I’m glad I tracked him down…
When I was a teenager at boarding school, I was often living with my divorcee mother in London over the holidays. I had my own room in her flat. She was dating. I was a Christian teenage boy full of ideas and hormones. It was weird that my mum was dating at the same time as me. It’s only just occurred to me that that might be part of why I detest the transactional nature of dating. Because I’d see these lizards and my mum was behaving as if she couldn’t tell they were lizards.
Anyway, she ended up with this guy. He was as bust up and glamorous as her, so I get it. Part of me disliked the story he came with, as he was always just about to be rich. Mum was not a city girl. She wanted to live in nature, but she spent all she could on this urban flat to stop having to make rent. The deal was always that he would buy the country house once his magic money came in. His magic money never came. Living in the city definitely contributed to her malaise. I resented the guy. He had constructed a fantasy world so convincingly that she had staked her happiness on it. It never came. The magical money is still almost landing. Almost… It never will.
Last time I saw him properly we had a row, and at the time I decided I was done with him. This amazing life he’d had – he kept on telling me how he was close to having it made into a film. Then a couple of years ago we went to a pub. It was his idea to do so. We ate a meal and caught up. After the meal he said “I just need to find a writer who can take the time to give a good account of my life – to turn it into a book.” I found myself in a difficult situation. Not only was I very busy, but also my history with him was not exactly free from complication. In a few moments I cycled through all sorts of emotions and questions: “Can I take the huge amount of time needed to collate this information about him, with no guarantee of payback?” “Will I be able to put aside my suspicion of the not-my-father man who stewarded my mother’s wet death?” “Will it make a good enough story?” I fought with myself silently, mentally sacrificed some low paid work to make room for some sessions with him, and eventually agreed:
“Very well. If you’re asking, I will take it on. We’ll have to see a lot more of one another though over the next few weeks. A lot more.”
I had misjudged it.
“You? What do you mean you? No, I need an actual writer. Like — (celebrities who write)”
“Oh. Oh… Um… I thought you were obliquely asking me. Still… I mean… I could… Maybe it’d be good to start by meeting up next week and I could start to make notes. It’ll take some time…”
“But… But no, Alexander. What have you ever written? I need a writer?”
“Well… I have this daily blog…”
“A blog?? Good lord no. I’m looking for an actual writer.”
My pride got in the way. Without expecting to, I went home hurt and angry. I dismissed him as utterly as he had just dismissed me. Earlier I had misread the situation and thought he was asking me to write his story. I ran the gamut and eventually put aside my historic distaste, knowing I could maybe be an interesting and catchy scribe of this remarkable life he had led. I even told myself that perhaps it would bring us closer together. My history with him, his crazy life story. There is a book there. I knew it in that moment. But his response was to belittle me. “It has to be a real writer.”
That was few years ago now though. He’s ninety. And he’s in a home. I worried about him and made some enquiries. I went to see him today. He never found his writer… I’m over the insult now, but I know that if I were to suggest once more that we could find a way to collaborate he’d throw it out again. I need a recognised prize. Perhaps I should submit myself to some sort of blog award – but I think the whole medium is empty of significance to him. Plus I’m not writing this for you to validate me. Screw you.
In the end though it means that because of his obsession with celebrity his remarkable life won’t be remembered.
But despite all this – I’m glad I tracked him down again. The last time we met I left in anger. But he was a part of my life, and now he’s in a home, sitting listening to classic FM all day in a sterile room with friendly nurses who can never be friendly enough to stop you knowing that you’re finally trapped in your own body…