Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
About a year after I came out the dust had settled. All financial support from my family had ceased. Many harsh things were said- mostly by me. And at that precise moment I was presented with a case of and for an alternate reality. One where a near pathological machismo had never existed in our lives. Suddenly it was all a matter of my imagination. My life had been, as they’d always presented, one of idyll. And they all sat around a table and their heads bobbed up and down at this story, much more elegant than the one I’d been telling. That was it.
I wasn’t sure how to feel at first. To be honest I still don’t know now eighteeen years later. The more charming narrative has so much going for it; and it’s so much easier when things are black or white. After all, who wouldn’t want to be that boy they speak of? The luckiest boy in the world, my father would say. People can only dream of a life like yours. I wonder if he really believes that? Or is he so lost in the narrative himself that he’s blind to reality.
Mine was not one of those accidental births the result of an adolescent fumble. Nor was it one of those where parents desperately yearn to hold a baby. I was part of something bigger. A machine, a cycle. I was born and branded. Named after my grandfather, just as my father had been named after his. The right to a personal identity stripped from me there and then. It was March 23, 1978, Maundy Thursday. My birth was moved up by four days as to not interfere with the Easter Holiday.
The next day I was taken to the house at Slave Hill and handed to a woman named Dejanira. Amusingly enough that means man destroyer in Greek. Dinner was apparently a disaster. My grandparents were most unhappy about being related to each other and traded barbs at the table. My mother went to bed early. My father went out with his friends. And even Dejanira fell asleep; on a mattress at the foot of my crib. And by my crib I mean the one that had served my father before me.
My French grandmother says she could hear me crying later that night. And the crying continued, and no one woke up, no one got up. She lay in her bed and wondered if she should just let it happen. Let the child cry. Let it be his first lesson. Get it over with. Let his little heart break now. Let him realise this is how the world really works. You end up crying and alone in the dark. And she wanted desperately to get up, and her eyes filled with water; but she was frozen, staring at the stripes on the floor. Moonlight through the venetian blinds. The only time of day the house at Slave Hill revealed itself as the prison it was.