Monday, 30 September 2013

Vernon Gets His Wish

The glorious day was coming,
and when it did,
it would not find Vernon unprepared.
He would lead his new family,
tin-halo'd head held high,
and the flames would lap at them harmlessly,
their rapture shaking the earth.

Can you see their shining faces?
Their cheeks glisten
with tears of pure faith,
and Lord help the man, woman or child
with no armour of belief
in their bold stride.

(Of course, Vernon wasn't his real name;
he'd shed the skin of his past
to be fresh and reborn,
to lead his new family
into the light.)

But nothing is ever that simple,
is it?
There always those ready 
to pervert the course of the righteous.
Clad in silken robes
or Armani suits,
their job remains the same;
wielding blades or wielding bureaucracy,
to stand in the way of the angels.
But Vernon would be ready.
He would do as the angels had done
when Lucifer's pride threatened to topple
the One True Throne.
He would build an army, 
and hold them close.
This would be his family.

Scriptures would be read.
Assault rifles stockpiled.
New soldiers fathered.
Man-sized paper targets shredded.
In this commune
rich in faith and firepower
and alive with brotherly love.

You must remember.
The family's love for Vernon was real,
as real as their belief in him
as the one to lead them to glory.

And when Vernon's day dawned,
he was ready.
His soldiers, his brothers,
at his side.

And they came.

With tanks
and guns 
and sniper rifles
and snazzy matching jackets
and their own misguided convictions,
and they launched pillars of flame 
through shattered windows 
to the tune of screaming children.
And with the conviction that
God was guiding his hand,
Vernon stepped into the light,
and most of his family followed.

Charisma can be a terrible thing.


Three in the morning and I'm wide awake.
This always happens
when the kids aren't here.
They are ballast;
without them, I just float off,

I stay awake so late
because every time I lay in the dark
and try to sleep
I'm haunted by regrets
and failures
and humiliations,
swooping at me from the darkness
like evilly whispering bats.
Their wings brush my face
and, in the dark,
I'll bury my face in my hands
and groan, Oh God.

I'm such an asshole.

I'm not that guy any more,
not really.
The drugs have gone,
the arrogance has gone,
the self-destructive impulses
seem alien now.

Becoming a father burned all that shit out of me,
leaving me unsure
of who exactly the fuck I am
when the kids aren't here.

So here I am.
Wide awake at stupid o'clock
smoking cigarette after cigarette,
avoiding the bats,
missing the kids.

