Standing in my garden, smoking too quickly and slightly drunk, it came to me that I should write to you. It’s funny how certain smells can make a person nostalgic – just cigarette smoke and night time made me think of you. Those smells don’t remind me of you, exactly, because nothing really does (and because I don’t think you did smoke) but they’re inextricably linked to every memory I have of thinking about you in my adult life.
I would have described the sky out there as a misty navy blue, and the trees over by the park as almost racing green like one of my dad’s old fixer-upper cars. It struck me that the sky was much more accurately a shade of purple, bleeding into pinks around the edges of the trees where the streetlights so arrogantly change the meaning of darkness. Against the purple, it was the trees that looked blue, not the sky at all. I assigned green for trees and blue for sky because I know this to be true – for the most part – in waking life. Maybe this is what reminded me of you. I know trees are green, so it is possible for me to misinterpret actual, visual experience of them; I have no solid memory of who or what you were to me, which has enabled me (though it often feels so much the opposite) to make both a monster and a hero of you. I hope this letter finds you well.
There are only very few things I can remember about the old house, and if Freud has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot trust our own memories. (Oh, how underprepared I was for that piece of information! I spent my entire teenage life expecting to be ridiculed for my ill-formed opinions, then hit my twenties only to discover that the things I remember are suspect; it’s a wonder I didn’t kill myself there and then.) I suppose what I could have done was quickly form the opinion that Freud is an idiot, but I wasn’t thinking straight.
But I digress. (I’m sorry – I’m more nervous than I thought I would be; it seems like forever since I saw you last. Technically, it was 1992 in the flesh and 2005 in the first and last photograph I saw of you. I came across it in my mum’s photo album that summer; I think I set it on fire in October of that year. It might have been November, actually – I just remember it was freezing out by the lake.) The first thing I remember about that old house was waiting at the end of the bed with my chin on the windowsill, looking out for Father Christmas. I suppose I was about three or so. I remember seeing myself as some kind of darling Disney heroine, eyelids drooping, waiting ever-so-humbly for a simple wooden gift. Freud might have been on to something, but I definitely felt that as I drifted to sleep, failing to stay awake long enough to meet the man himself, I cut something of a sympathetic figure for the invisible audience I had imagined to accompany me. I don’t suppose you’d know, but the most ridiculous thing about this is that I was not the sort of child who would wait patiently for a hand-carved spinning top, elf-made or not. I think I’d asked for my own toy Post Office that year, all garish multi-coloured plastic befitting the decade. It came with tiny plastic jars of hundreds-and-thousands and a set of scales to measure them out (sparingly) to my brother and other customers.
I suppose you could say that I was lucky not to remember the extent of what happened, but I don’t mind telling you it’s made things a bit more complicated for me than I’d like.”
I wonder if I served you in my foldaway Post Office? (I’m fairly certain my mum would have continued to refill the hundreds-and-thousands in those jars for many years and at little cost.) At seventeen, I got my first real job in the Post Office on the estate. I think you’d moved away by then, and were married by that time, too. It was just selling lottery tickets and stuff, nothing exciting, but I got to sit on my own for long stretches, eating my wages in bonbons from greasy paper bags. Ten years later, I’m still playing shops for a living, like some Baz Luhrmann reimagining of Miss Havisham: I have cast off the old wedding dress for a ‘Hello! My Name Is…’ badge and an inane grin. (I have met somebody, actually. He’s wonderful and loves me. He’s nothing like you but I think you would like him. I suppose I’m not like Havisham after all.)
My second memory of that house took place around a year later. You’d come to tuck me into bed and I was so pleased that I was the centre of attention, I don’t think I would have minded what you were doing even if I’d understood what it was. I suppose you could say that I was lucky not to remember the extent of what happened, but I don’t mind telling you it’s made things a bit more complicated for me than I’d like. Once we moved house, I did try to tell my parents about you (I hope you didn’t feel offended that you were no longer called upon to take care of us; probably you didn’t think of me again after that), but I’m not sure they fully understood what I was getting at. I’ve tried since, but it seems that my vocabulary was insufficient back then and my memory of it isn’t all that strong now. I suppose that’s part of the reason I’m writing to you. Words failed me then; I don’t know how much longer I can retaliate by failing them in return. I thought maybe if you would think back, you might be able to help me to understand.
It is hard to decide whether or not to be bitter when you have no recollection of the events you might like to be bitter about. Luckily, I’ve found a way around this by hating you equal parts for fucking a child, and for suggesting you might but then just growing up and leaving me behind. I’m twenty-seven now, and I still don’t know which is worse.
Laura Lucas earned her honours degree in English and American Literature from the University of Warwick. This is her first published work.