This is not something out of Euripides. This stuff happens around the corner from you and from me and what a stupendous waste of two lives. A tragic story that highlights the immense fragility of the human mind. Any rational third party can see that killing yourself and your child (in a custody battle or even for any other reason) deprives you of all the future joy that could come from a continuing relationship with that child. Where it’s a custody battle that mother wins: there is still (i) the possibility of continuing access (ii) the probability of someday re-commencing relationship assuming mother relocates out of town either for good reasons or out of spite (iii) the option of having other children.
But oftentimes we, as humans, can’t see the road for the fog; the fog of our own distress. And when we are choked up by the emotion of the moment and the “apparent” hopelessness of our situation it’s frequently the case that we go “off the rails”. This is human nature and maybe never entirely avoidable. Arguably this man loved his son deeply and the thought of being separated was too much. But then again he did not value the life of the child above his own heartbreak and/or he hated the mother so much that punishing her was more important: “If I can’t have him neither will you”. Or he just went crazy. Considering that four years ago, these two were making love with tremendous joy and hope and it’s come to this. She will now be haunted and scarred by this for the rest of her life. A sad waste of, really, three lives.
Some other stories of fathers going off the rails:
They both were glad to walk out of the bar. The beer-fueled din, the clangorous eruptions from assorted hubbubs of revelers, the blast of forgettable pop music and the whoops and rumpus of excitable under-forties were all just too inimical to the business of man-to-woman conversation. But where is one to go on a Friday night? Especially as on such nights all the bars on Upper Street spill over, like muffin tops, with punters. She had never liked bars, full of drinking yobbos, preferring instead cosy haunts where girlfriends “catch up” on the latest gossip and news; so the fresh air and relative quiet were rather welcome. He needed a fag. She had started smoking again since they met, feeling rather religiously that couples who smoked together stuck (or more likely, stank) together. They both reached for their packs and matches. He: Marlboro. She: very much Benson and Hedges.
She was the first to speak: “So, come again, why won’t you commit?” The smoke left her mouth as she drew first blood. The ghostly weft of nicotine rose hesitantly above their heads and then upwards to the sky; an imploring sacrificial fragrance to the goddess of love.
He was silent for a moment, pausing deliberately; but not for effect but in deliberation of the best way to proceed. If you were a parent questioning a child you would be convinced that child was about to spin a magnificent and implausible yarn. But he was scheming no lie. Yet for a few moments more his right foot nervously played noughts and crosses with a disinterested pebble. He breathed deeply and began: “Well, I’m worried about the sex,” but then he caught her quizzical eye and the beginning upturn in her lips and quickly added,”But wait, don’t laugh. It is important. I used to be married.”
“Uh-oh”. This was news. They had been seeing each other for about six weeks.
“I was married. Her name’s Phoebe and she was from Durham.” He stopped and then corrected himself: “is from Durham.” After convincing himself that indeed his ex-wife was still alive and he hadn’t murdered her in a haze of amnesia he continued. “We were together for five years and at first we had sex all the time”. He pulled contentedly on his fag, emitting a satisfactory ahh. “All the time we fucked, I mean made love, oh fuck it, we fucked and the sex was exhilarating. Fresh and pickled. All over the place we did it and it didn’t matter what time of day or season. We even did it in church at her sister’s wedding pretending to check on the registry room down in the crypt … and can you believe it (she couldn’t, not really wanting to know why her lover was working to make her mad) – while hymns were being sung upstairs we were doing it down below? Oh boy, that was fun.”
He suddenly stopped, ostensibly to let the deafening police siren go by, but in reality he had started to sense that she didn’t like him telling her that he had liked fucking other women. So he resumed more solemnly.
“Slowly however the fire waned. Imperceptibly at first, you know, like when you’re putting on weight, I don’t mean you I mean like anyone, right, you don’t know it because you have a cake here and a Snickers there and you think it doesn’t matter because you’re playing football on Saturday or going to aerobics class on Tuesday and kaboom you’re thirteen stone and you think how did I get here? Well that’s how it was with our sex. it went from millennium fireworks and podium corkers to heart surgery routine precision. “Nurse, will you pass me the bone cutter?” “Here you are Dr Seuss” “How much time do I have Nurse before I cover him up?” “Exactly ten minutes Doctor”. He laughed showing pretty teeth. ‘You could time our sex: ten minutes and it was all over.”
