Night To Remember

Entry by: jaguar

11th November 2015
She’s asking me to make an enormous decision. She’s put my favourite wine on the table in my favourite glass but now I feel as if it’s a trap. If I drink from that bottle I’ll be sealing the deal, leaving myself no wriggle room.
Ten minutes ago I was almost happy. ‘Let’s make this a night to remember,’ she said. ‘See if there are any good films on.’ I flicked the ipad on. I like her well enough, these last few years with her have been brighter after all twisted darkness, after being so alone. She didn’t ask much of me. It was easy and uncompromised and I didn’t have to think too hard about anything.
I’d prefer to watch a nature documentary but I’d humour her and find a soppy film after I’d checked what I’d be missing. There was a preview of a programme about swan parents trying to get rid of their grown-up offspring. I called her over to have a look because the expression on the juvenile swans’ faces was bathetic. I thought she would laugh.
I didn’t expect the tears. ‘It’s so cruel, having to choose between the things you want,’ she said and wept for England. It felt like an emotional earthquake, that the ground really was moving under us and putting everything off-kilter. I had the strongest sense that I knew what was coming next. ‘I’m pregnant. I want to keep it. What are you going to do?’
'How can you be?' She'd made such a point of telling me she couldn't have children, checking that it didn't matter, that I didn't want any.
'I don't have the foggiest clue but I am.' She lifts her chin at me.
I want to say ‘it’s fine, don’t worry, I’m happy’. I want to so much I can taste the words but I can’t say them. I can’t deny what I really am. Already a father, at a distance admittedly, but I have my family. I’m not some swan that drives my brood away, ready for the next one. I straighten my shoulders and she sees it as shaking my head, holds her hands out to me.
‘Don’t decide yet,’ she says, ‘think about it. Our child will be in the world, with or without you. All you have to do is decide how much contact you want.’ She pushes the wine towards me. Her own glass holds water, as transparent as her need.
I sigh because she’s lying to me already. You can’t contain your feelings for a child. You can’t decide they’re only allowed within a certain distance of you. In the human world it’s the offspring that make the rules, leaving you behind or drawing you closer. My kids are distant enough without me pushing them further away, making them feel replaceable.
I look again at the swan parents rearing up in a convincing display of hatred. How do they switch their instincts like that? All the care they’ve put into nurturing the cygnets and then, the second they reach their goal of healthy adults, they drive them away. They hurt them.
What I meant to give my kids didn’t happen. I wasn't man enough to deliver stability, emotional security, days full of opportunities, fully realised potential. All of that got squandered on late night bickering, jockeying for position, anger at how far down the food chain I’d slithered. At least these swan parents are a unit, making exactly the same bewildering turn.
I look at her, just as determined, a glint of tears catching the light but she’s a warrior now, using every weapon. Our child, she'd called it, not this child or her child. I drink the wine in one long surrender. ‘We’ll manage,’ I say, because you do, don’t you? You just do.