Adam Bird


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Sunday, 24 April 2011

You’re Nobody till Someone Loves You

Message in a bottle

For the past three months I have been attending a Creative Writing class, which has been paid for by the Agency I work at under the idea of "learning something new". Last week we had a feedback session on short stories that were written based simply upon a song title, of which we had to choose from a long list of options. Feedback on my short story was really positive, based upon the song title "You’re Nobody till Someone Loves You", so I've made the brave, or mad decision to share it with you via my blog. Please feel free to leave your own opinion on the comments below - it makes a huge difference knowing what people liked and of course the parts that could be improved.

Dear Mum,

I never thought I’d write that word; ‘Mum’, those three little letters, a single syllable word, an affectionate or lazy term for Mother. Nor did I believe that I would have one, a mother I mean, a matriarch, an emotional leader and provider of a family. I’ve always had one of course, biologically - I wouldn’t have been here otherwise, but never a real one, not one like you.
     I read only yesterday, an article in a newspaper. It was about a lady standing on the sandy beach of a seaside resort. As the waves lapped gently over her feet and the seagulls cawed above her, she felt something hard brush against her toes. She bent down to see what it was, and to her surprise realised that it was a bottle. Within it, was a letter, recognisably German, beautifully preserved and hand written, each letter carefully crafted from the nib of an elegant fountain pen. But the lady, not knowing a word of the language except possibly “danke”, was intrigued, what secrets were held within, what was the story that was being told?
     She took it home, carefully broke the bottle and unravelled the parchment inside, releasing the pungent, musty smell of time and ocean. She read and reread the letter as if by reading it enough she’d somehow manage to find the translation from within its soul. Words had no meaning, but no doubt, she felt a melancholy tone, like a rhythmic poem, or a piece of classical music that you could detect sadness, tragedy but not know nor understand the words.
     She typed it slowly and carefully reproduced each letter onto her computer, feeding slowly a translation programme she had found on the Internet, which felt intrusive, as if digitally revealing the guarded secrets of the mysterious author. She pressed the button which said “translate” and after a pause, as if the computer had to think about it for a moment, until on the right hand side of the screen appeared, in broken English the heart of the mysterious German. It was a love letter, a young man revealing his hidden desires, his words of thanks to a lover who had saved him from trouble, who had changed his life and how he couldn't find the words to say to her just what she meant to him.
     This letter then, isn’t to a lover of mine, but to you Mum, like that German boy, a women who saved me. Who showed me what love is and what it means to be loved. To each of us who are human that we can always believe in hope and that wherever we come from, what ever the illicit results of two misguided loins, that someone can still mean something and that someone can achieve a purpose, however normal it may be.
     You knew my history, you’d have read my file meticulously understanding what you were inviting into your home and family. But for the sake of giving this letter a proper context in how it fits in with my life, you should hear it from me, in my own words, not that of bureaucracy, a nameless, soulless narrative of fact written by yet another social worker.
     My biological mother, a victim, nothing new, nothing unique, a fairly attractive teenage girl, left school, got into a bad crowd, found drugs a tonic to dull the pain of unemployment, let alcohol take over her body, to numb the physical effects of the arguments she had with my father. I was of course a result of that tempestuous relationship. My father used my mothers heroin ravished carcass for his own pleasure. It wasn’t love for him, she was a means to an end. She had what he needed to rid the tension, whether she allowed him or not. It’s a miracle looking at the facts that I was actually conceived, let alone born with my faculties intact. If that was the one thing that my mother did right, was to stay off the scag until I was born. You hear of babies being born addicted, that along with milk to nurture them, they’re fed methadone to wean them off the drug that their mother’s body infused during gestation.
     Once I was born, and after my father had been jailed for life for the brutal, drug fuelled murder of our next door neighbour who he’d wrongly accused of sleeping with my mother, my older brother Steven and I were taken and put into foster placement. we grew up, moved from house to house, family to family before one day being torn apart from him. This is where our paths in life split, our destinies changed and we stopped being siblings, but just two people who were joined by DNA.
     Brother Steven was three years older than me, he had it worse than I did. He protected me from my father and had to support me whilst my mother was comatose, drunk or sitting in her chair, an expired cigarette in her mouth, ash hanging limply asking politely to be dropped into a tray.
     We were afforded visiting rights, supervised visits all the way up until I was fourteen. He was seventeen by then and his reputation for trouble was well documented. It started out of rebellion, little things, nicking sweets, hiding toys, breaking windows and claiming innocence even if there were witnesses saying otherwise. It soon moved on, as broken foster carers washed hands of him, the downward spiral sped up. Joyriding, burglary, smoking drugs and dealing in pot on those days he decided he needed an education.
     There was a difference between us, like I already said, like you already knew. You took me in for the first time when I was just ten years old. I was weary, not like most ten year old boys. I was cautious, didn’t trust anyone and never did I let my guard down. I knew who I was, I felt unwanted, I felt useless and I felt tainted, the son of a murdering, rapist father and a druggy of a mother.
     I wanted attention, I wanted more than anything to feel loved, to feel wanted and a place where I fit in. I remember one birthday, it might have been seven or eight. It was just a number, but the memory is just as strong. Blowing out a birthday cake and a nameless face says “make a wish son”, so I do. I make a wish, but instead of wishing for roller blades, or a new video game, I wished for affection, a hug that came from the heart of the person who supplied it.
