I thought that, having neglected the blog for a while, I would come back with some lightweight entries; to ease myself back in to the MoaN way of thinking, if you like. That was fine for a couple of weeks, but talk of school assemblies and Gob Stoppers was never going to last; and so it comes to pass that this week we return to our regularly scheduled programming. Yes, a bad thing is going to happen to me.
To be fair, this story isn't as bad as some, at least on the face of it. There will be no vicious beatings, drunken rampages, accusations of sexual shenanigans or any of the other delights you might have come to expect from this blog. Nope, none of that.
So, longtime readers of MoaN may remember that my Mother, while living rent free in my Aunt's house, had decided that she was madly in love with said Aunt's live-in boyfriend, and started an affair with him. As you do. Upon our moving out of that house and into our own, he came with. Oh Joy. The delightful chap in question was called Maurice, and the full story is here.
Maurice was a bully, no question about it, but he was a clever and unpredictable one. Or he was just erratic. One of the two. You see, he would rarely actually hit us. For large periods he would be the nicest, friendliest bloke in the world, then he would start in with his little 'jokes'; his derogatory comments disguised as 'helping' and his childish love of getting one over on us; proving his power over us in petty little ways. The physical violence happened, and I'm going to give you two examples of it in this post, but to someone with as many confidence issues as I had; someone who spent so much of his time battling the inner voices that were so intent on convincing him he was worthless, and a joke; the snideness and power games were the real killer.
Take the first of the two instances of violence I mentioned. As I prepare to type this, I look back at it and I can see how petty the whole thing was, and I worry that I don't come out of it looking any better than he does, but I'm going to put it down anyway. I was reading the TV mag. I always read the TV mag because I wasn't actually allowed to watch all that much TV so I would use it to get a glimpse into the wondrous stuff I was missing. Except on this occasion, he snatched away the mag, to see what was on, then shoved it down the side of his seat. I asked for it back, but he refused, on the grounds that I didn't need it because I wouldn't be watching anything anyway.
What harm would it have done to let me read it? None, and judging from the huge smirk he wore, he knew it. But he wouldn't relent even when - I'm not afraid to sacrifice some dignity for a good cause - I started to beg him. After a while I snapped, shoutd that he could keep it, and stormed out of the room. Which should have been the end of the affair, but no. He followed me.
The smirk was gone, the mocking tone was gone, all pretense at joviality was gone. He stormed through the door, walked over to me, smacked me full across the side of the face and yelled at he top of his lungs, "Don't you ever talk to me like that, you little bastard." Then, ignoring my crying, he went back to living room and within moments he and my Mother were back laughing and joking. I was so insignificant, so minor a concern to them, that stripping me of one of my few true pleasures in that house for a joke and leaving me red faced and crying when I dared voice complaint, was no more than a momentary blip on the little blippy thing of their day. I doubt my Mother had even registered what had happened at all.
One of Maurice's (very) few good points, at least from the point of view of us kids, was that he very often, on a whim, decide to move out and go back to our Aunt; usually after a particularly big blow-up at my Mother that may or may not have resulted in black eyes and busted lips, depending on hoe much alcohol had been consumed. Of course, we always knew he'd be back; that much was inevitable; but his absences allowed us brief, blessed periods of calm, where we only had one violent drunken bully to contend with instead of two, and even when he did make his inevitable returns things would be relatively relaxed for a while, as they went through their latest 'Honeymoon' period.
Except, on one occasion. On one occasion, he brought his kids with him. Now, the house we lived in was not large. It was a two bedroom-er, and there were 3 of us kids (2 boy and a girl), sharing one of those rooms. When Maurice arrived one day, after an absence of a couple of weeks, with 2 kids in tow, it was never going to be ideal. Sardines in a tin, we were. Before they arrived, our room had a set of bunk beds (for the boys) and a bed for my sister. It was fine. After they arrived 2 mattresses; not beds, mattresses; were sourced from somewhere and the floor in our room promptly disappeared. Marice's youngest boy, Martin, took my bunk and I ended up in one of the floor positions, and Maurice's eldest, Stephen, took the other. My sister kept her bed, which was only fair, but the subject of some argument for a while.
One particular morning, it must have been a weekend or school holiday, because there was no urgency involved, I woke to find that my Brother was crying, my sister was downstairs yelling and my two cousins/stepsiblings/fucking annoyances were screaming at each other about, hell, I don't know. Just another day in paradise.
Rolling over, I tried to go back to sleep. But my brother wouldn't stop crying and those two just kept on at each other, and my head started to pound, so I inquired as to what was going on. Through the screaming I managed to find out that they had decided it was funny to trow things at my Brother. I found this out through amouthfull of abuse, naturally. Then they started tormenting me. Jumping onto me from my sisters bed, making little sing-song references to my loving to read (foreign concept to them) and pulling my books down to throw at me. They were a delightful pair.
I did nothing. I could have shouted at them to stop. I could have gotten up and slapped them one (violence being the foremost means of diplomacy amongst kids at that age). I could have gotten dressed and gone downstairs. I did none of those things. I just wanted an easy life, and even at that young age I knew that trying to do anything, one way or another, would just pour fuel on the fire. So I just lay back and waited for them to get bored. Until Maurice barged in.
He wasn't happy. And his ire was directed in only one direction. You guessed it. What was going on? Why was I letting them bounce on the beds? Why were there books all over the room? Why was my Brother crying? Ah, yes, of course, it was my fault. So I snapped.
I told him if he wanted someone to look after his kids he should get out of fucking bed and do it himself because it wasn't my job. I told him, better yet, he shouldn't have dragged them away from their Mother. I told him "if you want to have a fucking go at someone why don't you have a go at these little bastards cos they're a pair of fucking animals." Then I told him to leave me alone to go back to sleep.
Then he hit me.
This made my Brother cry more, and it made 'those 2 little bastards' laugh. He smiled at them and walked out. And they started up again. Only this time, they did it with the added authority of knowing that they weren't going to get into trouble for it. Here's the thing though; I didn't care, because I think that at that moment my long standing inability to take seriously anyone in authority over me that didn't deserve to be, was born. I had stood up to him, and his response had been to hit me and then laugh and encourage his kids. He was little more than a child himself, so why should I respect him? The blow hadn't even hurt that much. I knew, in that moment, that I was better than him. I waited for them to get bored, then I went back to sleep with a smile on my face.
It was fleeting of course. The voices in my head would never let me feel that good about myself for long; there would always be some insecurity or some new flaw in myself to bring me down again. But from that moment on, I never feared Maurice, and never took his threats seriously, again. And while there were further occasions when he would raise his hand to me, they became fewer and further between with every passing day. I think he could see that they weren't having the desired effect.