Thursday, 8 November 2012

Root And Branch - Friday Flash


I went nap on it. Staked my whole being on it. Never been so sure on anything my whole life. Or so I thought.

Taken a bath on that one haven't I? Post-Natal Depression they sneered. Only being a bloke, I lacked any suspect chemical cocktail swirling around non-varicosed veins.

So here I stand in the middle of the threadbare carpet. Hands splayed over my eyes counting to a... Eighteen years (assuming he'll leave home at eighteen, go to Uni or have a Gap Year or something) times 356 & 1/4 days (accounts for Leap years) multiplied by twenty-four hours X sixty minutes squared for seconds... 554,040,000...

Christ, counting down from five hundred and fifty four million, never coming ready or not... If the supposed seeker has shuttered his eyes for so long as to refuse to go seek, then is he not the one who is hiding? Multiplied, times... god how do those words resonate inside my head now?

He is threaded in place on the carpet through bare immobility. I am rooted to the spot with fear and love. Fear that I cannot love. While all around me is the bustle of my wife enacting the necessaries for his living. She shuns me in my paralysis. But he? He still reaches out his arms towards me, demanding to be picked up into my arms. Just for the warmth of contact against my body, or more practical sirening of nappy changing or feeding I cannot be sure. When the clamour is for me to somehow assist him in ceasing mewling, the two poles become rather blurred to my mind.

So yes I concede, I do sometimes splay my fingers apart, just to yield me a modicum of sight on the scene. Like viewing through the slats of a drawblind. Playing peek-a-boo which slices my heart into shreds, as I see him innocently mimic me. Sat there dumbly on the floor, unable to express his desires. Exactly the same state as me stood upright and erect here. So clearly altitude has nothing to do with emotional amplitude.

I keep throwing my stone to land on square one, to take that first step. But it continually straddles the line. So my fragile intent is scotched and I remain frozen in place.

He's bawling again. Is he already so broken? You don't think I want nothing more than to burst into tears myself? But I can't. The sole grown up manly trait I manage to exhibit. I can see the line of transmission from father to son, even in one so young. Suckling greedily at my emotional blocks from the distance that separates us. The invisible male umbilical, gnarled and desiccated. And there's not a damned thing I can do to prevent it. Because I too am so broken. Courtesy of the line of transmission from my own father.

All those feelings I had managed to tamp down, like self-loathing, shame (naturally), fear and despair. Well now I can add a new one to it in the form of regret. Have you, little one, imbibed these deep into your marrow by your observations of me? You coming along I had hoped would have banished them all for good. Make me flower and open up. But I can't lay that at your tiny feet now can I? The failing is all my own. I didn't do my research properly.

My eyes still shielded off, yet I hear him padding about the floor. He's developing while I stagnate. I can't tell if he's shuffling on his bottom or propelling himself along by his limbs. I yearn only to play "Statues" because it makes no calls upon me. But as he throws himself at my feet and wraps himself around my ankles, seems like he's playing "What's The Time Mr Wolf?" Argghh, he's shaking me like apples from a tree. Trying to topple me, like statues of dictators being hauled down. Shattering me in my brittleness for once and for all.

I'd dimly imagined he'd stand as a moppet for conducting sympathetic magic. To bring out all these wondrous warm emotions in me. But he is opaque, impenetrable. Perhaps his mother is a yet greater sorceress and that she has invested her dark arts in armouring his floppy frame to buttress him from me.

I have taken root in the worst possible way. Those roots that fork and proliferate until they squat under the foundations of the house. So that if my wife ever sought to put me out of my vegetative state and took an axe to our coupling, the whole house would come tumbling down around her. For this is the house that Jack jerrybuilt. 'This is the man all tattered and torn/That kissed the maiden all forlorn'. She who continues to vacuum and dust around my limp frame. We made this decision to seed together. Now I am lying fallow alone. A graft that just hasn't taken. A cutting that withered on the vine. Like the fate that awaits my son.

12 comments:

Kath said...

God, man, I have missed reading your wonderful linguistic gymnastics. This has such a beautiful, powerful rhythm to it that I imagined you rapping it to me. I'm going back to read it again.

Kath said...

God, man, I have missed reading your wonderful linguistic gymnastics. This has such a beautiful, powerful rhythm to it that I imagined you rapping it to me. I'm going back to read it again.

John Wiswell said...

Parenting seems to be on the mind these days...

Alison Wells said...

Delves into our worst feelings of failure and inadequacy as parents, that despite our desire to do right and to connect that it comes to or may come to nothing. Nice subnote of despair/futility alongside clever observation.

Steve Green said...

Wonderful writing.

I feel great sorrow for the father with his self doubts, but this won't necessarily be passed down to the child, hopefully he can learn to change, and to love.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Powerful.Even the language is alienating. And you get across his despair so well and it's roots - love the play with the nursery rhyme at the end.

Sonia Lal said...

Depressing and pretty at the same time! I especially the prettiness and rhythm.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

I feel so sorry for the guy!

Cindy Vaskova said...

Oh, love the language in this! Just love it. I take this as a dissection of the being, executed brilliantly by your vocabulary and wit Marc!

But the background of this story and the possible future it poses for the innocent child saddens me. Parenting is very different today.

Larry Kollar said...

I like the way you deliberately made this a series of clichés, describing the new father's despair at being a better father than the one he had. I have to admit, I had similar feelings, but they just kind of slid away once I held The Boy.

Then, at age 3 minutes, he launched himself out of my arms. Fortunately, the pediatrician was in a position to catch him. :-) Reality is stranger than fiction, you know!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Great to see something from the male point of view, for a change. It's sorely overlooked and you've dealt with it so sensitively.

Richard Bon said...

An intense examination of insecurities surrounding new fatherhood. The simple sentence 'Fear that I cannot love' really hit home with me as I think it's a common, yet rarely discussed emotion. Very well written, as always.