He stopped to look at her. He couldn’t always tell if she was really listening to him or had drifted off into a far off world of nereids and unicorns.
But she was listening. “And?”
“Then she got pregnant. At first we still did it, you know, we called it “humping the hump” or at least I did ‘cause I thought it might bring back the excitement but then she got bigger and tired out and was definitely not in the mood for humping – either from the front or the back. But I was like cool, OK, you’re carrying our baby.”
A glass collector came round looking for empty bottles and they waited for him to go. As he opened the door Kate Perry was bruiting about kissing a girl. Two big black boys also went in chattering about the football derby the next day. ‘But I gotta get laid tonight” one of them emphatically maintained as they closed the door behind them.
“We had a boy and our time was spent getting used to this stranger and cleaning all his shit. I would, like, masturbate, obviously not with Phoebe or the baby around, but in private I watched porn and jerked off. It was like being fourteen again; furtive actions wondering if you’ll get caught. But then blink! and it was like two months and I had had no sex. Not good. Not good at all”. He’d almost finished his cigarette. She was only halfway through hers. “It became unbearable. I wanted a woman: her scent, her warmth, the softness of her skin; moaning my name and all the blah blah that goes with it and then … then we talked about it and for a few months she’d put out for all of ten minutes but I could tell that she wasn’t really there and that is no fun. I need to know that I’m giving pleasure not just receiving it. You know, I can gush as indiscriminately as the next man but if my woman is not putting in hundred percent then I’m not gushing a hundred percent. I’ve never been the wham bam kind of guy.”
“But even that stopped. She was too tired; you know there’s a a young baby and she had a full time job and house chores and it was just too much and she had no energy or inclination for sex.”
Silence; puff; silence; the dull glow of a cigarette being sucked of its last goodness was one of the lesser lights on Upper Street that night. Around the silent two, the young razzle-dazzlers of Islington were just getting started. Her upright silhouette against the brick wall showed off smooth round curves of a woman in her prime. And she was smart too. He’d better not fuck this up.
“I can tell you this one thing, though, a man is not a stone. If he isn’t getting it from you he’s getting it elsewhere. There’s no point saying “but if he loves me” blah blah. I don’t understand women who think if they don’t give sex for like, forever, the man is supposed to do nothing and remain faithful. That’s like ridiculous you know. A man is not a stone. He’s gotta cum or else he goes crazy. C-r-a-z-y. It’s the way we’re made. If a woman wants to keep her man she’s going to have to put out.” He tossed the stub on the pavement.
She put hers in the stub receptacle. “So does that mean we’re doing ok, at least for now?”
He smiled and then laughed. She loved it when he laughed and showed even teeth, stained brown by coffee but still very pretty. “Yeah, we’re doing very ok. And I’m hoping we stay that way.” He took her hand and they walked back into the bar, to the howls of Miley Cyrus and loud forgettable pop music. She couldn’t figure out whether he was telling her not to have a baby. How’s that going to work?
To free the mind of a man who’s nailed himself fast to an idea or precept is probably the most impossible task that another person can undertake. If they are someone you love they may well be lost in hell’s inferno and that hurts. I have previously assumed that exposure to the refreshing effects of reason will undoubtedly free these lost souls, naively relying on Jesus’ words that Ye shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). However two incidents yesterday are working to shew me that Jesus may not always have known what he was talking about.
The first incident was at the abode of a friend with whom I was to sup. Somewhere during our meal the discussion drifted to religion. My friend is of the Church of England sleeve and from previous discussions I knew that his rampart fornication did not stand in the way of his held-fast beliefs. Sometime during our banter he morphed into the cat that no matter how hard you throw from a great height always lands on its feet. When I said Christianity just happened to be the lucky result of a Roman Emperor who believed God had helped him win a battle my friend replied that maybe Christianity is the summit of the natural evolution of religions. I reminded him Islam came later and he replied that maybe that is a false religion. When I said that other cultures had had their own gods, for example the Greeks, my friend countered that he had thought the Greeks did not really believe in their gods (news to me).
