Mother died today, or maybe yesterday; I can't, be sure. Of course, my first reaction upon hearing it was a sense of relief. She was in so much pain. I was in shock until later.
But George, who thought he was until then my brother, took it hard: it was a double blow to him, accepting the woman who had died before his very eyes was dead before she could expound on her last words: “I'm not your mother.”
And where did that leave me? How could I explain it to him - the secret I had withheld from him all these years? She had made me promise not to tell him until after her death. So I did. As she had been for some time, her death was hardly unexpected, but the secret it unearthed was.
Trembling and agitated he called at my home. He never visited me, so I should have known something was up.
I invited him in and said: “Sit down, George”. He replied with “It's you who'll need the seat”. When he told me, I was numb. Because I knew it was coming didn't make me less shocked. Well, I got out a bottle and we finished it between us in minutes. One drink led to another. He vomited in the kitchen sink.
'What did she mean by it, "I'm not your mother"?' asking, more to himself than me, as if he didn't expect me to provide the answer. Then I thought the time was right to tell him what he should have known years ago. What with the drink and the shock I couldn't have put it worse.
“Your mother was a prostitute,” I said. Then he hit me.
I must have blacked out then. When I woke up I went on a bender and here I am. Is it Tuesday -- or Wednesday? The house is a mess, I'm a mess. I'm sorry. I should have gone looking for him. But what did I do instead? Drank myself into another stupor. Good old me. But I did tell him the truth and I kept my promise to Mother -- my mother.
This is what I was trying to tell him. She and dad (bless his memory) had been trying for a child for a while without success. You can imagine the joy when she conceived. You can therefore imagine the devastation when, late on in the pregnancy, she miscarried. From then on it was a conspiracy between dad and her.
An old friend of hers, after falling on hard times, had turned to prostitution but had eventually put all that behind her and had found a man, had settled down and was expecting a child. Then her man had left her for somebody else, when she was heavily pregnant. She was at her wits' end and turned to mother for help. Mother came up with what she thought was the ideal solution; the baby would be born in her house and they would both look after it.
But this was still too much for my mother's friend. She died of a drink and drugs overdose shortly after the birth. My mother (or “Mother”, as she was known to us) reared the baby. Then I came along.
It was only when I was in my late teens that I discovered my older “brother” was not my brother at all. I overheard my mother and father talking about it late one night, when I was staying with them during the college vacation. When in the morning I questioned then about it, they told me all. Suddenly everything that seemed solid and familiar felt insubstantial: I found myself gazing at the yellow formica table in the kitchen with the Fussel's milk on it -- just gazing. My only impression was of that table and that tin of milk. It sounds odd, but I couldn't take anything else in. It's etched into my mind. Only that was real. Nothing else.
She made me promise to forget about it and that is what I did -- well, I didn't forget about it (how could you forget about something that?) but I blocked it out and went on with my life. Life at college was vibrant as well as stressful and I couldn't deal with an impediment that at such a time and at such an age.
I ought to have explained it all a lot sooner.
"Found him dead yesterday, you say, officer? No, no, he wasn't with me yesterday--or was he?"
You're at the bottom!