Sunday, 29 September 2013


Have you ever hated someone so much that you can't have a single thought about them without disappearing into a grim internal reverie of resentment and blind rage? And then you come out of it and realise you've been staring into space and grinding your teeth for five minutes? And everyone's looking at you funny? I have.  It's draining.
     My ex and I did the whole court/custody dance recently.  I don't recommend it.  I had to take her to court cos she was stopping me seeing the kids on a whim and still being violent, blah blah blah, anyway, I got split custody and considered myself lucky to get that.  It didn't matter that both her statements were easily proven to be perjury; it didn't matter that she'd abandoned the kids on my doorstep or thrown a pram at me with my five-month-old son in it; it didn't matter that she said in her statement that I was worthless human being who'd never wanted anything to do with the kids and then, when being interviewed by the woman from Social Services, did a complete u-turn and said I was a great dad who was very patient and loving.  No-one called her on any of her lies because no-one cared.  They just wanted us through the system and then gone, hopefully forever.  I wanted to take the case to a judge, rather than settle for the magistrates just agreeing with what the CAFCASS woman had to say; this would have meant I could have included other people's testimonies, and in doing so it would have been proved I was speaking the gospel truth and hopefully the best possible course of action for all of us could have been worked out.  My ex could have got some help with her many and varied issues, mainly her anger issues, I wouldn't have had to deal with her psycho behaviour completely on my own for a change, but most importantly things would be better for the kids because we'd have worked out something that was best for all of us whilst also insuring that they wouldn't grow up with a mother who loses her shit and starts screaming about something, constantly.  I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not.  She once tried to claw my eyes out cos I spilt some sugar.  Anyway, I couldn't take the case before a judge because I was told that my Legal Aid wouldn't cover it, as all Legal Aid for family cases has been stopped. So, fait accompli.  But my ex wasn't finished.  Twice in the three weeks prior to this, I had looked after the kids for her for an extra day because she had something going on.  The first time she was just over two hours late picking them up, didn't bother calling or texting to let me know what was going on.  The second time she was more than four hours late, still no call or text.  When I brought this up in court, not her lateness, just that I'd looked after the kids for an extra day for her, I saw her whisper to her solicitor, and then her solicitor told the magistrates that I was a liar, that I'd just made that up.  I was fucking incandescent.  But you can't say a word, cos you're in court and they'll hold you in contempt and my solicitor already had her left foot pressed down on my right, increasing the pressure every time it seemed like I might say something.  So the magistrates just accepted that and moved on, and I just had to sit there and seethe while her solicitor gushed lies like a broken sewer pipe.
        So I got split custody, which is awesome, but none of my ex's anger problems are going to be addressed, the kids are going to grow up with an insanely angry, stressed, stressful, compulsively lying mother, and now she can do whatever she wants without fear of reprisal.  I already took her to court, and it worked out perfectly for her.  She never wanted full custody of the kids.  She asked if I could have them for an extra day two days after that fucking farce in the courtroom.  She constantly asks me if I can have them for an extra few days.  If she's not attacking me.  Listen: after our second court hearing, her mum gave me a lift to her house (my old house, what used to be our home, all four of us) to pick up the last of my stuff.  We moved the first carload, and her mum and I had a long and interesting chat, as I've always got along really well with her mum, and I asked her mum if she'd like to read my ex's statement.
     No, she said. I don't think I want to know what's in there.
     So, I related some of the stories her daughter had told about me, and she was suitably horrified, and at one point she said,  I've never seen her lose her temper like that, just snapping over nothing.
     (This, I think, was disingenuous.  I remember two occasions where my ex had chased her mother out of the room screaming Fuck Off and flailing punches at her, once in our house and once when we were staying with friends of theirs in North Wales.)
     Well, I said, she does.
     Cut to about twenty minutes later.  We've gone back for the second carload, and now my ex is back in the house.  The kids are in bed, asleep.  We're packing up and my ex is flouncing about, sighing theatrically.
     What's wrong? says her mum.
     This just isn't a good time for me, says my ex.
     But this is the time you suggested, her mum says.  You arranged it with me last week.
     Whatever, says my ex.  This just really isn't a good time for me.
     Me and her mum share a look, carry on packing. I take my hoodie off; it's been a beautiful May day, and the temperatures are climbing. I can't see my stereo anywhere.  I tried finding it on the first trip and couldn't.
     Where's my stereo, please?  I say.
     Her:  It's broken.
     Me:  It's broken.
     Her (looking at the floor):  Yes.
     Me:  How is it broken?
     Her:  I dropped it.
     Me:  You dropped it.
     Her (still looking at the floor)  Yes.
     Me:  Will I be getting a new one?
     Her (pissy):  I'm not buying you a new stereo, Ben.
     Me:  I thought not.
     Her:  WHAT?
     Me:  I said I thought not.
     I turn and look at her mum and say:  See?
     She flies at me, fingernails grasping at my eyes, and upstairs babies start crying.
     Bear in mind that I've already taken her to court at this point, citing her capacity for violence and anger management issues, charges she fervently denies, claiming I made it all up.  She doesn't care.  She doesn't care that her mum is watching her, horrified.  She doesn't care that the kids are screaming upstairs cos Mum's kicking off  again.  It's just about hurting me now, as it has been so many times before.
     She throws punches, she throws boxes packed with books, she throws insults like random darts.  I dodge out of the way, which I'm quite good at now, practice making perfect and all that.  It also helps that she's obviously never been shown how to throw a punch, so you can see them coming from miles away.  Her mum's trying to hold her back and is pleading with me to just leave, so I go to leave, and my ex follows me into the hallway, pushing me in the back and wailing abuse, her mum still fluttering about being completely ineffectual, and for one glorious moment I let my own rage slip over and I turn and roar in her face Get your fucking hands off me.
