The days crawl by; each breath I take feels laboured. Each minute is unbearable. The thought of another twenty four hours like this one, has me chomping at the bit in desperation to make it go faster. I’m not sure how I’m going to last. I take a breath and let it out slow; something to calm me, but it does little except to give me something to do for a couple of seconds.
There isn’t any food in the house. My stomach growls. Even that cannot wait until the next day. But that’s just a false promise. Food will not be the first thing I reach for.
Cigarettes are about all I have and those are on a limited supply; each one like a check point for another hour passing, signalling that it’s time to smoke my next one.
I’m thankful I don’t have Will. A slight lie to his mother and grandmother that he wanted to stay over and well, we just didn’t have time to make any breakfast, he wanted to get there so fast. At least he can have food and more warmth than I can offer him here; my failings, once more, as his father. Course, he’s so easy to agree to those things. I know how his little mind works. It’s simple and limited. Special, I tell him. Some days, I hate that he has special needs. I curse myself for my part in the fact that he isn’t like other children his age. Other times, his mind is so unique, I love him just the way he is.
I wonder what that says about me as a person. Wishing that my son was normal. Shouldn’t I be happy that he’s alive and that I have him? I wonder if all parents of children with special needs think this way. Maybe it’s one of those things that are unsaid.
Colin, on the other hand, doesn’t have a choice. There isn’t anyone I can fob him off to and get his belly filled. He hasn’t complained yet, but it doesn’t stop me feeling bad about it.
I have no money to turn on the gas meter, nothing to fill the fridge. My last meal was a bowl of frozen peas that I couldn’t afford to cook on the stove. I used boiled water from the kettle. All I had was pepper to flavour them. The boys had eaten of course. Some fish fingers and oven chips I had used up on them with the last of the bread we had. At least they had gone to bed with somewhat full stomach.
It feels like a never ending cycle.
I envy people who can feed their kids and take them out and give them treats. They have no idea how lucky they are.
Neither Colin nor I have eaten since last night. My stomach growls its aggravation at the situation. Colin is sat on the chair watching cartoons. I try not to feel guilty. I tell myself he isn’t my responsibility, but I can’t help it.
Joanne comes home. I’m not sure where she has been and I don’t ask. I don’t care so much. A friend of mine is with her. Maz and her son Mikey. More like a sister than a friend; Maria is her real name, but a long affair with Temazepam earned her the nickname.
She sits next to me and puts her arm around me. Joanne never bothers when we do this. I often wonder if she cares as little as I do. Sometimes it feels like Maz is the only one who understands. She doesn’t have to say a thing. It’s unspoken in a way. I lie here and feel calm.
I playfully poke her rounded belly and tell the baby to move up because it’s in the way and I need to lie down. Maz laughs and jabs me in the arm.
She knows I’m kidding.
Mikey sits with Colin and they get out my old games console. Mikey isn’t much older than Colin, perhaps just a few months. They sit and chat like they have known each other forever and Colin resembles the child he’s supposed to be. Mikey turns and smiles up at me.
“We’re going to the cinema later,” he tells me, and I can hear the unasked question in his voice.
Its Maz’s day to visit with Mikey. Four days a month she gets him. He’s in the system. His foster parents are great and she has that to be thankful for. They seem to care about Mikey and his mother reuniting eventually. Of course, she has to give up the heroin for that to happen. She’s trying, but it’s a cycle that’s hard to break. Tomorrow will be the usual. The sorrow in her eyes as she leaves him with a family that’s better for him. People that can offer more than she ever can. Just as I know with Will, she knows with Mikey There are people far better equipped to take care of our children than us.
Maybe I’m selfish that I don’t let him go but, his mother can’t take him fulltime. She can’t cope with how he is. She wants him to be normal as much as I do, but for her, a cheap bottle of cider seems easier to deal with than a son with Aspergers.
Maz has already decided that she’s going to have the baby at home. As soon as it comes into the world the authorities will have it, then what does she have to live for?
“Do you want to come with us?” Maz asks me and Colin’s eyes light up for a fraction of a second with hope until reality sets in.
I don’t have to say anything. He gives a sigh and, like me, knows that we can’t.
I shake my head at Max. “I don’t have the money.”
“You’ve necked it all?” She asks me.
“I haven’t had any phet for days.”
. She sits up and forces me to sit up myself. She’s mad at me. I can feel her mood change like the snapping of a band.
“Have you eaten today?”
I don’t answer her and Joanne doesn’t say anything.
“God damnit James,” she says and gets off the sofa. “You’ve got no food, no money. What about Will and Colin?”
“Will is at his mothers,” I tell her, but I can hear how pathetic I sound.
Someone bangs on the front door and I jump at it. So many visitors and each one makes me anxious.
“It’ll be Froggy,” Maz says.
Her boyfriend. His real name’s Pete. Tall and lanky with long black hair. I’m not sure why we call him Froggy, but we do.
“It might be the police,” I say. “They’ve been here three times this week looking for Mark.”
“What are you doing James? You’re going to wind up losing these boys.”