My life would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to spend all day, every day, looking after this obnoxious kid.
I’m trying to live a life here – to have fun, get things done, make the most of my allotted time – but there he is, bringing me down, looking up at me with that pathetic expression.
And he’s a coward. If I think of doing anything messy or dangerous he gets into a terrible state, holding me back with all his petulant strength. He’s much happier when we do the same things, in the same places, with no chance of humiliation. Every now and then I assert my authority and take a risk despite the kid’s pleading and it’s almost always worth it, which makes me resent the drag he generates all the more.
When I want to make conversation with strangers he distracts me with constant demands for attention, pulling at my sleeve, in agonies of shyness so that I stumble over my words and end up only half-engaged. When I come away, I’m as angry at myself as I am at the kid.
Can you believe I have to take him to work, too? Have you ever tried to project dynamism and ambition when there’s a child standing next to you giving the old stage whisper: “We shouldn’t be here. You’re making us look stupid. These people are laughing at us.”
The kid likes me to keep my head down because he equates being noticed with being mocked. He makes me eat too much, and bad food at that. He won’t let me wear anything too smart or stylish, pointing mournfully at his own clothes – the cheap coat from the market stall, the hand-me-down trousers, the black daps. I end up watching the same old films, the same TV programmes, because he finds some comfort in them and shuts up for a few bloody minutes.
He has catalogued every time I’ve ever put my foot in my mouth or done something stupid and will suddenly remind me of those moments when I’m feeling at peace or content. How does he know the worst possible time? Does he do it with malice?
In his nastiest moments, the kid even tries to stop me writing, though he’s the one that got me started on all this. He knows the more I write, the less time I have to address his constant, petty neediness. In fact, the more I write about him, the more he fades into the background. He’s telling me right now not to post this, not to share the link on Twitter, listing reasons it will backfire on me.
Of course he’s not all bad. If it wasn’t for the kid it would never occur to me to stop by the waterside and skim stones, or sit cross-legged building sandcastles. Every now and then – this is when I like him best – he laughs, and it’s a lighter, freer laugh than mine.
And when I see the kids some other people have to drag around with them – bruised, broken, full of rage – I know I got off easy.