No Sudden Release
I stood in the hallway to the council flat thinking to myself, what the hell am I doing here? I knew the answer but maybe because the question seemed so hypocritical of the last four years of my life, I refused to answer. I practically rebelled against myself and that was something I was becoming quite good at doing!
The past four years were full of pain and anxiety and a sort of bereavement that only seemed suitable towards a dead man, yet I was hurting for myself. I hurt for the past, the ever present and a future I could only dream of that I suddenly saw slipping away hopelessly.
And yet I should have been hurting for what lay on the other side of that old green door I was now approaching. That was where the anxiety made itself known like a hole in the heart. I ached to the centre of my chest and wanted to turn around but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I wanted to suddenly stuff twenty cigarettes into my mouth and blaze up but I couldn’t. I just wanted to get this over and done with but yet again I couldn’t.
The door opened slowly. The smell of something rotten and unclean hit me in the face as I breathed in. It was acidic like old sweat and dirt, not just on a person that had obviously never washed but the flat itself clearly stunk.
‘I don’t need you,’ I remember her saying. ‘We don’t need you and we don’t want you!’
That had been easy for her to say, maybe even enjoyable, the bitch, but that was no easy thing to hear as a man who couldn’t afford to take a no for an answer.
A man if that’s what he could call himself, unfamiliar and hardly welcoming, exited Flat 2 and looked at me as if he was expecting the worst. That wasn’t what I wanted but I could use it, I thought to myself, once I figure out who he was. Typically he was the latest boyfriend. He was her type, at least.
‘Hello,’ I said sternly and it seemed by the look on his face that I was clearly too outward for his liking. As I reached the green door, he sunk back in behind the door and stayed there, half in and half out.
Whoever he was, I could tell he was a contributor to the awful smell in that place. He stunk like he hadn’t washed in over a month. He was ginger and had tattered dread-locks reaching down the back of a frayed green woollen polo neck jumper.
On his pale and spotty face, and that was where I guessed him to be twenty-ish, he sported a growth of hair on his chin and a slight moustache. His eyes were like bugs eyes. I didn’t like him and already refused to trust him in any way.
‘Is she there?’ I asked and waited as he remained uncertain of what was happening, who I was and what I was doing here. The thing that struck me odd was that this guy didn’t seem the type to open doors to a lot of people. Unless he was expecting me or someone we knew mutually.
‘Who?’ he asked and already he irritated me.
‘Rhianne Close. Her Uncle knows me if he’s here,’ I said. He paused and on his face I saw a resolve come over. His hand still firmly held the door in place though and I was already becoming impatient with him. I did not belong here to an extent but neither did he. Should I have already forced my way through?
‘Oh,’ he answered and as I waited for an answer to follow that, I was left cold as he was either incapable or just being rude.
‘Oh?’ I asked. ‘She does still live here or tell me if she doesn’t…’
‘Who are you?’ he asked and eventually found the nerve to step outside. As he did I caught an eyeful of nothing, trying to peek through the closing gap in the door. All I saw was bleak and colourless light, as if all the curtains were drawn.
It was noon!
He was now inches away from me and as I responded to his question, I couldn’t help but feel he knew of me all to well!
‘I’m Joe,’ I told him.
He suddenly became animated at that moment compared to his so far lazy, although uncomfortable, appearance. At the same time as turning his back on me and returning for the green door with the number 2 on it, his head lolled on top of its neck and he didn’t know where to look. Surprisingly the door to the street stayed in his field of vision longer than I did before he turned back to me, knowing he would eventually have to.
‘Rhianne’s ex,’ he stated and I edged in closer towards the door.
‘Joanne’s dad,’ I corrected and then persisted, ‘is she here?’
The timing had been uncanny because as soon as I asked, the pitter-patter of small feet came from behind the door and then the door opened and a dirty looking little girl ran out playfully and then looked at me with a grin.
Instinctively, not because I’d ever planned the moment I got to see her again, I got down on one knee and smiled back. I felt I hadn’t convinced, at least myself, because my smile felt as tired and strained as the rest of me. I said hello and reached out my hand.
