old I’ll be just like her.
Hillarie found it strange that I had a problem with Maurice’s ways. I don’t know why, but I want to imagine Maurice was charming, that he won over his women with charm. The Maurice I remember would rather turn a phrase than a skirt. I might as well say that for a while I worshiped the dead. I thought the dead were grand just for having died.
I pick up Maurice. I take him down to the kitchen and lay him on the laminate table. I take off his warm nappy, I hold it, and smell it. As I’m rinsing my hands under the taps he goes on the table, where I’ll leave it.
I like to sit in the alcove by the kitchen window. It’s the coolest side of the house. The Halliday’s – that’s Richard, and his wife whose name is easy to forget – they’ve got a tree house, and they let the kids sleep out when it’s hot. For a time it was nice to come and stare at the fairy lights up there, and imagine the little Halliday’s beneath. A few days ago Richard and Victor got drunk together, and Richard said that when the kids are away he fucks his wife up there.
Was it me, or was it Victor that became so dull and so domesticated? I suppose I always had it in me – I was never ambitious for adventure. But Victor I met on a train for which he had no ticket, of course, and no clue where to get off. He emptied a packet of crisps into his mouth, folded the wrapper into a little triangle and stood it on the table; as it unfolded it began to walk. He was funny then, and so proud of himself for accomplishing these quaint acts of creativity. He is funny now but in a different way. He allows himself to be, but there was a time when he had no choice, and I couldn’t do anything but love him. He never said it but he promised me he was a god, the sod.
I was still very young when I met Victor, and a light-hearted boy was exactly what I needed after fragile Pablo. Pablo was really just my mother’s choice, and perhaps I let that get in the way for too long. He bore down right inside me, and it took three years to remove what was there. What I wanted was simple. How was I to know then the problems were his, and not mine? I remember him being so cold in my hands. One day I came right out, I asked him if he’d like to try and take a piss on me. His face when he did it – pure ecstasy. What seemed like a minute to me was surely eternity for him. But even his piss was clear, cold piss, smelling of turned wine.
From the bedroom I can hear Victor snoring. There’s an eternity in a man’s snoring. I bet you can hear the first man snoring in it. His sleep will linger long into the day; into his whole life in fact. I’ve long since forgiven the injustice of this, because it’s not like that for us. It’s not the same for us. We use up all our glory. We invest all our glory in baring children. It’s killed me; this drive to deliver a second self.
Let’s entertain a proposition: task a man to do it; disable himself and work on the wick of his being to create another. He’ll have to push, squash, hollow out a space in his body. Let him discover the bloody chemistry. He’d fail. Women are the makers in this world, and the price we pay for it, (yes we still have to pay for it) is our glory.
Little Maurice, mine for now. I alone feed him; I alone could contemplate destroying him. One day he will grow up, and think himself a man. He might even become a man for a while, and seek to step on others for pleasure. He might think he is his father‘s child, who will be some ridiculous, loathsome idol for him. But my son must overcome this need to worship his father; he must allow himself more rewarding passions. He will seek to claim me and then we can become close. He will come to consider his own relationships in ratio to ours, and ask me whether I have always been a faithful wife. I’ll ask him what it is to be faithful, exactly. He’ll grow nervous then and ask about his papa.
‘But you’ve never been unfaithful to him?’ He’ll say not really wanting to know.
I might say nothing; honour the memory of Victor. Or I might say that I’ve only ever been faithful to myself.