It’s Friday, I’m two weeks into the now familiar lockdown “juggle” because Flora’s school bubble has closed and she’s officially in isolation.
Isn’t that just the weirdest term, especially for a kid?!
She’s as bored as I am and any suggestion she gets on Google Classroom is met with a massive “fuck off” look. I know the exact look, where her eyeballs roll and her mouth sets better than any jelly I’ve seen, because it comes from me. I don’t blame her.
I tell myself to celebrate because she’s writing some really good stories on Google Docs; way more fun than turgid number bonds.
And she really does want hugs, like all day long, so that feels warm and squishy – a welcome and valid reason to stay alive right now.
I’m semi-conscious that I’ve slipped back into the “2020” version of me after a brief summer respite when I convinced myself things were OK. The one who makes oven-baked butternut squash for lunch, because it’s October, and I cannot be arsed to ruin my day by eating something as boring as a sandwich and also (more importantly) because it means I can be in the kitchen on my own, listening to whatever I want. I am in control for a tiny second! If I was a queen these kitchen stories would be my queendom.
“Alexa, play Beverley Craven” I say, feeling a bit surprised by the words slipping out of my mouth.
I literally haven’t thought about the lyrics of Promise Me since forever, but they feel familiar and nostalgic and take my mind off the tequila I’m mentally pouring myself. A big hug from 1990 delivered by Alexa. A welcome reminder that it’s OK despite all the shit of this year.
I realise that I want to feel like that again. Like it’s 1990 and I’m 14 and although I’m a mess of tumbling hormones and gutted because a “friend” showed me a note that the boy I liked had written saying I looked like a boy, I had the blessing of hope.
Hope for the future. Hope for the present. The fantasy that Christian Slater might relieve me of my virginity was still alive and kicking. Oh how I longed for that to happen. The idea of him pumping up the volume inside me was 4 realz in 1990. Life was good. Where even is Christian Slater these days? ****searches on Instagram*****
Back in real life, I pour Fairy Liquid on my risotto (#domesticgoddess) instead of olive oil because right at the same time I’m busy figuring out how much tequila Frida Khalo drank to keep herself going through all of her insurmountable pain.
Just the thought of a shot of tequila sparks some lightbulbs inside…
Firstly that the reason I keep looking back is because our present and future is so fucking bleak. I really am questioning whether I should be alive? Was I irresponsible to birth new life into this shit show? Who even am I anyway?
Secondly, I realise, with a thud to my heart, that if I go right back to the very beginning, I don’t even know the story of my conception or existentially, how I became a human being?
I was born just before the long, hot summer of 1976 in South Shields. For those of you less familiar with Geordie geography, it’s a coastal town that bloomed in the 1800s thanks to the coal mining in the area. It’s a few miles down the Tyne from Newcastle, famous for Gazza, nightlife and it’s eponymous brown ale. It’s just a twinkling light across the river from salubrious and cool Tynemouth. But South Shields is neither cool nor particularly salubrious.
People from South Shields are called Sandancers, the origins of which are a mystery weaved into folklore. There are many stories and possibilities but the one I choose to believe is that it’s people used to dance in caves by the beach.
I’m a sandancer.
You see, I was created by a 16-year old girl called Joan and a Dutch dad, fresh off the boat from Rotterdam. Tall and handsome and blond (of course!) according to the notes I read in the file my adoptive mum gave me just before she died.
He was working as a roadie for a pop group, presumably playing that night in Newcastle.
Joan was a hairdresser, or apprentice hairdresser I believe. And that is all I know other than eight-and-a-bit months later I was born three weeks early on the 28th April, named Natalie and placed into an orphanage.
I may never know how I came to be the product of a night I know nothing about. 2020 seems like a good time to ask the questions:
Was it good?
Were they drunk?
Did he look at her the way Connell Waldron looks at Marianne in Normal People?
Like he wanted nothing else but to be inside her body and brain, all of the time until the end of time?
Did the soft orange sunset on the Tyne shine onto their semi-naked bodies as he took her virginity with certainty and absolute passion? Or, was it a hasty, skirt-hitched, one-night stand at the back of the venue that the group were playing at?
Did my dad just help himself to a delirious fan who was underage and willing to do literally anything to get closer to her idol? Did he pop her nubile Geordie cherry with the promise of a signed autograph with said pop star?
Did she love fucking him and come or did she feel ashamed and grotty afterwards when she told her friend what happened, as they missed the last bus and walked home with chips, scraps and a can of Dr Pepper?
I ruminate on all of this as I take the pan out of the oven, breathe in the earthy scent of squash and pour a longed-for tequila. Life is shit. Life is good. Our brains don’t know the difference between reality and fiction and does that even matter anymore? All I know is that stories, real or not real, are life. What else matters right now?
So much love and thanks for reading this first part, R xxx