Monster and Gown

Monster and Gown

I

Do you think I wake up in the morning, look up from my coffee and think to myself ‘let me see here, which one will it be today?’ I don’t. I don’t have to. The day will go on and one of them will do something. Anything. Something left out of place. Meals not cooked or served on time. Not the right temperature or flavour combination. Hiding around the house, pretending to attend to things.

What purpose have I for them if not to wait on me like a king? I’m sick and tired of putting up with this type of unacceptable behaviour. How they have the audacity, the absolute nerve to ask me why. Why? Why the fuck do they think?! I take them in, Her and her ugly little pest of a daughter.

“Whiskey!”

I take them in, provide for them and She treats me like I am stupid. She thinks I don’t see Her, I don’t hear Her. I do, I hear Her, I hear them. I always hear them. I hear everything. She deserves it. And they wonder why I drink. Do you think I would need to come down here every day, drink the contents of a bottle of whiskey until you can see straight through it, until I can see double of it, if I had a decent woman at home waiting for me? It’s a fucking tragedy.

“Whiskey!”

Her sorry self, with her fatherless child, her bastard child. Poor kid is so desperate for love that she still thinks that I am the greatest. She’s got this new thing where she calls me daddy and follows me around like a lost puppy. Well she is no child of mine, not my blood I will tell you that. Fucking four eyed little gremlin.

“Whiskey!”

What she is, is an inconvenience. She ran away from me today. It was my turn to pick her up from school. I instructed her, very clearly, that she was to finish school and walk with the landlady’s child and meet me here, at the Bar. Do you think the petulant little bitch listened? Two hours I wasted, looking for her. I went to the school, looking like a fool. I looked everywhere, every corner of the neighbourhood, all the playgrounds. I would have gone around to her friends’ houses, had she any. Then it dawned on me, finally. The childminder. And that is exactly where I found her.

“Whiskey!”

Cowering behind the sofa, like I’m some kind of fucking monster. She came kicking and screaming and begging the hippie to not let me take her. The utter embarrassment. The woman looked uncomfortable, but she knows me as the father, she had no choice but to let me take the child. It cried all the way home. I don’t know how many times I had to yell “Quiet!”. But it was once we were back at home, behind closed doors that she took it too far.

She knows better than to stay silent when she’s being spoken to. She just ignored me. I asked her what the fuck she thought she was doing, hiding from me. She just sobbed, first silently, then louder and louder. She wouldn’t stop. She wouldn’t answer me back. The louder I yelled, the louder she cried. She left me with no fucking choice. I left her there. Her limp body laying on the tiled kitchen floor. She’ll be fine. She needs some discipline in her life. Her mother is too soft with her, you know? Ah, what do you know? You’re just a barmaid. The kid needs to learn.

“Whiskey”

II

I was very brave today. I ran away. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to leave Mum behind. But I was very scared. He told me to meet Ana at the school gates and walk home with her. Not our home though. Her home. Ana lives above the Bar. He drinks there almost every day. He said he had to look after me until Mum finished work. But I don’t like it when he drinks. He’s very mean.

I thought I had bought myself enough time until Mum came home. But he figured it out. He found me before Dragon Ball Z had even finished. I am only five, and we haven’t lived here for very long. It’s a very small place. I don’t have any friends and the only other adult I know is my childminder, Lucile. Lucile was very surprised when I rang the doorbell today. I told her Mum must have forgotten to tell her I was coming today. I don’t know if she believed me, but she let me in anyway. She made me chocolate milk and let me watch cartoons in the living room.

I knew I was in trouble when the doorbell rang again though. And I definitely knew I was in trouble when I saw him. The veins on his head looked angry. He was very angry. I was very scared. I cried. I begged Lucile to let me stay. She looked very sorry, but she said that he was my Dad and I had to go home with him. But the thing is, he’s not my Dad. Not really.

I was born before my mum met him, so I have another Dad. But he didn’t want me. I only call Him daddy because all the other kids have a Mum and a Dad. And Mum is having another baby with him. So, he will be my baby brother’s Dad. He was very nice in the beginning and took me to the playground and bought me dolls and ice cream. I wanted him to be my Dad. But I don’t anymore. He hits Mum a lot.

They go in the living room a lot, and he always locks the door so I can’t go in and he always leaves blue and yellow circles on her skin and makes her cry. Mum always says: “If we stay in the living room for too long and it’s quiet, go out into the street and ask for help.” But I’m only five. I shouldn’t talk to strangers. I want to ask for help now. His hands are tight around my neck, like a snake. I can feel my hair brushing the ceiling and then it all goes dark. And it’s cold.