     (Sidenote: these experiences are why I finally understand The Hulk.  People dig away at you, over and over, in a thousand tiny ways, every single day of your life, and you attempt to be philosophical about it, and you calm yourself down, and afterwards you have the satisfaction of having controlled yourself and acted like an adult.  But sometimes those things build up just that bit too much, and if it's just one person who is the cause of all this, then that's another 50 degrees heat under that pressure cooker in your chest, and if you're in a relationship with that one person, and your every exchange is littered with barbs and putdowns and negativity, then that flame in your chest is white-hot and that pressure cooker is hissing and leaping and groaning, and you feel yourself start to breathe heavy, and you feel it coming, the moment where the whistling and shrieking ends and the explosions begin, and you start to want it, you start to anticipate it, and then they say something or do something that is the verbal equivalent of throwing a hand grenade into the cookpot and you turn and you take a deep breath and you let fly, the barbed and spite-tipped comeback you've been honing for the past ten seconds comes hurtling out of you at the speed of hate and oh my God it feels good to let go, to verbally dismantle her for once the way she does to you every single fucking day, and your voice gets deeper and louder as you take a few steps towards her and lean into her face and spit out the most fucked-up hurtful cannot-be-taken-back thing that you can think of, because at this moment you hate her more than you've ever hated anyone, no-one has ever treated you so appallingly, so constantly, and then lied about it, and tried to convince you these things had never happened and that you were losing your mind and maybe you should go on medication because she's worried about you, only to wake you the next morning by punching you in the back of the head and screaming at you that you haven't washed the mugs properly, and it feels triumphant to scream in her face about what a wretched human being she is.  You feel alive.
     Until about ten minutes later, when you're hating yourself for losing your temper, but that moment of release, that moment where you just say fuck it and scream all the things you've been wanting to scream for ages, that moment where she flinches because you're actually fighting back for once rather than just soaking it up for the sake of an easy its own way, that feeling of release is somewhere in the neighbourhood of an orgasm, that wilful relinquishing of control.  I'm sure all sorts of endorphins get released when you finally lose your shit after being tightly wound for a while, and they feel awesome.  The only problem then is dealing with the shame and guilt that comes with losing your temper.
     Just like The Hulk.  See?  I get him now.  End of sidenote.)
     And she does, and turns and runs upstairs.  I walk out of the front door and down the three or four steps to the pavement.  A voice screams from above HERE'S YOUR FUCKING STEREO and my stereo comes flying out of the window, misses me by a few feet and smashes to junk on the pavement.
     This isn't the stereo we were discussing earlier.  This is my other stereo, the one we kept in the bedroom.  So I now I don't have any stereos.
     Her mum comes out, shaken, and says, Let's just leave.  So we're getting in the car when I realise I'd put my house keys in the pocket of my hoodie.  Which I'd taken off while we were packing, and left on my ex's sofa.
     So her mum knocks the door, she's not answering, has put the bolt on so that her mum can't get in, and isn't answering her phone.
     So I call the police.  They're rude and dismissive, not listening to a word I say.  They think I'm complaining because she broke my stereo, even though I just spent five minutes explaining the situation.  Have you got another stereo, sir?  one of them asks me.  I try again.  It's not about the stereo.  She assaulted me.  Again.
     Oh, is that what this is about?
     I'm rendered briefly speechless by just how blase this fucking empty uniform is being when my ex's mum steps into the breach and tells the coppers exactly what just happened.  And fair play to her, she told it exactly how it was.  I couldn't press charges because it would have meant both my ex and I would have to go to the station, and her mum wasn't willing to look after the kids so I could have her daughter arrested, and there was no-one I could call to help me out, so I had to let that one go as well.
     Now.  You'd think that shit would go against her in court, right?  Nope!  No-one even brought it up.  I was dissected, my misguided past a subject for much discussion and debate, my dirty laundry, all ancient history now, strewn around for the whole court to gawp at and tut over, embellished by all my ex's many and varied stories, polished to a sheen by now and presented to the court like filthy jewels.
     Actually, that's not true.  Her stories were all loose ends and inconsistencies.  But no-one except me ever called her out on them, not even the people who were being paid to fucking do so.  If he's such a bad father and he's never had anything to do with the kids, how come you've had a split custody arrangement for nearly a year?  No-one asked.  If he's the one who starts the arguments and is violent all the time, how come we've got a folder of police reports, including one with a statement from your own mother, saying that you're the violent party?  No-one asked.  Except me, but what the fuck do I matter?  This whole experience proved to me conclusively that I don't count for shit.  I only managed to get split custody because we'd had that arrangement for a while prior to the court proceedings.  If I'd taken her to court as soon as we split up, I'd be seeing my kids once a fortnight right now.
     Sigh.  So, to return to what I was originally talking about, I hate my ex so much that it's seriously tiring, and it's not good for me and I'd like to stop.  But every time I see her she makes some awful comment or makes my daughter cry over nothing or just does something that reignites the embers of all that loathing, and then if I'm not careful, or don't get away in time, or if she follows me down the street hassling me and abusing me, like she did this Wednesday, I feel the Hulk moment approaching and I just can't, not when the kids are there, so I cram all that bile and rage into some dank corner of the soul somewhere and ride it out.  But then I'm resenting her all day; she's ruined my fucking day just because she can't be a sane, rational human being.  Again.  And that little coal of anger and resentment gets added to the pile, and that stuff's volatile.  It's liable to blow.
     Ah, no more, no more.  I'm definitely expending too much energy on hating her.  It's hard not to, with all the things she's done and said, and also the fact that she behaves however the fuck she wants and there are never any consequences for her.  No comeback, no karma.  She must feel fucking invincible.  And here I am, thinking to myself, everything's gonna be ok because you've got the truth on your side.  What a mook I was!  The truth counted for less than nothing.
     Hah.  I feel better already. Nothing like a little spleen to lighten the mood.
     I used to daydream about her having some accident and dying so that the kids and I could have some peace.  These weren't violent daydreams; I didn't imagine grisly and/or ironic deaths for her; in the daydream, there'd be a knock at the door, and I'd answer it with a baby in my arms, and there'd be a policeman asking me my name and saying he had some tragic news and could he come in, and in the daydream a tremendous weight would lift from my shoulders, I'd stand up a little straighter and think, We're free.
     Now, say that were to come true, my kids would be without a mother and that would be A Bad Thing.  But the thought of never, ever, ever having to deal with her bullshit again sounds nirvanic.  We're allowed to daydream; it doesn't necessarily mean we want them to come true.
     There's no way to wrap this up really.  It's ongoing.  I'll probably be ranting about stuff a lot more.  I'm finding it therapeutic.