Father Christmas

Father Christmas

The snow fell gently that night. A wind chime tinkled. Rainbow coloured lights blinked and winked, illuminating a single line of footprints that led down the side alley of the house.

The rusted lock had been opened with ease – the intruder had the key and grease he’d needed – and the tangle of bikes and garden implements had been silently avoided, even in the darkness.

He’d slunk across the patio and made for the laundry room, where he’d found the window with the loose latch through which he knew he could enter, silently, even though he was drunk.

Inside, there were clothes hanging to dry: a child’s snowsuit, a woman’s underwear, a man’s overalls. The intruder breathed deeply and shuddered in the darkness.

She deserved to suffer. But it was the child he wanted.

In a moment, he realised where he was and remembered the need for speed. He slipped off his shoes – a desire to leave no trace – and, clutching a pillowcase like a swag bag, he gently eased open the door and entered the house…

He wasn’t inside long, and he exited the same way he’d arrived, vanishing into the night.

He knew he’d pay for the visit, but it didn’t matter. He knew he’d never see their faces when they saw what he’d done, but it didn’t matter. Because he also knew that, on Christmas morning, she’d awaken to an unexpected gift beneath the tree, with a label on it that read simply: Love, dad xx

 

As I said in the recording, I wrote that a while ago for a story competition that had to be exactly 250 words. It was really about remembering not just the perspectives that we often have on dads – and men in general to some extent – that men are a threat, a danger.

But hopefully it will also remind is that for a lot of dads – myself included – Christmas can be an intolerably lonely time, one marked mainly by absence. The loss of children always brings about a kind of grief, and even if the children are “ok” – living as they are with their mother – their absence is always accompanied by a deep and profound kind of pain. 

So maybe, while we celebrate Christmas this year, we could remember those men who are refused access to their children, or whose children have been taken away from them by mothers who decided to live abroad, or across the country.

Happy Christmas anyway xx 

Perspective

Perspective

Audio from Opening Lines, Brighton, December 2018

Just a little reminder to take care this Christmas… xx

The Victim
There’s a blackness so deep it almost glows. And that’s all there is. I’ve an awareness of myself, but nothing more. It’s as though I’m surrounded by an emptiness, a vacuum, that draws me outward to fill it, and it stretches me so thin I almost don’t feel like I exist; and I know that I haven’t the strength to fight it forever. For a half a second I am enough to reflect on what had happened: I remember, like the memory of a dream, the warmth of a fire, presents unwrapping, a scooter I could ride; and then – from out of the darkness – I see the lights of a car, made ghostly by the cloud of wet sleet and snow that’s being whipped by the wind. The lights approach me, faster and faster; and then a dull clunk like two stones clashing. And then I’m alone again, in a blackness so deep that it almost glows…

The Driver
I shouldn’t be here. ButI can’t leave. It wasn’t my fault. But I know I’ll replay this again and again for the rest of my life. I’ll live this forever… I was driving to my parents’ house; there was incessant noise from the backseat; the snow and sleet flew so thick it was like a fog. And then, there was a moment where it parted, as though some divine wind had passed, and by then it was already too late… I can still see her face, strangely frozen, in an eyes-wide-open moment of pure terror.And that’s the image I’ll take with me, branded into my mind. And when I close my eyes to sleep, she’ll be there as well. I curl up and cry.

The Nurse
I check the instruments, but nothing’s changed. She’s in a coma and unless she wakes up soon she’ll stay that way until we shut it down. The man who hit her looks awful– thank God he’s sober. I feel for him, I really do. I feel for her as well… and the family. God, the family! But in this line of work, it’s hard to hold that care and my mind begins to wander. I keep an eye on the readings, there’s not much I can do, and if I’m honest, a part of me is itching to check my phone and see if Hannah’s still on for Thursday. I know it’s insensitive, and so concentrate to hold back a smile at the thought of her… And then I feel a cold wash of guilt as I look back at the girl on the bed, her skin as pale as a ghost, and remind myself that there’s nothing I can do.

The Messenger
I know they’re in there. I spoke to them earlier. I reassured them as well as I could. Over the years, I’ve learnt the knack of that: if you’re too hopeful it makes things harder later on; it makes for an easier shift if you keep expectations low. I resent the times when I deal with this like it’s a job, but it is. Their only child, and she’s gone. Is that a job? Carrying news like this. Is it something you should do so often you’re good at it? Before I open the door – every time – I remind myself that although this how I pay my bills, this isn’t a job. This is about life, and I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta to do, because someone’s gotta do it.

The Family
She’s gone. There are no words. There is only grief, and the memories that burn.

The T-Shirt
Shit happens.