13 missed calls from mum
First…. I should have never given her the number. Never.
But she had found the phone when she was searching my coat, so what was I supposed to do. Say “Na mum, I can’t give you the number, I use this phone to shot crack”.
I could have said it was not mine. But then she may have started kicking off and she would have probs thought I stole it. I could have said that I was holding it for someone. But I had promised her that I wouldn’t hold stuff in the house after the last time.
I could have acted surprised and said “I don’t know where that came from” but she would have gone onto the estate and asked people if it was theirs.
I could have just snatched it out her hand and run.
Instead I said “Oh yer, someone swapped that with me. Its all legit. You can have the number if you want”. Idiot move.
Now I have I have 13 missed calls from mum. 10 from the house phone and 3 from the phone box at the end of the street. She still aint got the hang of how mobiles work, and she thinks that if she can’t get through to me on the house phone, then it might work on the phone box phone. So, she walks all the way down to the phone box to call me. I have logged that number. To make sure that I never answer it. Because if she has walked down to the phone box that means she is not well again. And that means I need to go home. But I can’t. Not right now.
You see, by the time we have got to this moment in time. Where I am looking down at the phone and seeing the missed calls, life is not good. Not good for her and not good for me.
Things have taken a twist. A dark twist. Things are happening that mean sometimes I can’t face my mum. Sometimes I can’t look her in the eye. Sometimes I don’t want her to see the marks on my face. Sometimes I think she might ask questions.
When she is well and she calls, I answer. She is usually asking when I will be back. Can I get milk. Am I OK? And I answer when I can answer those kinds of questions.
Some days she cries. Screams at me to get home. Says she will call the police. Says she will lock me in.
So, I don’t answer those days.
But 13 missed calls…. I better call her back.
I leave where I am. I am hurting. I’m not sure if the pain is inside or outside but…fuck it….it hurts. I am on my way home anyway, at the train station. Its so late, maybe 4 in the morning. I am sitting at king’s cross station waiting for the train to come…next one in about an hour…so I can go home. I am cold. I sit on the bench and pull my legs up to my chest…fuck…that hurts. The pain in my stomach makes me arch my back. I …instead…. sit on the bench on my legs and gently lower myself onto the bench. I pull my coat around me and pull my hood up.
My lip is bruised and dry from where it has been bleeding. I lick it and it makes me flinch. My nails are all dirty and broken. There are faint traces of nail varnish on them that I did not apply. My hands look childlike…if you know what I mean….no shape to the nails. And they would look like that, I am a child. I notice the bruising on my wrists, and it makes me feel shame. I feel tearful but swallow that down because I need to call home. I have 13 missed calls from mum.
I can’t…I need to brace myself a bit.
I light a fag. I say a fag. It’s a chipped-out fag that I took as I was leaving. I light it and its rank. I pull my face in an almost snarl and feel bile in my throat…. but smoke it anyway.
Once done, I flick the butt across the train station floor. I’m so thirsty but nothing is open. I am shivering but I don’t think it is the cold….
I look at the phone. I hate this phone. Years later, just the thought of that phone makes my stomach turn. I have dreams about that phone. Once, as an adult, I woke from a deep afternoon sleep, you know the ones when you fall asleep on a Saturday afternoon…by accident, all wrapped up and you wake up and you don’t know what day it is or who you are….I woke up once and for a minute or two I thought I had lost that phone, that it was still something I had to guard with my life…and I spent a good minute in a state of panic….10 years after I had never even seen it.
But now…. on this cold trains station…. I look down and know I need to call home.
Because I have 13 missed calls from mum.
I know she is up, and I know she will answer. She never sleeps at night and if she is looking for me then she will just be sitting there. I hope she aint gone to nuts. One night she kept calling me over and over just crying.
Its ringing. I have the phone close to my ear and suddenly release that it hurts. I put my hand up to my ear…. ouch…. that’s bruised bad. I put the phone to the other ear
Ring ring…ring ring…
The phone is snatched up “Is that You?” she says very quietly. “Who else would it be” is what I want to reply but I don’t. I say “Yes”
“Where the hell are you” she screams. It catches me by surprise as it is so loud, and I jump. “I said where are you” she shouts again. Wow. She is angry. I don’t think she is unwell. My stomach sinks. Mum angry but in a full normal state of mind…. shit is about to go down. My mum when she is well….bwoy….
“I’m on my way home” I say calmly. “Don’t tell me that …don’t you dare tell me that” she is screaming. She will wake up the whole block at this rate. “Where are you” she asks again.
“I will soon come” is my reply. It’s almost a whisper.
She starts to cry. “3 days. 3 days no one has seen you. 3 days you have had this bastard phone switched off. I have been calling almost every hour. You turned it on this evening …I know because it started ringing….and you still didn’t answer”.
She is sobbing down the phone. My mouth tightens into a straight line. And tears are falling silently down my face. I can state the salt and it stings my cut lips. I make not a single sound.
“Where have you been” she says almost begging. “Where…” she doesn’t finish the sentence.
“I will be home soon” I say. It comes out dead. Like a robot.