Yet I kept prodding. I pointed to the inconsistencies in the Bible or the fantastic miracles and he’d say oh that was meant to be metaphorical. How does he know which parts are real and which metaphorical? Oh people have to apply their brains. What convinced me that my mission was hopeless was when he linked belief to personal experience. His: he’d placed a copy of the Koran, the Bible and Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ together and one day rain had slipped through the cracks and dripped onto one book – the Bible. His interpretation: that was God’s sign that the Bible is the real deal.
The second incident happened after I returned home to find a comment to one of my blog postings in which I had quoted John Stewart Mill who’d said that the idea of God is nonsense since if things were created by God then it begs the question who created God. A commenter started with the words “Since God existed before time and space …” therefore the question who created God is nonsense. My natural reaction was “whoa, wait a minute, where did this starting premise that God exists come from?’ I wrote a lengthy response to which the commenter came back that God exists as a matter of reason and that the proof of God is simple. What this simpleton failed to say was how it is that God exists as a matter of reason and if the proof is simple why not prove it?
What is beyond reason is that both my friend and the commenter had certainly not thought deeply or carefully about their faith. They had examined no alternate viewpoints nor had they read any history or philosophy nor understood the tenets of the scientific method nor had a sufficient appreciation of the workings of the human brain and its susceptibility to error and of the human capacity to fashion magical stories out of its nebulous imagination. They had been taught most probably by their parents that there is a God and that was that. Mind set in concrete and nothing short of dynamite will move that conviction.
While continuing to read the aforementioned J.S Mill, he commented on one of his acquaintances, Frederick Denison Maurice, who was one of the finest and best read intellects he’d come across. Maurice later became a religious minister and wrote extensively on religious matters. He was also the founder of a movement called Christian Socialism that fought against oppression and the conditions of the poor and underprivileged. Now that’s a christian I can respect; someone who retained his faith but at least had done his homework.
Unfortunately today’s Christians as a class (obviously not every individual) are the biggest hypocrites in the western world; preaching, from their terrible book, a divisive concoction of myth, lies, a smidgen of history and pure hatred (jealous God, Hell etc). If God exists He should be ashamed of Himself for the world He’s created and the children of hate He’s spawned. If God exists. But since God doesn’t exist what are we to do with religion?
If you’re a Dream I am a dreamer
You’re magic and I the Magician
Romeo had Juliet I have Violet
Eyes that blush in Shadowland
Bittersweet, Vulcan’s beating
Lust forged in Mar’s blistering heat
In/Out pressure, the Sound of pleasure
If you’re a dream I am a Dreamer
I am intrigued by a sight I see more frequently now on the streets: a straight couple are walking side by side or with the woman in front and the man reaches out and pats his partner (usually twice) on the bum. What in the world is this to mean: to reassure her that he is hers/there or a boast to the rest of us: this fine ass is mine?
This may come
This may come as some surprise
But I miss you.
I could see through all of your lies
But still I miss you.
He takes her love
But it doesn’t feel like mine
He tastes her kiss
Her kisses are not mine
They’re not mine.
But surely she can’t give what I’m feeling now.
But surely she doesn’t know how.
And I want you to want me
Wider than Victoria Lake.
My love is taller
Taller than the Empire State.
It dives and it jumps and it ripples like the deepest ocean.
I can’t give you more than that
Surely you want me back.
Summer comes once a year. Sweaty skins, hot breaths, short skirts and boys peeping down pumpkin cleavages. Girls waiting, wanting to be asked out; waiting for and wanting more. Skinny boy with the long black fingers and teenage white teeth. She: green eyes and mischievous white breasts. Young love. Hungry. Impatient. Burning. It may not last but it sure will be fun. There’s another boy watching from across the street. His heart is racing as Venus plays footloose with his manhood. He clutches his book and averts his eyes. If he doesn’t look, he won’t envy. He repeats over and over: one can chase skirt or one can chase learning. Which shall it be? Summer comes but once a year.