III

You are not my daughter, not born from me, or carry my family’s blood. I suppose that is why I could never connect to you. Yet you adored me deeply, it repulsed me. Your brother, my heir, that is my pride and joy. But as I look back on my life, I fear it is with you that lies most of my regret. Your brother was too young, the last time I saw him he was days away from his second birthday. He will not remember anything. You, however, you will remember everything. Won’t you?

They say those are the most formative years of your life and I fear I ruined your childhood. You must think of me as a monster. But I was just a very sick man, and the drink didn’t help. If only you could see me now. Sometimes, I think about just turning up, one day, unannounced, but the reality is none of you would even recognise me. I found all of you online. I often look at the little information your private profile provides, mainly your profile picture updates. Your brother is a different matter, it’s hard to keep up with his ever-emerging new profiles.

If he’s anything like me at his age, he will create a new account and promptly forget the password forever. I lost count of how many e-mail addresses I had in my twenties. I hope he is like me, he certainly looks like me. I know I have made mistakes, but god knows I have paid for them along the years. I hope your brother knows that. I wonder if your Mother has poisoned him against me. I could never blame her. He will soon be arriving at his eighteenth birthday. He will be a man and able to make decisions of his own. I will try to engage in contact with him at this time.

I assume you have told him horror stories from those days. I wonder how skewered your memory is. Did you tell him about the time you fainted? I didn’t even hit you. I thought better of it. Didn’t I?  I left you alone and went to the Bar. Your mother wouldn’t forgive me that time, that offence. Not her precious girl. But it was you, you ran away. You disobeyed me. You lost me my heir, my precious son. But still you were a child, you had seen so much, of course you would dramatize the situation. You would have said anything to get your Mother away from me.

That is my deepest regret, what I did to your Mother, a good woman, beaten black and blue, trapped, weak. I regret the way I treated her, and I regret making you watch.

IV

I guess, it all started two weeks ago. I came home from work and I could feel the tension in the house as soon as I walked through the door. It was heavy on the shoulders and in the pit of your stomach. I found Mum upstairs, as usual, sat on the toilet with the door wide open. Only she wasn’t playing games on her phone or filing her nails, as usual.

She looked withdrawn. Puffy red eyes. My heart sank. Then I panicked. I imagined the worst. But in the end, there was no reason for panic. “Your brother’s father has died.” He was found dead in his home, after being “missing” for three days. Heart attack. My heart sank again. This time for my brother. I raced downstairs, through the house, into my brother’s bedroom extension.

He seemed fine. He looked sad, but much like his father, the only feeling he can express is anger. The rest gets thrown back, into the bottom of a bottle, piling up, building walls around him as tall as he is. That’s over six foot, none of us stand a chance. We smoked a lot that night. We got high in silence. I was just simply there, in the only way I knew how. In the only way he would allow me to be.

We’ve always had a strained relationship, my brother and I. I have always secretly hated how much he reminds me of his father. Of course, he has no idea of what his father was really like, of the pain he inflicted on Mum. And I would never want to haunt him with those memories or taint his own personal version of his father. I know how big of a hole growing up fatherless left in his heart.

I remember desperately wanting to meet my own father when I was a girl, to know what he looked like, to know who he was, to know where the other half of me came from. But my brother feels things more intensely, I know he has suffered not having his father around and now losing the chance to ever have him.

He and Mum flew over for the funeral last week, they were taken to his house, my brother got first digs of anything there. I think he felt a little closure. Yesterday I came home from work and found Mum on the sofa, curtains drawn close, crying in the darkness, unconsolably. I panicked. When she told me that it was over the recent death, I just couldn’t fathom it. Why? Why was she crying? Why was she sad?

We had an explosive row. She said I was cold hearted. Turns out he had left me a letter. Mum found it, an envelope with my name written in calligraphy. She said I should read it. I said she was weak. This man beat her for years, he hit me once. Didn’t he? In fact, I’m sure he strangled me. I was around five years old, and then he left me passed out on the kitchen floor to go drinking in a Bar. How does a letter make any of that okay?

How the hell can she be sad that he is dead? Or is she right?

Am I heartless?

Am I being irrational?

So, to answer your question, I am here because I need help. I’m graduating soon, hat and gown and all, I’ve accomplished so much in my life, so why is it that even though he is now dead, the monster inside my head is still very much alive?

Speaking In Tongues

Speaking In Tongues

When I say I’m cleaning what I mean is
I’m going to cleanse, wash the whiskey sweating
out of my pores, the smell of bad decisions
and cigarette smoke ingrained into my hair.

When I say I have a meeting, I mean I have to
get out of bed this week, open the curtains
to the blinding light of disappointment,
air out the nightmares haunting my mind.

