Friday, 6 January 2012
I realise I’m chewing my lip – this makes me annoyed with myself too.
Okay. Let’s assume, just for a minute, that you’re right. I feel guilty. I’m consumed with guilt. It’s been eating me up for four years. Let’s assume that’s all true. Why, oh wise one, why is it so necessary that Jen knows why?
Tom leans forward in his chair and adopts a tone that I wonder if he uses at work. Or when explaining things to Lucy.
Because, my young apprentice, if she understands she can deal with it. Until it goes away.
He stays perched on his edge of his chair like that, holding a very deliberate eye contact and just looking so damned right. Right, and he knows it. I blink, look away. Tom wins.
Look, mate, he says, look.
Tom leans towards me and I think, for a second, that he’s going to touch my knee. Maybe he was, but he knows me too well, knows how I’d react. Instead, he finally sits back in his chair, and gives an exaggerated sigh before continuing.
In your shoes I’d have done the same thing, Pete. Most people would. If Soph was pregnant and her test result came back like that, I’d be pushing for an abortion too.
Even though his voice has dropped to little more than a whisper, he turns to look over his shoulder at the kitchen door as he says this. I’m not sure he’s aware of doing it. I don’t lower my voice.
And if her test result came back showing Down’s Syndrome but Soph wanted to keep the baby, what would you do?
I don’t know. We’d talk it through, I guess.
Talk it through?
Would you try to persuade her?
I don’t –
Like I did.
You didn’t make her. Jesus, Pete, we’ve been over this. You didn’t force. You didn’t hold a gun to her head.
I might as well have done. I gave her ultimatums, Tom. Me or the baby.
She still had a choice.
I stand up and walk over to the very window from which Sophie probably saw me nearly run over her daughter.
No, mate. No. You’re smart, smarter than me, always have been, but you can’t get this without having been there.
I lower my shaking head.
I talked her into it.
I talked her into it but afterwards, when she couldn’t forgive herself, I did nothing.
With a scrape of wooden chair legs on tile, Tom gets up and joins me at the window. We stand in silence like that, side by side, until I remember that actually he is my friend after all.
What could you have done? he says.
I puff out to show how ridiculous a question I think this it.
Plenty. Plenty! I didn’t even go to the counsellor with her.
I turn and walk back to the table, pick up my glass and almost swig from it before remembering that it’s empty already. I lean heavily on the table, my knuckles turning white against the oak. My head feels heavy.
Good try mate, I say. Even to myself, I sound tired.
Good try but, whichever way you cut it, it’s my fault Em drove into that tree. Fuck. Fuck.
Tom disappears through the kitchen doorway, then, moments later, is back, offering me a square of kitchen roll. I accept it with an embarrassed fake laugh, wipe my stupid eyes and blow my nose.
This, this – he points first at my face, then the ball of kitchen roll crumpled between my fingers – is why you have to tell Jenny.
I won’t admit that he’s right. Not verbally, at least. Instead, I sniff loudly and dab my nose again.
Are you going to open that wine or what? I say finally.
Tom smiles, and it almost looks normal.
Posted by Martin at 22:56