“I thought you was dead…I saw something” she says.
The last part of that makes me suddenly come alive. I feel like I am at the top of a roller coaster waiting to go down…
“What do you mean you saw something”? I say. Calmly.
She is crying now. I need to ignore that. Please, if there is a God, make this be her trying to scare me.
“I thought you was dead” she says very quietly.
“Mum…what do you think you saw”. I say it firmly. I say it with meaning.
“I went to the shop the other night, the night you said you was coming back, I went to get flour to makes cakes, but the little shop didn’t have any so I walked up to the big shop”
I can’t breathe. I am not breathing. I have the phone pushed so close to my ear that it feels hot. The “Big shop” she is talking about is the one off the main high street. She knows not to go there at night. I say that.
“Why did you do that, you know not to go there at night”. No emotion in that sentence. Because I know how the next part of this story goes.
God…. if you are real….do not make the next part of this story come out my mothers’ mouth. I close my eyes and almost pray
“I know but I needed flour and it was busy. I went to the big shop and then as I come out there was a noise. A girl was screaming and shouting. I walked back a few steps to look through the railings…do you know the railings I mean”? she asks. She is very breathless as she says this.
I lower my head. I shake my lowered head with the phone still to my ear. My heart was racing and now it begins to slow. I am thinking a million things in my head…and at the front…how much did she see.
“Yes …yes mum I know the railings” I reply
She starts crying again. “I could hear a girl screaming. Saying to get off. I could see a car and these men were dragging her in the car, I couldn’t see, because there is no blooding lighting but as one of the men moved I could see she had long blonde hair” she sort of snorts now and she is speaking and sobbing …”the girl was screaming…I thought it was you, it looked like you. Two of the men were hitting her and dragging her in the car. I shouted, “Get the fuck away from my daughter” and they turned around. And they were kicking her…you…the girl into the car” “I was so scared…I threw the bag of flour at them and tried to climb over the fence…I was screaming “Please help they are hurting my daughter” I screamed really loud. No one came. I begged them to leave her and then the car drove off and it went all quiet, and the girl was gone. I think I was just standing their screaming”
I have long covered my mouth with my hand and am deeply crying, using my hand to try and mask what my mum can hear. I am now curled up on the bench, pain rushing through my body, and all that pain does not compare to the pain I know my mum is feeling right now. She continues
“Then I was screaming and then the man come out the shop, you know the one you always sit with, and he said what’s wrong and I said men have taken you and he said that it wasn’t you and that he would make me a cup of tea and then get one of the boys to walk me home”
Because I have removed the phone from my ear for a moment and have my head on my knees and I am trying to pull myself together. I can hear her talking and put the phone back to my ear
“And then you have been gone for 3 days…again”
“Sorry” I say. It’s all I have
We are both quite
“I thought it was you” she says. Its not a statement. It’s a question. And my answer will have an impact.
I take a deep breath.
“Don’t be silly, it wasn’t me mum” I say. It comes out choked.
“But It looked like you” she says…
I close my eyes……. I have to be the parent in this. I can hear her voice changing.
“It wasn’t me”
“Ok” she replies
“Mum” …” Mum, did you call the police” I have my eyes squeezed shut as I ask this …. please don’t say she called the police
“No” she pauses… “No, because I went and looked in your room and the box was still there…. So, I didn’t call the police” Her voice is starting to sound flat.
The “Box” she is referring to is where I keep stuff my mum is not allowed to look at….my hard food….but what she knows is, is that if police come to our yard and look in that box then I will be gone for a very long time. She knows that if the police come to our house and look around my room then I will be gone for a very long time. So, she didn’t call the police. Part of my feel sad that she didn’t call them because …because…I want this over.
“Good…Mum…don’t even try and step to men like that again do you hear me…. I mean it…. you just walk away. Or go get help. You never ever shout at them or try and approach them…do you hear me” My voice is a little rough. This is on purpose. I mean it.
“But I thought it was you” …she says in a whisper.
“I don’t give a fuck if you think its me. Don’t do that again”. I say this harsh. Nasty.
There is silence.
I hear her yawn.
“Will you bring me chocolate when you get home pleeeeasseee” she says in the voice of a child.
Not now. Fucks sake. I’m too tired for this shit.
I sigh. “Yes, but you need to go to bed now or I won’t. Do not open the door or anything. Go to bed”
She giggles “You can’t see me…I can stay up alllll night colouring if I want” she says. She sounds about 7-8 years of age.
And that is how my mother is going to deal with watching me being pulled into a car by a load of men. There are times mum’s mental health is a blessing…if you see what I mean…without it she would never cope with me. What I do. The things I make her see and hear.
“I won’t be long, you can colour but get a blanket, and I will be back soon ok” I say lightly, as you would to a child.
“Ok, see you in some minutes” she sounds happy and playful. The phone goes down.
I look down at the phone. The phone that is running my life. I want to throw it on the train tracks, I feel my hand tighten around it…. but it soon softens as I can’t throw that phone anywhere.
I put it back in my pocket. And I wait for the train……