I was starting to get some kind of déjà vu here: I would wake up every morning desperate for a pee; make my way to the bathroom in a house I was only just starting to feel familiar with; rub my eyes as I yawned; take in some of the delightful surprises of my now forty-one year old body; remember the increasing tightness and kicking in my abdomen was a child inside me; then put the kettle on.
It was during this last task that the déjà vu seriously started to kick in. I’m not suggesting that he and I came to bed at the same time – I’m pretty sure that some times he tried to spend the night on the sofa downstairs (well, one of them), but found his way upstairs eventually – but he either got up before me or did things after I came to bed. Every day the dish washer was empty, and put away.
While I can’t deny that this was a pleasant thing to wake up to, it always struck me as odd. It did not seem to fit with the rest of his personality at all. He was a fourteen year old boy, even though he looked like a hairy old man; why would he buy fresh milk every night and tidy up the piles of dog hair which accumulated through the days? The dish washer was just the tip of an absurd iceberg.
I had asked him about it and received a pretty standard fourteen year old response: a shrug, a few barely comprehensible pronouncements and a look of confusion bordering on something between derision and contempt. I hope he wasn’t like this as a grown up: I would be asking myself some very serious questions about why I would put up with someone as genuinely noxious as he seems to be.
But that’s the thing: I trusted my future self – once I had come to terms with the fact that that was what we were dealing with here – that her decisions were the right ones. They had built a home and a life together, along with the loveliest little girl in the world. I had to trust her decision making here, because I woke up next to the naked man she had chosen every day of my life. I had passed feeling vulnerable and found myself in the realm of feeling massively curious about who this boy would be.
I understand that boys and girls develop differently, and that biology has a lot to do with that, but I still cannot get my head around teenage boys. They seemed to be almost mouldy. Yet here was a grown man who was every bit as mouldy as the teenage boy who was occupying his hairy, fat body.
And then he vanished. One moment he was letting the dogs out – one lovely and clearly rather bored; the other as scared of the whole of the universe as it was possible to be – and the next he was gone. The first I noticed it was when the scared dog started barking uncontrollably at a bee who chose to buzz a few metres from the house. I ran out to see what was going on, and he was alone.
I looked up and down the street, but realised that I had no impetus to leave the – why this word? – “safety” of the garden. Why did I feel like it was safer in here than it would be to step on to the path and look up and down the street. I had the little girl with me, so she wasn’t about to come to any harm, thankfully. What was this sensation of unease which I could just about sense, growing in me?
I took us all back in to the house and looked around, shouting the name of the man-boy as I went. The little girl climbed back up on to the sofa and switched the rather complicated TV programme device back on, satisfied with her lot. It seemed that she would watch TV twenty-four hours a day if she could. All she needed was fruit to keep her sustained. I wish she would run about a bit more.
There was no sign of the missing man child, and no note or message. His screen thing was still sitting next to his seat, headphones dangling out of it as usual. He was making a comprehensive study of the listening habits of his future self, and not finding himself massively impressed. Apparently there were too many songs where it was walls of noise, complemented by screams or growls. The stuff in foreign languages, however, impressed both of us. There was no screaming on any of that stuff.
I found the fact that he had just disappeared rather confusing. I’ll admit that I found his movements deeply suspicious, and took some comfort in the fact that I had now witnessed some of it directly, rather than purely by extension. I wasn’t convinced that the two sides tallied up. Not yet, anyway.
Before I knew it I was asleep, a dog rubbing himself against my dangling hand. My dreams were so odd that they stuck in the mind longer than usual. A king of a strange land, put there by long haired men, his beard used as an omen of good harvests. They struck me as Swedish before they became owls and declared war on the rising of the sun. I don’t know how they struck me as being Swedish.
I put the little girl to bed on my own. She missed her dad, and I missed him too. He may have been utterly useless domestically, but his presence was reassuring. She asked me again and again when he would be back, and if he had gone to London to work. I knew very little, but I knew that he hadn’t done that. I reassured her as best as I could before I tucked her in with her bear, and willed her to go to sleep. I could tell that without her father around she would not sleep as well as she usually did.
The evening was uneasy, full of trips to the toilet and peering out of the blinds. I was sure he was coming back, but it was taking a lot to keep myself convinced that it was so. I drank a full bottle of fizzy water – always in abundance in this house, it seems – before I gave in and went to up bed.
I didn’t feel him lie down, but I never did anyway. I just became aware of his presence in the bed. I opened my eyes, looked at the bearded man in front of me. His mouth hung ajar as he slept, which I found utterly bizarre. Glad to have him back I snuggled in to him. When we awoke in the morning he did so with a colossal start, as if forgetting I was there. He hugged me back and I went for a pee.