“Blennis, who is Blennis??!”
“Wha?? No one, never mind! Why are you always listening to me?”
Such a crazy Mother thing to say with complete conviction; I was in the same room as her, short of earplugs or disability there was nothing to be done. I was foolishly helping her complete an online registration form for e-payslips from Boots. She’s scowling and repeating herself now, as means of deflection, nice try.
“Mum. Who or what is Blennis? I have heard you say it a few times now..”
“Peter, it’s nothing OK? Just leave it, OK?”
She scowls again then smiles a little. Here it comes..
“Ya rah’ beatic!”
I know exactly what blennis is, I just want to see her squirm a little. Blennis is a made-up word. From what I can work out it’s the love-child of Bloody and Penis. Ya rah’ beatic – now, this one is not made-up, it’s Arabic, literally translated it means may your house fall in on you! Never take an Arab literally..in Arabic at least. Often English. I breezily ignore the wish of filicide.
“It’s your new swear word isn’t it Mum? How about bashoon?”
The etymology of bashoon eludes me.
My Mother is crazy. I’ve spent much of my life trying to appease her wildly fluctuating moods and opinions, her complete lack of memory and overpowering emotions. Yes, some people call it Arab, but I now call it Borderline. If only I had known as a child, I could have saved all that time trying to fix her.
She used to scare the shit out of me.
I would know what kind of a day it was going to be as soon as I woke up. I developed a heightened level of emotional perception at a very young age, I could literally feel the emotions of others I was close to, a necessary survival mechanism in a passive-aggressive family. There would never be happiness, just slightly less bitterness, less indiscriminate rage, perhaps eventually a hug though if I was lucky, or very naughty.
Very naughty it was, luck was in short supply.
Now, it’s important to point out that very naughty is a relative term. I was actually, by secular standards, a model child, but unfairly marked against the unobtainable purity of Christ – I was Satan himself.
“I don’t want any, I don’t like it..”
I hated Baclava and always had, even if her’s was the best in the World, I wish she’d remember just one of my preferences. I knew I shouldn’t have added that last bit, I don’t like it, as tame as it seems; it didn’t take much to set her off. She looks up with fire in her eyes instantly, a black, seething fire.
“You ungrateful boy, you don’t know what it’s like to have nothing, do you? Do you..?”
I did. The rant would then start, an endless tirade of emotions and thoughts all becoming one and the same, spurring each other on into the storm. It’s terrifying, it’s disgusting. I’d start running before the real threat of violence but not by much. Sometimes she’d catch me on the stairs and whack the shit out of me with the leather stick she used to stir the laundry in the twin-tub washing machine, sometimes I’d make it to the crawl space.
“They made me come here, to this stupid country, do you think I wanted to? Do you think I wanted to come..I had to!”
She wasn’t seeing me when in that fury, she was seeing all the men that had abused her, but as a male, present, I was the only target – if my Brother or Sister were not currently under-fire that is. Poor bastards, they had it worse than me, they just didn’t feel as much.
A war of attrition. She’d plant herself by the entrance to the hole and I’d remain hidden, eventually one of us would concede. I’d usually start crying, and for a brief moment she would soften.
“I’m sorry sweetheart, come here, I didn’t mean it..”
Finally I got what I wanted. I’d sob in her arms, not because of what I had done, no, I’d cling-on because this would be the only time I would have her full attention, some actual love. A child will opt for negative attention if positive is not an option. I just wanted my Mum, they stole her away from me. I just wanted to be loved, I wanted to have fun, but she knew neither by default, only pain and suffering. It wasn’t my fault.
I learnt as a teenager that if I pleased her in almost every way possible, life would be less emotionally abusive, a tactic that worked but took almost all of my energy and baffled my siblings, eventually ending in deep resentment. I spent much of my adult life searching for reasons why she is the way she is, trying to save her – then, failing that, any damaged female that came my way. Soft abuse is still abuse.
I’m back at home briefly while I search for a new place to live; collapsing towers can leave One disenfranchised. I love my family, I hate them too. I’m glad that I can’t let go of them, for some reason, or they would be long-gone. But what to do with anger from the deep? Ghosts feel no pain and learn nothing.
I strive to be the fool, in the best possible way, letting go, trusting, loving – defying experience that would tell me to stay foetal, in bed, forever. It ends here, they won’t steal my life too.