     The first time I witnessed unconditional love, I must have been about five, playing in a garden whilst the foster mother sat on a chair talking to her daughter. One of her grandchildren came running out of the house, bounding down the garden and into the foster carers arms. The look on her face as she gripped her grandchild tight, eyes closed but revealing so much. I thought to myself, or at least tried to remember when someone had hugged me that hard.
     When you took me in, I remembered your kindness and I remember everyone else, your two children and their kids, the other foster child you had with you, it was almost strange. Everyone seemed happy, content and joyful. Your house had rules, like most foster carers did, but you were fair, if anyone had any issues you would all sit down together and talk about it, like some kind of Swiss Family Robinson. I hadn’t been in that environment before, but I took to it, felt naturally accepted, but in my mind, I knew that on a whim I could be transferred, gone and be taken to another family, the carousel of the great unknown waiting to pick me up and spit me out all over again.
     As the weeks turned into months and I had been with you for a couple of years I slowly began to let my guard down. Our relationship grew and I felt part of the family. The spectre of being whisked away and re-homed felt remote and jaded, as if belonging to another life.
     My relationship with my brother seemed to deteriorate, even though we were seeing each other regularly. I was encouraged to work hard at school and reap the life long benefits of a steady education. He had left school and was one arrest away from prison. I would say to him “Stephen, you cannot live like this, you need to stop”. I was young and naive, I did not know that once the rot sets in, how difficult it is to stop.
     He resented me, the times that I asked him to think about what he was doing, his reply, gratifying his deeds, “come with me”, he would say, “your foster family. They don’t want you, they just want the money they get for feeding you. Come live with me, we’ll move away, go to London and get jobs”
     Our declining relationship hit its head that night on the street. He came to your house, how he found where I lived, I’ll never know. I never told him, he must have followed me one day. Who knows? He knocked on the door, you answered, he asked for me, and you called. I came down the stairs, I was revising - a concept alien to him.
     “What are you doing here?” I asked,
     “I need to speak with you” he replied,
     I did not want him in your house, I don’t know why, I had nothing to be ashamed of, but him being inside, would have been a stain on your hallway, or lounge, but instead, we stood on your drive.
     “Nice place you got here brother, they must sure get a lot of money looking after you”
     “The guy has a good job, works for a bank” I replied
     “Oh yeah? One of those high street ones, maybe we can knock it off, that’ll sort us out brother” he said, laughing.
     He was on something, his eyes were glossy, pupils dilated and he was sweating in the cool autumn evening.
     “Look Steven, can I call you tomorrow, I need to get back, I have studying to do, I’m sorry” I pleaded, wanting him gone.
     “Fuck you brother, you have no time for me anymore, you and your posh clothes and posh shoes, who do you think you are?” he screamed, getting agitated.
     “I’m sorry, Steven, I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? It’s not like that” I said trying to calm him.
     “Of course it’s like that brother! You’ll soon come running to me when they kick you out on your sorry arse, they want a son of a murderer living with them, no way?” He continued to scream.
     “They know who I am, they’ve known everyday for the past four years. I am not my father, you are my fathers son. Stealing, thieving and now, your doing drugs, what are you doing? What are you doing? Coming here, on drugs and wanting me to come with you? Come with you where, to some shit-hole and fill my body with the same shit that our mother poured through her veins”
     I’d never raised my voice to my brother, never. I was scared of him, but he’d come to the only place I’d ever felt safe and that fuelled my bravado.
     He stared down at me, we were more or less eye to eye, I could smell his breath, a pungent smell of marijuana and alcohol, I felt a sense of sadness, I could see my reflection in his eyes and the contrast between the two of us. How did it all go wrong?
     Then I felt an intense pain in my side and heard a slight pop as the knife went in. He spat into my face, and said “fuck you, you aren’t no brother of mine”.
     He dropped the knife, turned and ran. I slumped to the floor and remember calling for help. I had my hands down on my side and could see the blood. I remember thinking that I was going to die, on your doorstep, I was already in heaven so I had not far to go.
     There was an angel above me as I lay upon the floor, she held my hand and said that everything was going to be okay. She was holding my stomach together with her hands and using a piece of cloth to stem the flow of blood. I saw sadness in her eyes and I’d seen sadness before. This was grief, as if someone was loosing a son, or a husband. It was unconditional, and raw, it was real and it was best thing that had ever happened to me.
     You were my angel Mum. You held me together, in the literal sense, held my life together as it threatened to flow out of my stomach. You showed me that someone did care, that I was important and that my life was worth saving. Most importantly, you showed me that you’re nobody till someone loves you.

Yours always, your Son.


Jonathan said...

Although I'm not qualified to offer any kind of critique (I tend to like most things I read for one reason or another), I loved this.

I've only been reading your blog for a little while, but I always enjoy it - primarily because you always have something interesting to share, and because it's *well written*...

Adam Bird said...

Hi Jonathan, thank you very much for popping by and once again for your kind words! I enjoy writing once a week and it's a pleasure to hear that someone has enjoyed reading what I've written.

I have subscribed to your posterous feed, so I am reading back your own blog, which comes through on my Google Reader - I really ought to comment back, apologies!


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