Being a parent is an unceasing attack on your vulnerabilities. I did start writing a book about the motional impacts of parenting, but it stalled. I suppose the reasons are manifold. I’m not sure I can do non-fiction. I still have a lot of parenting to do. I still have a lot to learn about parenting. I think I am a bad parent. I can’t afford to think I am a good parent. Real life. Unreal lives in those worlds of mine I’ve talked about before, where I seem marooned a lot of the time. Parenting is firefighting, no matter how old your children might be. That’s why it’s never done.
When we went to bed last night, told M that I seemed to be losing words daily, just not being able to think of vocabulary that should be within my grasp. And how thinking of a word three or four words ahead of when I’m going to use it is often suddenly a search for something forgotten by the time I get to the place where that perfect word I’ve thought of needs to be. She suggest I write it down when I think of it, but I said that would interrupt the flow. I wake this morning to realise I’ve come downstairs without the note I scribbled onto a notebook in M’s office just before I went to bed. Are the missing words holes in my brain, or just the continuous film in my head moving too quickly for me to keep up?
I clamber back and forth over the narrative of these posts, the cursor flicking from one line to the other as I add one thought or another. Or that elusive forgotten word comes back to me. Right now, the words seem like wreckage and rubble to my eyes, a depiction of fallen cities and ruined lives. There are wars everywhere. Ruin everywhere in all sense of the world. That reminds me of the words on the notebook upstairs, and it’s now almost as if I know them off by heart although I shall no doubt no paraphrase them (and I haven’t cheated and gone back upstairs to get the scribble). I was going to start today by writing what’s in italics.
Call me paranoid, but it seems to me that humankind is basically evil, that goodness is only a minor part of the soul. That goodness is only achieved through willpower, and that any kindnesses we see are due to the will of the individual to be good rather than due to any innate goodness there is in the soul. And I’m not just talking about the war in Ukraine or war in general. I’m thinking about everyday life, everyday banal cruelties, everyday complex plans to lie and cheat and deceive, to manipulate others’ lives in directions they weren’t supposed to go in. And I don’t just mean small lies, I mean elaborate deeply organised schemes laid by one individual and intended to emotionally hurt one other person. This is another thing I mentioned to M last night, and she questioned that anyone would go to such great lengths to deceive another person. Perhaps it’s my writer’s brain that makes me think it’s normal for normal people to think up intricate plots to hurt other people, people they say they love. That’s where my line of thought was last night and when I woke up. Or maybe I am just paranoid. But it would explain why some people go on to be murderous tyrants and despots.
And, just to bring me full circle, I blame the parents.
Edit – here’s the note I wrote last night. M brought it down to me while I was having breakfast. I obviously did paraphrase it, and missed out a phrase, but I got the gist of it, I think.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 19
‘And chose a foolish young boy to kill me,’ she says.
‘I’m quite good at lying,’ he says, suddenly tall and straight and not shaking anymore.
‘I got there before you.’ The gun has appeared in her hand from nowhere. ‘Are you willing to die for your masters?’
His hands go back to the table top. They’re quite hairy and strong now she looks at them more closely. Long fingers, flat on top of the tiny gun he has carefully put down. He shakes his head and smiles gently. ‘I don’t think so,’ he says.
‘You let me beat you too easily. Even this time.’
‘Perhaps there’s something about you that makes people want you to like them.’
‘There’s nothing about me. I’m an abnormality.’ She gets up. ‘And this time I’m going to search you thoroughly.’ She holds the gun against his forehead while he stands up, pats him down with her unoccupied hand, moves the gun down his body to his crotch as she lifts his trouser legs, knife holsters around each calf, pulls the knives out, throws them at the windows where they embed themselves precisely into the white frames either side of the window through which she was admiring the cathedral’s beauty and elegance just hours earlier. She makes him take off his shoes, pulls the heels one way and the other until they reveal their hollowness and the tiny explosives within. ‘Neat,’ she says, puts them in her trouser pocket, works her way back up his body, much firmer than she had initially suspected, her long fingers, longer than his, in his waistband now, around the back, where she finds another hand weapon so new it glitters under the lights. ‘Quite the arsenal,’ she says.
‘I never liked football that much.’ He chuckles as he sits down again.
‘That’s not funny. No-one but an Englishman would make that sort of attempted joke.’
‘So shoot me.’
‘I don’t like killing people.’
‘Is that a fact?’
‘Tell me about your masters.’
‘I couldn’t do that. Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements and such. I’m sure you understand.’ His diction is more precise now than when he was masquerading as a stupid student.
‘Naturally.’ She smiles at him, and the perfection of her teeth dazzles him. ‘Would you change your tune if I shot you in one of your knee caps?’
‘You said you didn’t like killing.’
‘Knee-capping isn’t killing.’ She puts the pistol against his left knee, crosses her ridiculously long legs, and leans on the table with her other arm. ‘I’ve got all day.’
He holds up his hands, palms facing her. ‘Some of what I said is actually the truth.’
‘The bit about lying?’
‘The bit about not knowing who wants you dead.’
‘And yet you’d still quite happily kill me.’
‘Oh, the money for your poor parents.’
‘Ah. That was part of the not so true bit. My parents were very rich, and now they’re dead.’
‘And you killed them for the money?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. They sent me away to boarding school when I was a kid, so I never really knew them. They were just really old.’
‘So you’re rich but you still kill for money.’
‘A man has to keep himself amused. Better than going to a DIY shop on a Sunday morning.’
‘It’s not Sunday.’
‘You know what I mean.’
‘Men. You always think you’re funny when, actually, you never are.’
‘Very articulate for a Polish servant.’
‘I’m a good learner.’
‘Is that how you learned to fight so well?’
‘You didn’t fight back.’
‘I told you. There’s something about you.’
‘And you saw that in the dark and changed your mind. Rather than just pulling the trigger?’
‘Erm, not quite. I didn’t actually know how good you were.’
‘So you’re still an idiot.’
‘And then I saw your face and your strength.’
‘What about my face?’
‘Has no-one ever told you how beautiful you are?’
The picture of the boy with the black hair who said he loved her clicks into existence in Aggie’s other self. ‘Spare me,’ she says. ‘Male flattery is just a diversion on the way to what they want.’
He shrugs. ‘So we make a deal.’
‘What sort of deal?’ She pushes the gun harder into his leg.
‘We do work together. We don’t need to go back to London for that.’
‘We look round the house first and see what we can find. And …’
‘I’ve already looked round the house. And I’m not letting you. For all I know you’re the one Sir and Madam are running away from.’
‘Sir and Madam. How quaint.’
Her hand connects with his face before he sees it coming.
‘How’s that for quaint?’ she says and pulls the trigger.