Thanks Mum…

smoke_m4I am awake again, deep into the night. I have barely slept. If at all. I did not wake from a nightmare but, I awoke with a memory. A memory that the aching in my stomach remembers well. It was from a time in my childhood or rather, adolescence, when my mother refused to allow me to eat. She did this because, she was furious with me. I was once again ‘just like my father’ …

I must have been about, fourteen. I had just started a new job. A real job. Not just doing ‘this and that’ for the local neighbours, no, a real job. My mothers rage was brought on when she realized that with my first paycheck, I decided to buy the newest video game, as well as snacks in anticipation for my friends to come over to spend the night – turns out, they wouldn’t make it after all… My mother had this idea in her head that, now that I was working an after school and weekend job, I would be paying rent. That’s right, at fourteen, my mother wanted me to begin paying rent. Not just paying for things for myself and learning how to save or anything, just – rent. Directly to her. And when I failed to pick up on this, and instead, selfishly purchased a video game and some pop and chips, I was to suffer her wrath. And a wrath it was.1 (1)The encounter began when she had ascended the stairs and walked passed my bedroom. The door was open. I wasn’t trying to hide anything, and nor did I think I had to. It was upon gazing into my room that she caught sight of my enthusiasm towards my television screen, and the controller, firmly nestled with my hands. She entered my room. Almost, ominously. One simple set of questions fell from her lips, while coated in her thick, British accent, “What’s that? Where did you get it? Matthew…” Based on nothing but her tone alone, I knew that I had done “something” wrong. I pressed pause and sheepishly looked over at her and responded by telling her that it was the new game that I had been wanting to get, and that later, Drew and my other friends were going to come over, and we were going to play. That, was not what she wanted to hear. An escalating flurry of obscenities, and exaggerated hand motions, began accompanying my mother’s obvious disappointment at my juvenile decision making. She screamed that she had given me strict instructions to pay her when I had received my cheque (she did in fact do that prior to me receiving it but, I really want this game – I’d pay her out of my next one. That was my thought process). I wasn’t even able to get the words “sorry” out before my older brother, who had now appeared from his room, to inquire as to what was going on. My mother began shouting her side of things, and it was soon followed by laughter from my brother who I recall saying “leave him alone Joan, he bought a game, not drugs.” His words bouncing through a laughter of disbelief at her anger. This did not help my case in any way, although, I appreciated his efforts. She stormed down the stairs, allowing her slamming footsteps to carry forth the message of her discontent at the current situation that we three now found ourselves in.

I had at that moment, lost the lust for my newly purchased prize, and placed the controller on the floor. I sat in silence for a few moments, almost afraid at what was going to be awaiting me down the stairs. After working out the courage, and an appetite (turns out, I was so excited after collecting my cheque, and chasing it, that I had forgotten to eat). I slowly made my way down the stairs, and purposefully avoided eye contact with my mother, who was sitting in her usual spot on the couch, smoking a cigarette angrily. Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see her left leg draped over her right, with her foot bouncing. A tell-tale sign of mother’s annoyance.

I skulked my way into the kitchen, and slid the pantry door open. I was going to make a sandwich and then go outside and shoot the puck around for a while. I did not even hear my mother get up, but she must have known my intentions. She came slithering around the corner, cigarette still in hand, and a trail of cancerous smoke, followed close behind. Again, spoken through that unmistakable accent, and anger, came one question “And what do you think you are doing!?”. I responded by speaking through a meek and mild tone, and told her that I was hungry so, I was going to make a sandwich. And that’s when her free hand ascended to her shoulder height, and came crashing down as if to be a missile shot from a plane. She smacked the bread knife and single slice of bread from my hand, both came crashing down upon my foot, forcing me to lurch back in pain and confusion. Her tone and posture, both equally as angry now as she said, “If you want to eat, you fuckin’ get your own food and not bloody games!”. As she turned and started back to her favorite spot, she screamed once more without looking at me, “I’ve had it, I’m bloody fed up Matthew. Food’s expensive you know, and you bloody eat. I told you to pay me but, nnnooo, gets fuckin’ video games instead, well, tell ya what, you want to eat, you get me the RENT! Simple as that!!” I know it’s been a lot of years but, that’s exactly what she said, trust me. I can still hear it now as I type this, and my stomach – my stomach still feels that ache of hunger. Even though, I am not hungry at all. Just tired…

This went on for days. I would have to wait until my mother’s pills kicked in, so that after she had placed herself into bed, I could sneak down, very carefully, and wrestle myself something to eat. I would inhale it as quickly as possible, to get rid of the evidence. Hopefully she had thought it was one of my brothers (they were still allowed to eat, as they kept her supplied with cigarettes and other cravings that may spawn from her desires). Both of my brothers knew what I was doing, and neither chose to ‘rat’ me out. For that, I am grateful.

Sometimes, when all this was going on, I remember sitting in class while at school, clutching my stomach because I was so hungry. I was reliant on the kindness of my friends to give me whatever they could spare from their own lunches. I can’t recall precisely how long this went on for but, definitely long enough. I got really good at rationing out limited quantities of food. A skill that would come in handy years later, when I was in the army. I guess I should be grateful for that – thanks mum.

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Now, I’m going to stop writing and get a little something to eat – just in case…

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