He heard me calling him those things through the wall. I know he heard me. These walls are thin, but if he doesn’t like it he can move out.
Move out, rather than feigning polite interest across the dining table. Giving me that smile like a bent car salesman. His mother calls it ‘winning.’ It makes me want to retch. I worked all my life, didn’t earn that much but I got by, you know? Then this kid, he comes fresh out of university, he comes back, makes a pile of money from his obscene work, snares a po-faced trophy girlfriend – god help the silly cow – and sits at my dinner table. Laughs at my remarks. Drinks my wine. Condescends to say he enjoys my cooking, but maybe next time try some different spices, simmer for longer, that sort of thing. I see that look on his face and that sly smile that creeps across well-kept lips, full like his mother’s but with a twist that I can‘t quite place. That sure and steady smile that tells me that what I say matters very little. I can’t push a man out of his childhood home. A grown man. Regardless of his age, I am the intruder here.
He hears everything I say and repeats it in hushed tones to the trophy girlfriend at night while he thinks I sleep like a bloated impotent whale next to his mother. She no doubt twists her hair as her face contorts into a perfect mask of wide-eyed sympathy, nods along and shudders with pride and lust as he demonstrates his strength at tolerating me, at not hitting me square in face next time we eat together.
The ‘C-word’ doesn’t have the clout it once did; it’s bandied about liberally enough on computers and TV and no-one so much as stiffens. His mother though, she comes from a plane of crisp bed sheets, jazz exercise classes and healthy packed lunches. Calling her preferred son this word has the desired effect. For him though, it is nothing. He hears my breathless shouts (my lungs are not what they were) and her huffing, tearful responses and smiles. Smiles as it escalates, the cold bastard, and continues to exercise that lizard grin as he glances out the window observing my retreat to cigar smoke and chill night air. He knows I see him draw the blind.
When I pass this golden boy in the corridors at night the looks we exchange are not those of the dinner table.
You think I’m biased but the void in those eyes frightens me. I am not a young man and I’m convinced that if we came to blows I would not come off well; wheezing and sweating through the hours as it is. I know I’m safe however; he wouldn’t rise to me wouldn’t lose his cool as I so often want to. What resolve. Almost admirable. All he can do is goad and observe, smirking, relaxing.
At breakfast we will exchange pleasantries about the weather or news.