“From a Letter in a Wedding Card that was Never Opened” by Mark Fitzpatrick, Paris

BLOG,Love and Heartbreak July 14, 2011 00:48

topic: LOVE & HEARTBREAK medium: TEXT

Do you know what he said? This was on the second day. We were in Lyon, and I left him for five minutes while I went to check in, told Jessie to watch him, and so she’s moping in the back of the car texting whatever knuckle-dragger she’s in love with this week, and he’s standing there, leaning on his stick, master of all he surveys, the hat at a rakish angle. And I come back, sweating from carrying all the bags up three flights, hoping I’ll be able to make him go for a nap, and he looks at me … big double take. He goes “Son! What are you doing here? What a coincidence! How did you find me?

Well isn’t this nice.” And he ambles into the hotel, cool as you like. And this is after us spending two days in the car, after picking him up at five in the morning, the ferry to Calais. This is after he made us go back twice, convinced he forgot his medicine. Which he hadn’t. Which I hadn’t. Convinced he forgot his hat. Which he had. And which he’s now lost again, as soon as we got here. And I think it’s very nice that you wanted him to be here for your big day. It’s really nice. And yes, he did very well. Yes, it was lovely to see you walking down the aisle on your Dad’s arm. Everyone said
how well he looks. But I’ve got to tell you, little sister, your old Dad doesn’t know why he’s here.

Your new husband was sitting with him for a good five minutes at one point, which I’m sure was some premium quality time, and shouting in his ear, which is very considerate, because the old bugger had his hearing-aid in the wrong ear again. And when he got up, Dad leaned over to me, and he whispered, well, he tried to, he said: “That man’s trying to sell me something. Does he work here?”

That one had the table in stitches. And then everyone looks at me, and people pat me on the arm and say: “You’re so good to bring him over like this.” “He must be a real handful these days.” “How long did you say it took you to drive?” “And you can’t get him on a plane at all, no?” “How did you manage to get all that time off?” And somebody shushed that one. Someone who knows that I don’t need any time off anymore. Who knows that I don’t need to get out of bed in the morning anymore.

But they tiptoe round that alright, your friends. All your lovely London friends with their lovely “creative” jobs. They’re all just in PR, aren’t they? Like you? And all his lovely London friends with their stacks and stacks of money. Did I tell you about the stag night? How they sat around, literally, for hours, talking about money. Not the things you buy with it. Not even cars, or property prices. They talked about ways of moving money around, and ways of making it look like you have less than you do. And then he, your Loverboy, wouldn’t let me buy a round. Can you imagine that? Of course you can. He said, “I’ll get this one.” With his hand sort of on my arm. Solicitously. And his friends looked away. And he asked me how Dad was doing, and when he was pissed, he told me that it was a big part of the reason for you two “tying the knot”. For why you’re doing it now. Because you wanted him to see you married. Wanted him to see you happy, and successful, and fulfilled. Well good for you. Wedding in Tuscany. Lanterns in the trees, jazz band on the lawn. A whole roast pig. You in Vera Wang, him in Armani. He told me he got the shirt from the same place James Bond gets his. Turnbull
and Asser. I just said “Asser … huhuh.” He wasn’t impressed. Neither was I. But then, I’m not impressive, am I? I know you’ve found it hard when you’re introducing people. You
say, this is my big brother. And they look at me, and I can see them. Trying to work it out. “Your brother? But he’s got to be …” “Fifty-six mate. I was eighteen when Little Miss Afterthought here
came along. And now look at her. All grown up. Big grown up wedding. Big grown up job.” And they look at me funny. And I wonder if, when you murmur to them with that concerned look in my
direction, if you’re just apologising for me because I’m drunk, or if you’re telling them what happened to my big grown up marriage. And my big grown up job. And if you say, he’s going through
a bit of a rough time at the moment. And you try to make the best of it, and introduce them to Jessie, and you say “And this lovely girl here … my favourite niece …” And she snorts and rolls her eyes and plays with her iPhone. Because she was a lovely girl, your niece. Last time you bothered to check. But now she’s a stroppy little bitch, just like her lovely mother, who, no, couldn’t make it unfortunately. Bit divorced actually. Mostly divorced, these days. Now that I’m not much else. Still a father though. And speaking of which. You know he’s not even sure where he is. He was up in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t sleep, and I found him there in the kitchen, having a bit of a cry. And he said he couldn’t find Mum. Didn’t know his way back to their bedroom. Well. He misses her. But we all know it’s more than that now. It’s not just depression. It’s not just old age. We know what the doctors say, and you’re just pretending, really, aren’t you? Dressing him up nice, with the cool linen suit, and the cravat and everything. Shame you didn’t know he’d lost all that weight. Still. He looked … well. If you’d had to shave him, you’d know that the skin around his face seems very … loose, now. Very thin. Seems transparent. And he gets scared, sometimes. But then he tells me these detailed stories about training regiments of African troops in Nairobi in 1947. I’ve heard them before. Do you remember them? I could tell you, word for word. And then he says, “What’s the name again? This place … Where we are. For the … you know. For the … the celebration.” Leans over confidentially. “It’s quite something, this place. You never hear about it. About the bit, you know … more north, yes.

And then down … well. Further. But here. Off the beaten track, you might say. I could get used to this. When I’m feeling up to a bit of travel again, I’ll have to come here.” And I want to say, Dad, you are
here. And we’re in bloody Tuscany. This is not off the beaten track! And then he started talking to me about his children. About me and you. Forgetting who he was talking to. And he said, yes, my son,
well. He was always getting into trouble. Trouble with money, that sort of thing. We did our best for him, but we knew we couldn’t expect … But she … the other one … she’s always been the one who
was going to do great things. I think you’ll find she’ll make something of herself some day. And I thought you’d like to know that. And I also thought you’d like to know that your husband, as I
ought to call him now, sidled up to me the other night, and started asking me about the old boy’s will.

And he said, “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing. Chauffeuring him all over bloody Europe.” But maybe you do know that. Maybe it’s to be expected. And that is not why I am doing this.

That is not the reason at all.

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