Thursday, 29 September 2016
In Cassidy's Care: 7: Yesterday
Saturday evenings were desolate. Cassidy sat in front of late night TV, nursing a beer. ‘Match of the Day’. He’d never been able to understand the rules of soccer, ‘Football’ as they insisted on calling it here. There was an ache in his jaw, a word in his mouth that he couldn’t form and a numbness that he knew to be grief. Again he reached for that elusive word, tried to roll it around his tongue and push it forward, but it was like looking for salt in the kitchen cupboard; he knew it was there, but he just couldn’t put a hand on it. He felt loveless and needy. Sure, love was over rated and something that recent experience had taught him to be wary of, but, beyond the odd grapple with an equally needy colleague, he wanted more than just the occasional glimpse of hope. He wanted the possibility of something better, something tangible. He knew himself capable of love; his sons were testament to that, but what of the adult world? It seemed that he lacked something, some faculty for connection, a lack that manifested itself as this dull… emptiness. He tried to call it sadness; tried to touch that ‘sadness’ but it had no centre, no substance; it was something beyond longing; just one more intangible that he couldn’t name and claim.
Cassidy turned the TV off, eyed the kitchen sink and from a sitting position attempted a hook shot with his crumpled beer can.
“Go Cassidy” he whooped and ‘high-fived’ himself.
He was done with laconic lucidity. He needed to act, to get to the heart of things, but how to proceed, how to get a hold on things? He struggled to his feet, reached for the iPod and scoured his music library, then got himself another Bud from the fridge. He rubbed his forehead; beer and Beethoven were usually a sure quick fix but tonight he just felt plain baffled. He reset the iPod to ‘shuffle’, turned up the volume and ambled to the bathroom.
‘Doctor my eyes have seen the tears and the slow parade of fears.’
Jackson Browne. He loved Jackson Browne. This song could have been written for him, for this moment. He took a piss and then stood in front of the bathroom mirror, examining himself.
He liked this mirror. With the light behind, you couldn’t see the… specifics. He took off his shirt; shoulders back, gut in.
His freckled chest sagged; a tuft of reddish grey sprouted apologetically, an inverted nipple somehow making his chest look boz-eyed. His arms hung limp by bloated belly, un-toned and powerless. Maybe a tattoo would help define him; give him a feature.
What would the tattoo say?
He couldn’t think of one thing.
So, he tried to think of something that would make him happy. He definitely did not want to be one of those people who’d sigh and profess themselves ‘happy enough’, as if any more joy would cause an overflow, an unseemly flood that would make an embarrassing stain on the mattress of their hot bed of happiness. He still stirred in the early hours, hearing Amelia’s key slide into the lock; still heard her whisper ‘Babe, I’m home’, a fleeting thrill that evaporated abruptly as he spoke into the empty darkness. He recognized that brief ecstasy as nostalgic nonsense. Not happiness. His boys made him giddy at the recognition that he could love and be loved; the ‘unconditional love’ that the ‘Earth Mothers’ of Hampstead always banged on about; it really did exist. But with that love came an almost asphyxiating burden of responsibility. The boys made him ‘happy’ but at a price. Cassidy wanted a happiness that was weightless, frivolous. He wanted to be one of those… what was that REM song? He loved REM.
‘Shiny Happy People’
That was it; he wanted to shine with happiness.
He attempted his brightest smile.
His reflection leered back.
He tried to laugh out loud and heard the braying of a desperate donkey.
“I want joy”, he said.
“I need joy”, he shouted.
“I deserve joy”, he screamed.
“I don’t deserve… this”, he whispered.
He turned on the cold tap, filled his empty beer can and shuffled back into the lounge to water his cactus, the first time he’d ever thought of doing this. Were you even meant to water a cactus? If so, how the hell had it survived for… ten years?
He sat down again, waiting for that jolt of joy, and as he sat and waited Cassidy saw that happiness was a stranger; a stranger that you seldom look in the eye. Happiness was something that you caught out of the corner of your eye, glimpsed fleetingly and only recognized as it left the room. He looked at his distorted reflection in the TV screen. This particular stranger had stolen his life.
There was the sound of a moving chair in the flat above. Was it really nearly a week since Monty had been assaulted? Time was a concertina, especially in times of stress. Monty was out of intensive care, back at home and doing well, but a punctured lung would deflate his amorous longings for the foreseeable future. Claude was nowhere to be found; probably stalking Central Park or burgling Brooklyn.
The phone rang; it was Amelia.
“Peter, Mac, Mac’s…”
“Amelia? What’s happened?”
“I need to tell you… about Mac…”
Mayfair Mac was the family cat. Cassidy and Amelia had brought him as a kitten in the year that they married. He was a ‘Scottish Fold’, his wide-eyed stare and oddly folded ears always reminded Peter of an owl. Mac was a real character, maverick and frisky as hell. Before they finally had him neutered he had cast his seed amongst most of the female cat population of North London, showing particular interest in the classy queens of Marble Arch and beyond, hence his nickname. His lack of McNuggets was a firm family joke but, if anything, he had become more amorous after the snip. Nothing was safe from Mayfair Mac’s attentions: small dogs, cushions, teddy bears, Monty’s leg. Cassidy had even taken to sleeping in boxer shorts just in case. To some neighbours Mayfair Mac was legend; to many he was a serial rapist.
On one famous occasion Mac had been returned to their West Hampstead flat in a taxi, with a handwritten note from the American Ambassador, a note that Cassidy still had proudly stuck to his fridge door:
“To the owners of ‘Mac’: I am pleased to return your cat safely, although I cannot say that my wife was so concerned about his health. She found him in flagrante delicto with her beloved Ragamuffin ‘Prada’. Mac had slipped in through the gardens of Winfield House and into the kitchens of our ‘high security’ residence in Regents Park. He was impossible to deter and seemed focused on one thing only. He did the deed (twice) before demolishing Prada’s ‘Fancy Feast’ supper (Savory Salmon) and then, just wouldn’t leave.
The taxi might strike you as an odd touch but it did seem to befit ‘Mayfair Mac’ (how quaint) who does appear a singular sort. We know of his name and home address by the tag on his collar. Might I suggest a shorter lead or a visit to your closest veterinarian surgeon?
I must say that he is very impressive in action; he’s quite the stud is your Mac…
There was a considered division of spoils after the split, a cordial agreement regarding access to the boys, and yes, Cassidy could keep the bloody cactus, but Amelia had taken Mac and the exercise bike without question. This pissed Peter off. He could live without the bike, but that cat he loved, as did his boys. It gave Bayswater an added allure that Cassidy couldn’t compete with. Apparently Mac was happier there too. He had that tiny garden to shit in.
“Whose he been bonking now?”
“His bonking days are over Pete. Mac’s dead.”
Early that morning, after devouring a bowl of ‘Friskies’, Mac had gone out for his early morning ‘constitutional’ and had somehow become entangled in the blades of one of Westminster council’s lawnmowers. Amelia had opened the door to a tearful council worker who held Mac’s collar in one trembling hand and a Tesco bag full of Mac bits in the other, muttering “He just jumped in front of me missus; chasing a fluffy Persian he was. Nothing I could do…”