When I say I’m doing laundry I mean I’m going
to fold all of my responsibilities. I will separate
them into neat piles and leave them at the foot
of the bed so I don’t have to sleep alone anymore.

When I say thank you what I mean is I love you.
When I say I love you what I mean is don’t
ever leave me. I’ll never ask you to stay,
but when I say leave, that is exactly what I mean.

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

“But why can’t we all just go together?” Fabiana asks again as she follows her mother around the cramped bedroom the four of them share at grandmas, while mum packs the last of her belongings away into the giant suitcase by the door.

Fabiana has spent most of her formative years living with her baker grandparents and youngest aunt, and is the eldest of three children. They are now three again. Girl, boy, boy. Fabiana was an only child for five years, and then came the first boy, and five years later came the next girl. Girl, boy, girl. But the birth was premature and then it was back to girl, boy. Then one cold winter, as mum battles a bout of pneumonia, it becomes girl, boy, boy.

Fabiana hates the thought of being left beind, now, just as they finally become a complete family of four. Like everyone else. The plan is for mum to go on ahead, to find a job and a home before the children go to join her. Fabiana does not like the plan. She wants to go and help. She can look after the boys, she has learnt enough from watching and later helping her grandmother childmind. On average, her grandmother looks after ten children each day.

“Come on, Fabi, you know you have to stay here and help grandma with the boys, amor. Time will pass by quickly, you’ll see, before you know it, we will all be together again. Just be patient!” mum reassures her, and places a small, soft kiss on her forehead.

Mum was right, those five months pass by quickly, too quickly, and before long more big suitcases are lining up the corridor of grandma’s house, and their three little lives are being packed into them. Fabiana is beyond excited! She cannot wait to see her mother again. She doesn’t even notice or care that she has to leave a lot of things behind. Like her Harry Potter books, or her tiny guitar.

After finding a Portuguese/English dictionary on her aunt’s desk, Fabiana writes her mum a letter in English, to show off the things she has learnt in English class. She writes “to my sweat mother” instead of “to my sweet mother” and she puts two O’s on every ‘to’. She writes that she cannot wait to give her a hug tight and many small kisses. She is proud of this achievement, and can’t wait to try out this new language in this new place.

School finishes in early June so Fabiana spends her last month at home at the beach, like every other summer before. Grandad goes to work, pacing up and down the beach selling his baked goods, and Fabiana stays behind to man the hut with her aunt and brothers. Between shifts of manning the hut, Fabiana and her aunt take turns watching the boys play by the seashore.

The aunt likes to sit right where the wet and dry sand meet, reading a magazine and glancing up every few minutes, telling the boys to put on a hat, or another coating of sun protector. Fabiana likes to sit with the boys, right where the waves break onto the shore. She likes to dig around in the sand there and feel for razor clams. She likes the smelt of salt on the boys hair, and the colours she sees when she looks directly at the sun without her glasses on. The beach is her happy place, the ocean in particular.

Saying goodbye to her friends and family feels more like ‘see you later’ than ‘goodbye’. Subconsciously Fabiana thinks this move could be temporary. They are known to move around often, briefly, here and there. She will, much later, come to realise that this particular move is to be very much permanent. Now, the anticipation of being reunited with mother, of their little family being together again, finally, their new home and new schools, with uniforms and everything, all makes the transition a lot easier. It helps Fabiana kind of forget what and who she is leaving behind.

Seeing her mum again is euphoric. Much more than getting on a plane for the first time, even more so than actually flying, the taking off from the edge of the earth and then landing again, for the very first time. Hugging and kissing and smelling her mum again, after five whole months is just everything Fabiana had hoped it would be. This is happiness, she is happy. Ecstatic, even. Briefly. Until, they exit the arrivals lounge at the airport and make their way outside to hail a taxi.

Torrential rain welcomes Fabiana to her new home. Torrential rain and a sky coloured in with so many shades of grey, that she feels overwhelmed. Sure, she has seen rain before, yes, even in summer. But nothing quite like this, even the worst winter days back home do not match up to this tempestuous afternoon. Climbing out of the taxi outside their new home, Fabiana hears a strange high-pitch sound, almost song like, getting closer and closer. Screeching around the corner, a multicoloured truck comes speedily towards them, coming to a brisk stop a few feet ahead.

“What is that?” Fabiana asks, frowning.

“Oh, that’s the ice-cream truck, it sells ice-cream cones, with sprinkles, would you like one?” mum smiles.

“But it’s raining!?”

