Smack – Chapter 19

Chapter 19

The really freaky thing is that I’ve just remembered where that ‘Sonny-boy’ comment of mine came from when that meathead in the blue suit was chasing me out of the office. It came from him, from my father, I mean. It’s one of his stock expressions, something that I used to hate when I was younger. And now I’m using it myself.

And what a strange time for it to emerge: if we assume that stress was the major catalyst in this occurrence are we then to believe that this ‘Sonny-boy’ thing has been lurking in my subconscious all this time, all these years, just sitting there waiting for the right moment to leap out and surprise me? How else, then, does one explain why I elected to use the name that my father would call me as a boy when he wished to demonstrate his displeasure, as a means of illustrating my own displeasure at what that meathead was doing to me this morning?

But then, whether I like it or not, it’s impossible to deny that somewhere along the way he has left his imprint on me, just as her father and mother have left their imprint on Carol sitting across from me. In my case, I have to say that most of it comes out in issues of taste – taste in films… taste in food… taste in movies… taste in music, particularly. Over the years I have come to recognise this strange parity of views; sometimes I have consciously tried to rally against it, but always it has been impossible. My father, if I can give you a completely random example, abhorred the Beatles, absolutely hated them with a vengeance; said that they couldn’t write a tune… that their singers couldn’t sing… that their drummer couldn’t drum. I, myself, hate the Beatles with a vengeance, too. Even though I imagine myself to be a far more sophisticated consumer of popular music than my father, who scarcely bought a record in his life, ever was, and even though I wouldn’t disagree too vehemently with the drummer part of his argument, I know that the Beatles did, in actual fact, write a few good tunes… that they could, in fact, sing,… and yet I still hate them with a vengeance. Conversely, my father adored, of all the people whom one could choose to adore, Jim Reeves: when I was a kid this was the only singer that my father ever listened to on those rare occasions when he could be bothered to put on a record. Conversely, I too adore, of all the people whom one could choose to adore, Jim Reeves,: even though I do not possess a single recording by Jim Reeves and would never dare admit to anyone except myself that I like this greased-back, middle-aged country yodeller, and even though I am aware that in comparison to the Beatles and Shea Stadium and Sgt. Pepper and everything that they achieved in their career, Jim Reeves and his one paltry UK hit… and his tweedy jackets… and his fat little jowls… is a bit of a musical joke, I still adore him.

My father liked Les Dawson: I like Les Dawson.

My father hated pickled gerkhins: I hate pickled gerkhins.

My father liked tinned sweet corn: I like tinned sweet corn.

My father’s favourite liqueur was Bailey’s Irish Cream: my favourite liqueur is Bailey’s Irish Cream.

My father’s favourite sport was cricket: my favourite sport is cricket.

My father’s favourite singer was Jim Reeves: my favourite singer is Jim Reeves.

My father used to call me Sonny-boy when he was pissed off with me: now, apparently, when I’m pissed off with people I call them ‘Sonny-boy’.

There are other things, too. But I’m only really made aware of them on the occasions that they surface, which is few and far between but still often enough to give me a reminder of who I am and from whence I came.

Carol offers to stay another night and I thank her, no longer wanting to be alone in my misery. We order an Indian take-away and break open some more wine. As the hours meander by I get drunk and sprawl on the sofa with my legs up in the air; Carol sprawls out on the carpet. It’s a cosy little scene. Then, some time after 2.00 a.m., we decide to go to bed; that is, we decide to go to our own separate beds. While Carol finishes the umpteenth spliff, I go upstairs and use the toilet and brush my teeth. Then Carol goes upstairs and uses the toilet and brushes her teeth. Finally, perhaps inevitably, we find ourselves climbing the stairs together to the bedrooms. When we reach the top Carol slowly edges towards me and puts an arm around my shoulder. She follows this with a kiss on the cheek, and we both find ourselves facing the moment that was inevitably going to happen. The reality of the situation is that Carol and I have spent the last two evenings completely alone together: between a man and a woman this is about as intimate as you can get. I’m a man and she’s a woman. I’m male and Carol’s female: whether we like it or not, and whether it was intentional or otherwise, sooner or later the boundaries of our relationship have to be established. We both have a decision to make.

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