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Chapter 34
We had not finished the wine at the restaurant. I decided tocompensate for the resulting alcohol deficit and poured atumbler of tequila. I turned on the television screen andcomputer and fast-forwarded Casablanca for one last try. Iwatched as Humphrey Bogart’s character used beans as ametaphor for the relative unimportance in the wider world ofhis relationship with Ingrid Bergman’s character, and chose logicand decency ahead of his selfish emotional desires.
The quandary and resulting decision made for an engrossingfilm. But this was not what people cried about. They were inlove and could never be together. I repeated this statementto myself, trying to force an emotional reaction. I couldn’t. Ididn’t care. I had enough problems of my own.
The doorbell buzzed, and I immediately thought Rosie, butwhen I pushed the CCTV button, it was Claudia’s face thatappeared.
‘Don, are you okay?’ she said. ‘Can we come up?’
‘It’s too late.’
Claudia sounded panicked. ‘What have you done? Don?’
268/290‘It’s 10.31,’ I said. ‘Too late for visitors.’
‘Are you okay?’ said Claudia, again.
‘I’m fine. The experience has been highly useful. New socialskills.
And final resolution of the Wife Problem. Clear evidence thatI’m incompatible with women.’
Gene’s face appeared on the screen. ‘Don. Can we come upfor a drink?’
‘Alcohol would be a bad idea.’ I still had a half-glass of tequilain my hand. I was telling a polite lie to avoid social contact. Iturned off the intercom.
The message light on my home phone was flashing. It was myparents and brother wishing me a happy birthday. I hadalready spoken to my mother two days earlier when she madeher regular Sunday evening call. These past three weeks, I hadbeen attempting to provide some news in return, but had notmentioned Rosie. They were utilising the speaker-phonefunction, and collectively sang the birthday song – or at leastmy mother did, strongly encouraging my other two relatives toparticipate.
‘Ring back if you’re home before 10.30,’ my mother said. Itwas 10.38, but I decided not to be pedantic.
‘It’s 10.39,’ said my mother. ‘I’m surprised you rang back.’
Clearly she had expected me to be pedantic, which wasreasonable given my history, but she sounded pleased.
‘Hey,’ said my brother. ‘Gary Parkinson’s sister saw you onFacebook. Who’s the redhead?’
‘Just a girl I was dating.’
‘Pull the other leg,’ said my brother.
The words had sounded strange to me too, but I had notbeen joking.
‘I’m not seeing her any more.’
‘I thought you might say that.’ He laughed.
269/290My mother interrupted. ‘Stop it, Trevor. Donald, you didn’t tellus you were seeing someone. You know you’re always welcome–’
‘Mum, he was having a lend of you,’ said my brother.
‘I said,’ said my mother, ‘that any time you want to bringanyone to meet us, whoever she or he –’
‘Leave him alone, both of you,’ said my father.
There was a pause, and some conversation in the background.
Then my brother said, ‘Sorry, mate. I was just having a go. Iknow you think I’m some sort of redneck, but I’m okay withwho you are. I’d hate you to get to this age and think I stillhad a problem with it.’
So, to add to a momentous day, I corrected a misconceptionthat my family had held for at least fifteen years and came outto them as straight.
The conversations with Gene, Phil and my family had beensurprisingly therapeutic. I did not need to use the EdinburghPostnatal Depression Scale to know that I was feeling sad, butI was back from the edge of the pit. I would need to do somedisciplined thinking in the near future to be certain ofremai............
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