She looks around, at this landlocked, strange place, at this late July afternoon, grey, and cloudy and wet and for the first time since learning of their immigration plans, she realises just how much she is going to miss home. Waking up to the smell of freshly baked pasteis de nata and bolas de berlim, to the sound of seagulls flying ahead, and the murmur of children speaking gibberish in a tongue she does understand, and to the feel of Mediterranean sun on her skin, and sand in her toes.

Soundless Fights In The Middle Of The Night

You say: say what you have to say!

But those words echo in my mind because you
are not ready for the deafening tone of the
words that are spilling out of my eyes and you


do not understand what I mean by your eyes
make me want to skinny dip in the ocean and you
don’t speak the language that my body speaks
when it finds itself in enough proximity of yours.

So I sigh.

But you have plenty to say, you insist.

And I do. I want to speak but I can’t seem to get
my spoken words right, I try not to mind that
my mind and heart are in a constant knife fight.

But I can’t pretend around you it’s so intense,
you make them drop their blades and open fucking
gun fire. The bullets they ricochet off my brain to
the left side of my ribcage leaving the contents
of my broken heart splattered across my face.

So I say nothing.

If Your Lips Could Speak

If Your Lips Could Speak

“I’m so drunk” you said loosely from behind the partially closed door. I laughed, but in reality, I was quite drunk myself. You had chosen the very middle cubicle, the other four doors, two at either side of you, were wide open, and empty. We were completely alone.

I was sat up on the counter facing them, a sink at either side of me. The room was swaying a little, from side to side. Suddenly, I became very aware that this would probably be the last time we would ever see each other.

When you re-emerged from inside the cubicle, I was startled. Startled by your beauty, started by the sudden sense of losing you, startled by the proximity of your body, suddenly next to mine. Then, confusion took over.

I had chased you for months, I had slowly, subconsciously fallen in love with you. We had kissed. Three times. Very drunkenly kissed. You said, all three times were total drunken mistakes. Yet, you continued to invite me out for drinks. I thought it was because you felt sorry for me.

New to the village, no friends or family around, a broken relationship. But then, there you were that night, in all your Dutch courage glory, making the first move. First, in a very sweet voice, you asked me for a hug. I obliged, of course.

Then, you slowly pulled back, just enough so that our eyes met. And when they did, I swear tiny electric shock waves travelled up and down my spine. Then you kissed me. But this was not like any other drunken kiss we had previously shared.

No, this was your ‘I think I love you too kiss’, this was our ‘it’s too late now kiss’, it was my ‘goodbye’ kiss. We left the toilets shortly after and carried on drinking until the early hours of the morning. I walked you home, you, protesting the entire way as usual. You begged me to not forget you once I left. I told you I never could.

The truth is, a year has passed since I last spoke to you, but that night, along with a few others, are forever imprinted in my mind and on my heart. I still write poetry about you. I write about the time we got Chinese food and made a midnight picnic on the park.

We kissed that night too, a lot. You also said that it was a mistake. Now, I sit at home, hundreds of miles away from you, and sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing. If leaving was the right decision. I wonder if my poetry is ever going to be about someone else.

Changing Seasons

Changing Seasons

In a city where every day is a miserable
December evening she makes me feel like July.
She does to me what summer does to trees
dresses my branches in life and colour, and
holds my proud roots firmly into the ground.

She’s the hot chocolate to my crisp autumn
morning, our fingers entwined inside my pocket
feel like handwarmers and when I drink from
her lips I feel warm and fuzzy like a million
butterflies decided to throw a party inside of me.

She reminds me of spring because when she
laughs I hear birds harmonising to my favourite
song, because her morning hair smells just like
sunshine, because her eyes make me want to skinny-
dip in the ocean, and slow dance under the moon.


I’ve never been winter’s biggest fan, but now I
queue seventeen hours out in the cold because
she wants front row seats for the first snow of
the year and likes to take long walks in the rain.
Come thunder or lightening bolts, she is my shelter.

Full Moon

Full Moon

July 31st, 2002

Today I looked at the white hammock by the bay window in my bedroom, for the first time in 6 months. You named it the ‘half-moon’ when we were kids, before you discovered the word Crescent and vowed to name your first-born child the same. Do you remember? The endless hours we spent there when we were little, it was our special private place where we could hide out from the whole world. After all this time, it was still your little escape corner, until recently.

As I closed my eyes, I swear I could see you right there, head tilted back, eyes closed, headphones turned up loud. Where did you go? Where did your mind disappear to when you sat there, zoned out, for hours on end? I made it across the room, I even touched it, but I could not bring myself to sit down, too afraid I would smell you on the cool, soft fabric and undo the last three months of therapy. Too unsure of whether I want to feel close to you or finally let you go.

