“If you really wanted to commit suicide you’d do it properly and drink some Jeyes Fluid,” said dad, scathingly.
We were standing in the hall, only the two of us. It must have been around 10 o’clock in the evening. Dad had just collected me from Nottingham, and driven me back home. He was (with good reason, it has to be said) angered by the whole damn business.
Mum had greeted us at the front door.
“I’ve stopped caring about you,” had been her greeting.
This announcement had temporarily jolted me out of my stupor. She had stopped caring about me. Stopped!
The fog lifted from my mind, just for a moment, as I reviewed her attitude towards me over the previous few months. How she had removed me from the psychiatric ward against the doctors’ advice. How she had despatched me, with serene indifference, to boarding school. How she was robustly intent upon convincing herself (and anyone else who was prepared to listen) that “There’s nothing wrong with him”.
But this moment of clarity quickly dissolved, the fog re-establishing itself instantly. Whether or not anyone cared about me was an irrelevance. It was only a hazy concept anyway, vanishing at the periphery of my thoughts.
Mum had then demonstrated her lack of concern by turning her back and walking determinedly away down the hall. She’d walked the full length of the hall (about ten metres), to disappear into the corridor leading towards the kitchen.
Leaving me alone with dad, and his fatherly advice.
‘Walking determinedly away’ was to become mum’s preferred method of demonstrating contempt.
I didn’t realise this at the time. How could I? It was merely an isolated event – mum turning her back and walking away. How do you recognise the inception of a habit? Well you can’t! You need to see the same conduct repeated frequently, over a period of time, to understand its nature.
And even then, after countless repetitions, it might still escape your notice. It might just insinuate itself, unheeded, into your own world of experience. Mum! Dispensing condemnation and judgement! It wasn’t a sufficiently unusual occurrence such as to merit attention.
Marianne was the one who pointed this behaviour out to me. She was the one who brought it out of the shadows, expressing it in clear joined-up words. Only then was I able to see how it coincided with critical moments in our lives. Those moments where Marianne or I needed familial help. Times when it would be natural to turn to your parents, if only for solace or moral support.
It was under those circumstances, when answering the front door to me, that she would regard me for a brief instant. The familiar look of disdain, with her head tilted slightly backwards. Her expression would be one of someone offended by an unpleasant smell. No words, just a look of distaste in her mouth and eyes. Oh, it’s only you! How tiresome! I would still be standing on the doorstep as she turned her back, pointedly rotating herself 180 degrees about her vertical axis.
And then? Her uniquely expressive walk of contempt, along the full length of the hall (ten metres or so), around the corner towards the kitchen, and, inevitably, out of my line of sight.
While I remained standing on the doorstep.
Here it is in diagrammatic form…
Referring to the diagram, mum’s angular rotation took place at point A, by the front door, to be followed by the route as indicated by the (greyish) line.
You’re not important to me
…said mum’s back, as she walked past the door to the TV room.
I want to admire myself in the reflected glory of my protegees’ achievements
…admitted her rear elevation, at point B on the diagram.
You do not satisfy this requirement
…admonished her evolving silhouette, as she negotiated the curve to align her orientation with the corridor.
Therefore I am not interested in you
…at point C.
You do not exist in my frame of reference
…she proved by her disappearance from view.
Mum had no need for words, that being dad’s department. This was their division of labour. Mum expressed herself silently, nasally, facially, geometrically.
She quantified her contempt in terms of distance travelled.
Ten metres, or thereabouts.