I’d been learning to objectify women. They – women – had become no more than flesh to be pressed and moulded and used. This was in contrast to my upbringing: a mother who used to take me to the park to feed the crows and rooks. I would feed them bread, and if one did not look well, I would feed it with paracetamol.
‘Why do we give them paracetamol, Mummy?’
My mother had tried to cook her own head inside the oven. We got rid of the oven but could not afford a new one. We were never allowed to tell anyone about what had happened to our oven. I did not know what had happened. It seemed ok to me.
My mother often took me to a cafe in town. I would pretend to be grown up and demand to drink my mother’s black coffee. I was sick in the toilets.
‘You should eat something to settle your stomach,’ my mother said.
She ordered for me, in her tender way, a plate of crumpets with ice.
‘No butter,’ she said. ‘Crumpets with ice on top.’
I smiled at the waitress and noticed a hole in her tights and before she had moved away from our table, I had stuck my finger inside her hole.
I am told that she knew about the toxicity of soda, but had decided to tell no one. This was our news on the day that we went to Saint Philip’s Cathedral. I knew nothing of Saint Philip. I promised I would dream about him that night. In Saint Philip’s Cathedral is a crucifix made of railway sleepers.
‘The only sin,’ my mother pointed out, ‘is life itself.’
I still sometimes ponder my mother’s words. I do not know how life can be sin, but my mother confessed to feeling awkward about being alive.
‘Feed that crow there,’ my mother would say in the park. ‘It deserves his bread just for being alive.’
‘What about the ducks?’
‘I would not scrape the muck from my feet.’
‘I like the starlings, Mummy.’
‘Yes,’ my mother would say. ‘Feed the starlings.’
We backed away from the imitation Christ. I imagined that every imitation Christ was made from the sleepers under the trains on the railway lines. I thought perhaps that whenever there was a train crash, the broken sleepers would become Christ because that is how Christianity works.
‘What does Jesus have to do with trains?’
‘Movement,’ she told me. ‘Imagine a train that enters a dark tunnel. And … and suddenly something comes out of the other side. This is the spirit of Jesus. He helps us all to the other side.’
‘Did Jesus help you to the other side?’
‘He will … he is giving me more time.’
One day we fed the crows and rooks with nails that my mother had pulled out of our walls. She said that pictures were no longer needed in our life. She said that we were living under a sky of pretence.
The crows and rooks did not eat the nails, but a magpie took interest for a long while. Soon a pair of ducks – male and female – came waddling over to eat nine or ten nails between them. I think the female was hungrier which pleased my mother.
When the ducks began to die, my mother said something about the last ounce of soda fizzing in a soda can. It was only natural of my mother to light a cigarette with her shaking hands. She only ever had shaking hands when she lit a cigarette.
‘Can I try one?’ I asked.
She pushed it inside my mouth. It had that tinge of pink or red lipstick on the end which seemed more powerful to me at the time than the actual smoke itself. Of course I did not inhale because I did not know that I should do this. I tried to look cool, but when my mother took the cigarette from my mouth, it dropped on the floor.
My mother quickly stamped on it. ‘Pigeons fly off with cigarettes and burn down churches.’
I could not see any pigeons, but from nowhere the sky became filled with them. First there was ten, and then there was twenty, and maybe forty or fifty before my mother and I started running.
Sometimes I would imagine someone across the ocean who I would fall in love with, but I decided that there was little gain from this dream. I began to objectify women out of a desire for classification. The water-colour dried. There was nothing left to depict except for the soul.
‘… they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.’
‘God is my refuge and my strength.’
After invention came the farce of the grand reinvention. Coffee everywhere. I gave up on your promises of lifestyles. (One had collapsed on top of the other.) I passed out staring at an empty cup, as though you’d ground an eraser so hard against my bare cheeks that I’d found holes wide enough for my fingertips and tongue. We saw Francis Bacon in teaspoons.
Your promise of a Godless future was a soft hand and a push towards despair. Not even my therapist has dared engage me on the subject of God since. In my twentieth year I became a follower of the Tolstoyan Jesus, to what end? A relapse? Let us get one thing straight - I barely recognise what it is I’ve become. I barely recognise my days.
I’m fully aware that my writing is no excuse for my fondness for fondling schoolgirls. It was never exactly their tears that I enjoyed wiping from their faces - but I still wiped their faces all the same. Call me whatever, my only crime was attempting to fill a void in their lives. I’m someone they can be proud of when they’re carrying a child.
Oh, and what Hell had you offered me in place of God! An image of future perfection? It was all too simple - there was never any image to perfect. The mirror couldn’t handle your reflection of nothingness. Don’t offer me a lifestyle that can’t be attained. I’ve given up. You might have chopped off my fingers at birth as sliced through my umbilical cord. I don’t want knowledge, I want the freedom to create. The freedom to rise above your jealousies. I’m someone to be proud of.