Thelma and Louise, Bitch
By Anna Stewart
How me and mum came tae be livin it up on the Forfar Road is a pure massive saga. So I'm just gonnae tell yi the best bit: the end.
We were visitin Edinburgh fae Dundee, stayin at my Great-Auntie's flat on the other side o The Meadows. It wis a summer night and we were walkin back fae toon through the line o trees cawed Jawbone Walk, and that's when my Mum's husband put his hand up my skirt, right in front o her.
Years afore this man laid hands on me, but that time it wis mair in violence, no like this. This wis somethin a wee bit different, even fir him. That time, he'd tried tae persuade everyone it hadnae happened coz I wis a teenager and he wis a man, a heidie o a school, a responsible adult. And yi ken what I'm like: volatile, a shouter, a screamer then, I'd those hormones and that attitude. Bitch.
Back then, I didnae tell Mum ootright coz I couldnae speak the wurds tae her. So he got tae do the talkin. He'd a hold ower her: her money, her sense o wha she'd been, and slowly, slowly he cut her aff fae her ain life. "Fisty cuffs" are the wurds he used, coz as it happens, sometimes a forty-year auld man needs tae use fists on a girl o seventeen. A few years went by I didnae see that much o Mum, but enough time had passed fir us tae draw a line under it. Until this night on Jawbone Walk when I wis grown; twenty-five or twenty-six. This night, I didnae shout and scream - I got a minter. And even though it was dark, she'd seen what he'd done. So there wis shame again between us.
Except, twelve years he'd spent tryin tae rip us apart and he couldnae do it. He'd a need tae break things but didnae ken how, there's an unpredictable quality to a desperate man. He tried so awfy hard tae be different. He wore rainbow coloured waistcoats, deliberatley odd socks and a fidora hat. He wis a member o Tony Blairs Labour and liked singin Cher,
Do you believe in life after love
I can feel something inside me say
I really don't think you're strong enough
But that's fae his story, and I dinnae care tae tell it.
Soon, it would be the day we'd hire a van and pack up aw Mum's stuff when he wisnae in. He'd come back tae an empty hoose, and we'd wash the flairs o a rented flat in a closey only a few streets away, but wi a pretty efficient buzzer-entry-system and twa auld Italian sisters that lived side by side underneath keepin an eye on things. No long efter, me and the lad I wis livin wi split up and I came tae live on Forfar Road wi a sair hert, and weight issues fae eatin too many hot dinners.
Thats when the fun began.
Every night Mum came hame wi wine. Aw I'd tae do wis put dry pasta in a pan and she wis poppin the cork, fillin the glasses. I'd never had a better flatmate. We went on holiday tae Finland and swam in ain o their fifty-five-thousand lakes, we took saunas and joined a gym, got back massages and had oor hair done. I did a master's degree, and Mum went on dates wi guys that wernae psychotic. We watched Thelma and Louise on TV and got in debt, then got oot it again. We had pals ower and Mum threw pillows and broke loadso glass. I mooned a bus fae the windae. Mum went aw the way tae Ayrshire tae get a dog that turned oot wild. We telt each other the stories fae oor lives. We joined groups, then unjoined them thegither. We cleaned up shite spewin fae the saniflo toilet oor landlord wouldnae fix. We learned tae faw asleep in the dark. I graduated, then signed on the dole and we started a book club that wis just her and me. We sang songs and took photographs, and once, I saw a squirrel eat a nut oot Mum's hand.
Fae the windae, fireworks blasted different coloured light year efter year while we waited fir her divorce tae come through. And aw that time he wis draggin it oot, we lived life and were defiant in oor happiness, free tae be a family again: Free
A few years later, Mum wis sat ootside the maternity ward readin a book and waitin fir hours, just incase I needed her. And as it happened, I did.
Through aw they antinatal classes, naebody tells yi that the border o birth and death is paper thin. Naebody tells yi how it feels bein there in-between, or that yir mind might try tae reach that place again and again, coz theres comfort, and sometimes a grippin fear - knowin what it'll be like tae hand yirsel ower at lifes end tae that naewhaur-room.
Mum wis in there wi me.
She cut the cord when my boy gulped air that first time and now they play the games I remember as a bairn, and I see my Mum fae back then, before the bruise o that man took hold: I see how oor happiness has erased him.
How we've rubbed the fucker oot.