This weather we all have our own way of being born. Wiccan ceremonies. Underwater cameras. Strap-on midwives. Laughing gas in near space orbit. You name it, somebody has got to be online streaming it.
Well, I am a child of disaster like the rest of you, and this is my being-born story. It happened in a back- garden bedsit on the deep southside of Dublin around six weeks ago. It was the evening of the 25th of December at approximately twelve minutes past nine. 21:12. Two-one, one-two. That’s a good one for the numerologists, isn’t it? The mirrorologists even, but don’t mind those fucking liars.
Before that there was Lizzie, the pediatric night- nurse, and Tom with the Van, her fella.
Lizzie was anaemic and underweight and bruised too easily. She always had welts and blotches ripening on her arms and legs. She occasionally sported a lumpy green or purple bruise so large and glossy you could mistake it for a leech. She had dizzy spells and headaches and she puked more often than she shat. The semi-circles under her eyes were grey somedays like military helmets. On other days they were stormcloud black. They could have
carried lightning in them if they weren’t so sad. She got these permanent black eyes from the nightshift at the hospital and from never ever sleeping at the weekend. And from worrying. Lizzie had always been a worrier. She had nearly always had something to worry about. These days most of her worrying was focused on Tom with the Van.
Like many Irish manuals, Tom with the Van was both muscular and gross. He had the shanks and shoulder-blades of a lean and well-worked horse, but a beach-ball midriff. His shape was therefore more seal-like, more amphibian, than fully bipedal. Nothing would have been more natural to Tom than to slop along mud-flats on his belly, half-in and half- out of the sea, propelled by his podgy, flipper-like arms. Especially if that sea was made of cider.
But by now he had been nearly three months off the piss. He was due to get his ninety day achievement key-ring at the lunchtime meeting of AA in St John of God’s in Stillorgan on Stephen’s Day. The fact that it was to be his fourth, or fifth, ninety day achievement medal, did not in any way detract from its significance. Or so he kept being told at the mass- length meetings by others slightly less brain- damaged than himself. ‘Each day sober is a miracle for a drunk,’ was one of the mantras the chorus of ex-and/or soon-to-be-again drunkards continuously
drilled each other with, meeting after meeting, day after day, decade upon decade. A miracle! Miraculous Tom! The miracle of Tom, of Tom with the Van. It had a ring to it, didn’t it?
While stuck in traffic mornings, afternoons, and evenings during the weeks leading up to the holidays, Tom found himself daydreaming a lot about receiving the keyring and the uplifting ritual applause that would accompany it. This was the motivation he needed to make it through the excruciatingly boozy holiday season without leaping off the wagon. He luxuriated in the dozens of encouraging hugs and congratulatory handshakes he had coming to him from tweedy old- timers, the ones who stood in silent rooms in boxy homes before secretly laughing mirrors, shining up their liver-stains like the character-giving blotches on wooden antiques, before marching out to preach the sober way to the demented. These old missioners promised him that everything they had could be his, if only he stayed away from that first drink, a day at a time, or a minute at a time if needs be, for the rest of his life. It was that simple, that rewarding.
Everyone with an input—counsellors, family, boss, mates—said Tom was doing well. He even said so himself, quite regularly.
‘I’m doing well, amn’t I not?’ he would inquire of Lizzie, softly, as they were drifting off to sleep together after a long joint and a short ride, each leaving one lazy eye open to be mesmerised by the glutinous gyrations of the lava-lamp, or to stare up at the slime-green luminous stars a previous tenant had stuck to the ceiling.
‘Yes, you’re doing well,’ she told him. ‘Very well indeed, babes. Keep it up now though won’t you not?’
‘I will. Don’t you worry, love of mine.’
Then they would squeeze each other’s sticky hands and gaze into each other’s bloodshot eyes and maybe even go at it again, or at least think about going at it again.
Because of Tom’s new sober reliability, Christmas Day was going to be very special this year. The nearest thing to a declaration of intentions. An engagement to be engaged, sort of. If everything worked out, only good things would follow for the two of them. Not that they would be getting married or anything as old-fashioned or uneconomical as that. They would just move on to the stage many of their friends were already at,
saving up for a deposit for a house together. And, yes, Lizzie had an idea of where, at a stretch, they might be able to afford, and some ideas on interior decoration, and on what organic greens would sprout out of the tidy drillrows in the vegetable and herb garden out the back.
The agreed Christmas Day timetable was as follows: Tom with the Van would collect his mom from the home in the morning as soon as the 8 o’clock Yuletide mass in there had ended. Then he would van her to Glasnevin graveyard to say hello to all her friends and relations. Then they would zip down to Lizzie to start into the ceremonial meal at midday on the dot.