You’ve walked through winter’s harshest months, enduring the freezing cold wind, rainy days overcast with heavy, leaden clouds and longing for at least one single moment of sunshine through it all. Probably because that one moment says the storm is nearly over and that makes the dark so much more endurable for one who has far to go. It can be worth it, knowing that a bright life awaits but when you live life cold and dark, one golden moment can last a lifetime. So then when your sunshine is stolen…
He took her by the shoulder as she took her first steps towards me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The last time I saw her, she was the spitting image of her mum and now that part of her had disappeared and it was as though I was looking at myself. Well, a female version at least.
Her eyes were intense, not soft and childlike. They seemed so dark a shade of brown that they could have been black in the harsh light of the hallway. They were hard, as though they didn’t see through me but rather fell on me hard. And they were watery, not like she’d been crying but watery like the eyes of a pup.
The last time I saw her she was one year old and still couldn’t walk. Her mum brought her to me, forced her down rather than sat her down before me and then sat and watched as she just looked at me with wonder.
I’d never felt so nervous in my life but I knew it didn’t matter because she was not yet old enough to be my biggest critic. I got down on the floor and played with her and tried to teach her to walk. That was my last memory before the bitterness won out once more.
So as she walked towards me, quite tentatively, I was dismayed to see her turned around by the shoulder, walked quickly back through the door and the door closed over behind her. I felt that black leaden cloud block everything out.
I got to my feet and felt my heart literally begin to thud against the wall of my chest. For the first time in those few minutes I realised just how high I towered over this fool, how he’d have to move a great deal to even get around my shoulders. And I realised that my anger was one reason why my daughter and I were on opposite sides of that door right.
‘Listen, Rhianne’s not here at the moment,’ he said before I interrupted him angrily.
‘Where is she?’ I asked, not because I wanted to find her. I wanted to know that he was lying and I would know just by looking at him. He knew too.
‘She’s out at the moment,’ he said, lolling his head to the side while his eyes averted from me.
‘When is she coming back?’ I questioned and there was a pause as he knew he was pissing me off. He also knew that I knew he was lying to me. ‘When is she coming back?’ I repeated.
‘Later,’ he professed pathetically and his eyes didn’t return to mine.
Joanne appeared again from behind the door, this time reaching around behind this nameless bastard to smile back at me. Unbelievably, he pushed her back in and this time slammed the door shut behind him.
I looked at him as if to say I wanted to jam his throat in that door and slam it myself but then felt too lost in my anger and his lies to allow the moment to descend any further.
‘Later? What, later this afternoon, later this evening, later tomorrow, later next week?’ I said, almost biting at my own words as I spoke them.
‘Listen, she was really upset at the letter you wrote…’ he began to say before I shouted back at him for the first time.
‘What do you know about the letter?’
‘Calm down, I read the letter and it was pretty offensive…’
‘Tell me what was in the letter I wrote. And what the fuck is your name by the way?’ I said, surely red-faced and beginning to seethe.
‘I’m Tom,’ he admitted with some reluctance.
‘Well Tom, why do you think I wrote that letter considering what you read?’ I demanded of him.
‘Because you were pissed off,’ he said and I interrupted again.
‘I’m still pissed off, I’m always pissed off, I’m a pretty fucking pissed of kinda guy,’ I seethed and quite pleasurably because it was satisfying, I had to admit. ‘I didn’t write that letter because I was pissed off though. I wrote that letter, one, because she won’t open the door to me, two, because she’s denying me my own daughter and, three, because it’s not fair on my daughter. And now you fucking close the door on me too and I don’t even know who the fuck you are!’
The air cleared suddenly of my own voice, leaving a harsh echo that disappeared up the stairway behind me. I thought I’d just made Tom piss in his pants, if I didn’t think he did that of his own accord by the appearance and smell of him anyway. If he was going to say anything else, he’d have said it by the time I had anything else to say. So as I continued, I continued calmly and resumed what little self-control I had to begin with.
