Wednesday, 18 May 2011
“You have always been a medium sized man.”
“Well no, not before we met.”
“I bet that before we met, you were a medium sized child.”
“At some points in school I was actually tall for my age.”
“Don’t say that or I will ring your mother and ask and then I will hand the phone to you and you will be stuck in the hallway for forty-five minutes. Then you will be depressed again.”
“What is so bad about being medium sized anyway?”
“It is just quite boring” she paused “you can’t help it though. Being medium.”
It was more or less thirty years before my parents got divorced. He, Adrian Harvey was a bruised car salesman with a loyalty to a tie covered in sunflowers that nobody, even my mother, could understand - she, Virginia Harvey, an ethereal shoe shop manager who had felt huge grief with every promotion and proved it with tattoos that showed up on her aging skin like a cow brand. Right up until the end they sat with their fingers locked in painful jubilation, him drinking too much, and my mother not drinking enough.
After the break-up it was no stranger than before, they instantly seemed to spring apart in their differences as though they were two people that could have never even inhabited the same room, let alone the same bed. I mainly saw my father at night. He always had trouble sleeping so we would go to the late night cinema showings and drive around, up onto The Downs to watch the sunrise. One time we stumbled into the most rundown cinema in the City and found ourselves, father and daughter, confronted with huge orange breasts so close to the camera that their brown aureoles blurred. We sat through the whole film, both of us wearing our office uniforms, even though we could almost feel the heat coming off each other’s faces. When the lights came up we sat until the cinema emptied,
We made the same mistake a couple of times, once with a boyfriend of mine Karl Grating, who sat in horror as the fleshy credits rolled up, while my father and I glowed next to each other in pleasurable bohemian tolerance, chewing on a bag of foam bananas as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Sometimes we talked about the subtext to the rough sex or the tone of the plot, whether we found it progressive or not. We found special ways to share in our own pretensions, and would often discuss colour schemes and design faults in crisp packets and burger wrappers. At home we were drowned by my mother's stories of Keith Moon, acid trips and body prints. Enough times for me to remember, which must have been considerable as I would only have been six or seven years old, my father pulled the living room curtains closed and switched off the lights to project films on the wall above the mantelpiece. He invited neighbours over to show my friends and I, thrust into adaptations of Pinter plays, draped in robes and symbolic colours.
My father had several affairs, all of them wretched and most of them lasting for less than two weeks. The most significant of his women was Edna, a talented musician who played the clarinet in a Church in
The morning after my father left the sky was like a peach. I drove out to the small town house my parents had lived in, located to the side of a square of art galleries and fish and chip shops. While I walked through the house collecting up the rubbish she sat in a grey dressing gown in her small, fruitless kitchen. I noticed that pieces of the house were missing, the good arm chairs and the eight steel bottomed saucepans. Without them, the house looked like a toy box, filled with worthless crap.
I put her to bed that evening, her head small in the enormous bed of cushions and Indian blankets. My father’s spare set of pyjamas trailed on the floor as I sloped over to his side of the bed. A stack of self- help books covered in cigarette ash and orange peel stood in a precarious tower by his bedside cabinet. I wondered if my father had read them while my mother slept, oblivious to his feverish page turning. The sheets were softer than I had imagined but the bells that were sown into the faces of elephants jangled all night long and I didn’t get much sleep. My mother had given in to the large brandy which I knew would put her to sleep but before I turned out the light she slurred into my ear, with hot breath, “He just couldn’t offer me the stability I needed honey…” She stretched her arm around me and shivered lightly, “…he was just too... too...” she sighed “…too bohemian, or something.”