Tom kept telling Lizzie how much he was looking forward to sharing the first Christmas of his new life with the female of his dreams:
‘A recovering drunk is supposed to have one happy vision to focus on and keep him sober. whenever thoughts of booze assault him I always think of sitting by an open fire with one arm around the woman who brought me into the world, and the other around the woman I hope and pray will be seeing me out of it. I imagine us there in the heat and glow, cuddling and chatting and keeping each other company, forever and ever.’
‘Aw shucks, I’m so touched to be one half of your antibooze charm,’ said Lizzie, and she meant it.
Tom broke out on Christmas Eve. The mother never got collected from the home on Christmas morning. She didn’t notice. She was past noticing anything. Lizzie tried ringing Tom dozens of times, always going straight to message. Then she started ringing round friends for clues and traces. No one knew anything, or so they said. She heard a lot of children in the background of the calls, laughing, crying, babbling, whining.
The last time she tried Tom’s mobile she found the messaging service’s language had changed, the accent having deepened in an easterly direction, towards somewhere a lot colder and darker than here. She hung up, quitting the Tomhunt, switched off the phone and exiled it to the very bottom of her handbag, burying it under tampons and condoms and fags and codeines and a jumble of other spares and necessaries.
She sat on the beanbag in front of the TV eating brandy-soaked pudding out of a plastic bowl. Then she drank the wine and vodka she had been hiding from Tom. No need to hide it anymore. Around nine o’clock in the evening she had a paralytic tantrum
and tore the burnt turkey to shreds, spreading it in bits and pieces all over the kitchen-cum-dining- cum-living-cum-bedroom. Stuffing got plastered to the violet lightshade, the window-sill, the Seraphim atop the plastic tree.
Then Lizzie started keening like a stone church full of island widows after all the curraghy men have been smashed to unrecoverable pieces by a freak wave, by a malicious heave from the deep striking up through a deceivingly tranquil sea.
Outside the bedsit, through concrete and hedgerow and drizzle, cats, rats, pigeons, crows and foxes fled in all directions from Lizzie’s ear-splitting grief.
A few minutes later, at the very apex of her screeching, at precisely 21:12, Lizzie picked up a glossy blue Marks and Spencer Christmas cracker, embroidered with gold-foil constellations, and featuring an artist’s impression of the three wise men, the tall one wearing sunglasses, and pulled it between her left and right hands. Against the odds her left hand won. But that fact failed to register because of what she saw ballooning into existence out of the Christmas cracker, which was me. In my birthday suit, of course, except for the cocaine: I was covered from head to foot in cocaine. A snowman
indeed, and an impressive sight I assure you. I had some cocaine-coated cock on me, for a young lad.
Now Lizzie was in total shock, without a doubt, and croaking and spluttering something like a thousand Amazonian toads being put through a wine press. Pan-de-fucking-moany-um, what?
When she recovered herself a bit she started to lick, to lick off my cocaine caul. She licked my soles and my ankles and in between my toes. She licked my heels, my calves, my knees and thighs, my ass-crack and balls, my belly-button and my nipples and underneath my arms. She licked my eyelids and my nostrils and the inside of my ears. She licked every last particle of cocaine off my hair. She licked and licked until all the cocaine had been licked off me and until her tongue was as dry and white and hard as a stick of chalk.
Then she had a seizure.
I know most people are going to say the least I could have done is stuck around and kept poor Lizzie company while she was dying, since it was the depth of her rage and misery and her utter futility that gave birth to me. But look at the state of most people. Most people are in no position to give the likes of me advice. And if there’s one thing I
can’t stand it’s moral whining, especially from grown-ups. The best anyone can expect out of this dump planet is to get our hardcore thrills from it, right?
What’s the point in saying or doing otherwise? Tenderness and all that shite is for hypocrites and mealy-mouthed muffin-heads.
I’m with Blake when he says ‘Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.’
So, without a moment’s dallying, I said my goodbyes to Mom. Then, right after I took my first ever indoor piss-in-a-corner, I quickly donned Tom with the Van’s red-and-white Christmas costume. It made me look like a crash-diet Santa Claus on account of its superior girth. I also took Lizzie’s iPod and the Bose headphones she had bought herself for Christmas – her only present, as it turned out. They were part of my inheritance after all. Then I put on the techno loud, real loud, like the battledrums of Beelzebub, and then I fucked off in search of a rave or a brothel and someone to screw.
I’ve been having a fucking ball of a time ever since, telling all the twisted skags I meet at parties and bridewells and prison cells just how it is I got born.
From First Book of Frags
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