It was all because of the lies, the reason I was always so angry. The lies had begun at the beginning with my ex girlfriend Rhianne trying to make me say I loved her and never being able to say it herself.
She lied about why she split up with me and therefore about the five other boys behind my back. She lied about making things work for the sake of the baby when she was shit-scared about being pregnant and she had then lied to her brothers to get rid of me.
I got death threats because she’d told them and her few friends – all boys who still wanted to use her even though she was fat and round in the belly – that I had been abusive and aggressive even though she had in fact tamed me.
She told them that I had sent her death threats and that made living dangerous for me because I had no one to back me up. She lied about letting me see my daughter whenever I wanted to and now she was lying by being on the other side of that door, hiding in the dark with the curtains closed because she’d seen me coming from a mile off.
Those lies and for the fact my own flesh and blood was living in the dirt and not knowing any better as to who her dad was. And when this went to court, the lies would publicly finish me and make me as good as a criminal and a walking target.
Did I ever make a constructive issue out of all this though? Yes I did and it led to more lies because lies are easy to use when you want to protect yourself!
‘Look at it from my point of view, she told me she was dyslexic and couldn’t read so I know she’d have everyone read it for her anyway, so I’ve got nothing to hide. I don’t care about forgiving her for acting like a child and telling me I’m not fit to be a dad. I just want to see my daughter. Are you trying to stop me?’
At every couple of words he nodded his head and at every time he did it, I wanted to chin the bastard. Instead I told him, ‘there are criminals with ankle tags walking prams outside, so why are you closing the door on my daughter? What’s my excuse?’
‘She wants to move on,’ he finally admitted and I paused for a very long time before I thought he wasn’t going to add any more again but this time he did. ‘She does want to let you see your daughter eventually but she’d not ready right now. We’ve been going steady for a couple of months and we want to move away and settle down. She was pretty upset about the letter you wrote but she understands how you feel and she said the other day she was going to get in touch and talk things over…
The only problem with people like these is that even if their words can occasionally come from the heart, they’re still lying to me. Lies from the heart. Who would have imagined it possible? I guess that’s when you know you’ve just met a true liar by heart and someone you should steer clear of. At that moment of course I knew Rhianne had indeed met her perfect match. I was just more afraid for Joanne than ever and my own redemption because they were both clearly fucked. On one hand, if Joanne grew up to be just like her mum and fake dad, she wouldn’t know the difference if I weren’t there to fight it out with them. Shame I’m not welcome here after all because if I could lie to myself this well, they might yet forgive me after all. Or at least just make me believe it!
I looked at Tom in disbelief though I was sure my face didn’t show it, not that I would try to hide that from him. I had just exhausted myself of emotion so easily that it frightened me and even that hadn’t shown so I just stood there numb and said all I could say.
‘How can she? I wanted to tell her I’d changed my phone numbers only to find she’d changed hers first. House numbers included!? I’ve tried to call over and over again and it’s clear she wants rid of me but how many times do I have to say I don’t care about her, that I’m not here to see her?’
‘I understand…’ he said before I cut him off one last time.
‘You don’t! She won’t move on, she’ll stay in the past and keep me and Joanne trapped there too because she’s afraid to admit the damage she’s doing! She’ll never forget it because she’ll have a daughter to remind her and nothing you do will change things either!’ I claimed and that was the truth from my heart. ‘You might not be lying to me about moving away but you’re lying about her getting in touch!’
In all honesty, I wanted to kick that horrible green door down and be with Joanne. I wouldn’t have even cared if I’d have seen Rhianne hiding behind the door too. I wouldn’t have because it wouldn’t have surprised me in the slightest and I probably could have even talked my way out of trouble with the Police afterwards.
Why not, I paid the Child Support Agency weekly and had no criminal record. All this was, was a stranger holding my own daughter away from me in a house that was not his own. I probably could have had him taken away for that.
But you know what? I was conflicted beyond all rational thought right then. A big part of me believed I could make them both see sense, or at least make him see sense and disrupt the false sense of right this so-called family had until Rhianne would have no other option but to involve me in the slightest.