I decided then that today I would finally write to you. To tell you what you have done to me, to try to cause you a measly one tenth of the pain you have so selfishly inflicted on me. On everyone that loved you. I know that I have not always been the best at communicating my feelings, but today is as good day as any to start, right? The university councillor suggested that I pack all your things away into a box, during stage 2 of my grieving process, anger. I was/am so angry with you.

I found the black moleskin notebook we bought in that quirky bookshop in London last year, because we thought the rainbow pages were in support of the LGBT community, but when the cashier scanned it the till read “children’s unicorn”. Today I dug it out and opened it to write you this letter, tears smudged the first page as my eyes came face to face with your messy, yet aesthetically beautiful handwriting. And again, clear as day, I closed my eyes and heard you say “The Adventures of Fluffypuff, the Gay Children’s Unicorn”.

It was harder than I thought, though! How can I possibly tell a dead girl that she has broken my heart in more ways than she will ever know? How can I yell at a ghost? I want to grab you, shake you violently and tell you I told you so, even though no one likes that person. I want to tell you that your funeral was the most physical pain that I’ve ever experienced even though I did not cry. Not crying hurts more, but I feel like you will not let me go. I want to hit you; I want to slap you back into life.

I saw your mum in the supermarket a couple of days ago. She looked pale and exhausted and she could barely look me in the eye, but the hug she gave me was excruciatingly tight. I wonder if she blames me. I wouldn’t blame her if she did. I would blame me. I do blame me. I could have done more! I should have done more. You were always smarter than me, your grades were always better than mine and you never really studied for them. That is why it is so hard for me to accept that you were this stupid! You were intelligent, but so fucking naïve.

You killed yourself even though you did not commit suicide, but the choices you made that night led you to that fate, and I blame you, too. I told you not to take those pills, I begged you not to get in the car with those fools but you, you were always chasing the moon and the stars. A free spirit, rebellious. Part of me wishes you had listened to me, your best friend, your soulmate. All of me wishes I had gone with you that night, all of me wishes I had taken the pills and gotten into the car with you, because at least then I would not be pen pals with a grave and my moon would always be full.

The Procrastination Games

This weekend, you completed the highest level on your favourite augmented reality game, The Procrastination Games. Starting at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning, you stumbled down, the steep staircase that descends straight into the kitchen, one eye open, the other trying desperately to go back to bed.

You checked the level of water in the kettle and flicked on the switch. You stood, impatiently waiting, for the sound of a thousand tiny bubbles simultaneously reach their boiling point, day dreaming about the warmth of that first wonderful sip of tea.

Steaming mug in hand, you unlocked the back door, opening it just so, that enough cut-your-throat-cold-air got through to cut through the smoke from your hand rolled cigarette. Sitting on the bottom step of the mountainous staircase, blowing out clouds of smoke in between sips of tea, you planned out your day.

You had good intentions. You longed for the fulfilling feeling of achieving productivity, on a day specifically assigned to be productive, but first, you thought, I must visit my good F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Monica, Rachael, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross. One hour, maybe two tops and then you would to get to that list of things that you should have been doing, a week or three ago.

One hour merged into two hours, episodes turned into a whole season, Ross and Rachael got together and broke up and got back together again and broke up again, and day turned into night. You didn’t sleep well that night with the disappointment in yourself crawling under your skin, just below the surface.

Sunday morning, when you were propositioned a Christmas shopping day out, as much as you hate shopping, especially during the holidays, you reluctantly agreed. You love Christmas, you like getting ready for Christmas and wrapping presents and all that comes with it, but your idea of hell, looks a lot like aimlessly wondering in and out of shops, for hours on end, compulsorily sharing your personal space with hundreds of people and their pet germs.

However, knowing that Christmas is fast approaching and that you are rapidly running out of time, you went. It was an unsuccessful first attempt as any time that you tried to put yourself through the emotional torture that shopping is to you, and something caught your eye, all you could think was, do you know who would like this for Christmas? Me.

Three new nail varnishes and a couple of stocking fillers for your bother later, you gave up. Fuck it, you still have plenty of time, and speaking of time, it started to feel a lot like time for Chinese food and F.R.I.E.N.D.S re runs and hopes for a more productive week.


Loving You Is

Loving you is

Loving you is sweaty palms
and sudden stutters,
it’s endless hours
and infinite laughter,
it’s intoxicating kisses
and morning regrets.
Loving you is uncertain
like British weather,
and exciting like
Christmas morning.
Loving you is unhealthy
like Ross and Racheal,
but addictive like nicotine,
its wanting what you can’t have
until you final have it.
Loving you is a car crash.