The other part of me, which was so much smaller but seemed to have a tight hold on me at that moment, believed that this was the end and that no matter what I did, things would never change. I was going to go home and kill myself after knowing that for sure.
So as for kicking down that door, it was wrong and would have had no positive outcome even if it did provide a temporary satisfaction of sorts. I did not want my daughter’s last memory of me – even if she didn’t know who or what I was – to be of a stranger who’d broken into her home, caused a fight and held her against her own will when I frightened the shit out of her…
On Christmas Eve!
Just as I have now, writing this, I had totally forgot back then that in my hand was this rain-soaked plastic bag from the long walk here. I had no money for a bus after going shopping for a Christmas present for the baby girl. I’d bought her this tiny plush teddy bear that fit into the palm of my hand, some sweets and a Christmas card too.
Tacky, it might have been but consider having nothing and still trying to show something for it. I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed because I was trying. In that bag had been another letter addressed to Rhianne.
This time there was nothing upsetting or offensive in the letter. It was basically ‘if you want to get in touch with me and consider letting me see my daughter, this is my new contact number and I’m still at the same address!’
I took out the letter, showed it to Tom and told him to make Rhianne call me and suggested that he be there when she did. I told him that if he wanted to be the man of the house that there should be no secrets after all. This seemed to worry him and I actually felt sorry for him. She was going to make a fool of him, though maybe lie so hard that he’d never know it.
‘Make sure she does call,’ I said and wanted to put a deadline on top of it. So after she didn’t call I’d come back and kick their door down. I didn’t say that though because it was pointless after all this time.
You know what? My daughter was four years old by then. She didn’t look it but that’s not what was important because my opinion never was important to Rhianne. So if I’d have raged about how she was dirty and stunk because the house was unfit to live in or for what other reasons possible, it wouldn’t have mattered because that little girl wasn’t important to her.
She was what I told her she was years ago when I heard about her taking Joanne to rock clubs and bars in a pram to see her friends/boyfriends/sluts. She was her mother’s fashion accessory, meal ticket, sympathy card and God knows what else. God, I’m so ashamed of myself for bringing a life into the world and being helpless with and without.
‘Make sure she does call and give my daughter her Christmas presents from me and tell her who they’re from,’ I added and knew that even that wish was futile. The card would never be saved for when she would grow to understand and the present would come from that kind man you’ll never see again…
One last chance to at least beat the living shit out of this dirty fucking hippy for lying to you and thinking you didn’t know. One last chance to get rid of your rage and show this prick you’re her dad and he isn’t. One last chance to show them all just how bad a monster you’ve become because of them and what they’ve done to you… It’s going… It’s going… It’s gone and that’s why you’re not her dad. Because you’re not man enough to take what’s yours from the cunts that kept her from you!
He wanted to shake my hand before I left. I have a theory about people like that in those kinds of situations who always want to shake your hand. They either want to set you up for a cheap shot by abusing your trust or they want to secretly say, ‘I just fucked you and I’m laughing on the inside!’
Their hands are limp and cold and sweaty. There is no conviction on their face or in their stance and their voices are put on. They lack tone and volume. Their honest straightforwardness in all senses is feigned and therefore who you just shook hands with is not a man but something pretending to be.
In an ideal world I would break his hand in my own!
At least if a thug was about to hit you with a cheap shot, he’d let you know by behaving the complete opposite and by acting up terribly because his inner conflict doesn’t allow him to lie convincingly.
I am just a man and that’s why the subtlety of this act here is so convincing because you think you’re dealing with a gentleman. In an ideal world I would be able to meet him again and ask him if he ever expected to see me again after lying to me. I can’t wait to shake his hand again!
As I walked out that front door and back out onto the street, I turned around only for the door to number 2 to be closed again. I regretted the moment I turned around instantly. I should have demanded to say goodbye and wish her a Happy Christmas. I would have been refused but I’d have called the Police maybe and then found out whether Rhianne was actually at home and not out shopping.
Poor people like Rhianne don’t go shopping, anyway. They wallow in misery and have someone else go for them!
The outside world as I had left it briefly on that day was bright after a shower or two. The sun had come out and then returned beneath a heavy-set cloud cover by the time I returned to it and I set myself for a cold wet walk back home.
But before I did, I walked to the end of the street, sat on a concrete bollard by a parking space where her dad usually parked his car and waited, smoking a cigarette. Her dad lived across the road from her, where she lived with her Uncle. I never did find out how that worked but maybe with Swampy living with her now, Uncle and Dad were under the same roof instead.
It happened then after roughly ten minutes. I sat and watched intently, waiting to be made a fool of. The curtains to Rhianne’s flat opened, living room and front bedroom both. Tom had opened the bedroom curtains and guess who had opened the living room curtains?
She looked right at me and disappeared in a panic and then Tom disappeared and reappeared at the living room window, looking at me like he’d pissed his pants again. I got up and walked away rather than returning to the flat. She wouldn’t have opened the door the second time either. I’d have gone mental!
And after Christmas there was no phone call, after New Years there was none and months later there was none. Because of there being no phone call, I waited and waited whereas I was hoping to have finished what I said I would. Myself!
The fuckest uppest thing about that is, as much as I wanted to go through with it, I found that trying not to was the hardest thing to do. Do you know why?
Because everyone except me knew how to let go. My family accepted I was a lost cause, my friends detached themselves because I was too painful to watch as I suffered in trying to move on and I couldn’t even build a career because no one wants a self-confessed failure of any kind. You become invisible when others learn to let go!
I went through therapy and it turned out I had depression and anxiety. I went through only three months of it before I gave up.
In the counsellor’s own words, I had to be selfish with my own feelings and feel them for all they were worth. Once I stopped feeling so numb and started getting the pain out of my system, everything became clear.
I forgave myself. My daughter became invisible. I had finally let go. I allow myself to both thank and curse myself for that but I am a better man for it and if my daughter comes looking for me, she will find me in a better state than if I hadn’t let go. I would have a good excuse.
Darlin’, my life depended on it…
The damnedest thing happened shortly after I got my life back on track. The CSA called to say that Rhianne didn’t need my contributions anymore because she was doing well enough on her own.
I waited, thinking that as soon as I let my guard down, the clouds would obscure the sun suddenly and freeze me. It didn’t happen. Months went by and still there was nothing to say she was still there, pissing about and waiting to cause problems for us all again.
But after a while, the hard feelings went as far away as they were going to, the rage was gone for good and the lies couldn’t touch me anymore. It was as though a nightmare had ended, which wasn’t fair on my daughter but that’s all I had to feel anymore.
It was over!
To this day, nine years later, I don’t know if Rhianne did move on or if she’s rotting in the same Flat 2. I don’t care and don’t want to know. She’s dead to me. If I went looking to see for myself and found her there then she would come back to life on the sole intention of living off our past miseries because she can’t find the future without blessing me and blessing me she will not do.
And the sad fact is that I can’t save her because you can’t be saved from yourself by another person. You can be guided to self-help but salvation is bollocks. I went looking for redemption and got it because the situation was out of my control. I was robbed of my life.
She’s the thief, her and her boyfriend and it was like some horror story where the princess never in fact got rescued because otherwise the hero probably would have just went to prison or got shot or stabbed or both.
She simply lived on and couldn’t be touched for who or what she was; I don’t know the answer but I won’t be a martyr for the sake of honesty, the same as they would for all their lies.
Being a martyr didn’t help Jesus or anyone else, he’s famous but what can a dead man do with that? The live ones are short lived as it is!
Here’s me saying that I don’t want to be famous in a story I wrote for the world to read…
I wanted to write science fiction and horror but this story follows me wherever I go so I had to write it eventually, just to keep it in its place, so to speak. But in an ideal world, the way the world will be in about seven years time, some girl who likes to read to escape from reality will pick up on a particular author that is in fact her own dad.
And if not, I might not care by then anyway, though I’m sure I’m hopelessly wrong already because after all it’s in the blood...
There was once a hero of a book that was never written. Therefore there was no end!