What a bastard I must have been; what an abominable shit. If there are years I'd like to revisit it would be those from when I was around twelve to sixteen, just to see if I could do a better job second time around.
On second thoughts I don't think I'd like to revisit them. I've heard people say, "Those are the best years of your life." They may be for some, but not for me. They were the loneliest years of my life, and no wonder given the sort of arsehole I was.
Always looking for an argument and when I got one saying the most stupid and illogical things just to win it; always irritable and complaining; abusing the teachers; I was suspended from school at least three times and came close to being expelled.
Those were the years of seething hormones, when you shoot upwards but not outwards, so you're a skinny gangling thing, and you tell yourself you're ugly and pimply and no one, especially a girl, could ever like you - that proved to be a self fulfilling prophesy.
Then there's the pubic hair and an enlarged penis that always seem to be horny, which I suppose is okay if you've got someone to play your horn with, but I hadn't, so I had to learn to play solo.
I used to go for long walks on my own, and although I pretended I liked being on my own, I was really praying I'd meet someone to walk with and talk to. Of course, if that someone was female and she said "Let's go behind that bush and fuck," it would have been a bonus, but it never happened.
To add to my woes I caught a vile disease; it's called, "Liking classical music." I caught it from my mother who along with her other maladies suffers from "Going to the theatre syndrome," and an infestation of "I like reading poetry."
The overarching infection mother suffers from is "Being a university lecturer in English."
As those who suffer from these types of ailments will realise, they do not make for popularity when you're a teenager. I seemed unable to engage in activities popular among my peers, and even in sport I went in for long distance running which is hardly a team sport.
If I could turn back the clock and return to those days there would be one reason and one only. I would like to try and heal the many wounds I must have given mother at that time with my petulant and insulting behaviour.
Perhaps some of you have heard the old song, "You Always Hurt the One you Love;" a sloppy and sentimental piece, but with more than a grain of truth. I think I must have loved mother a great deal if the hurts I inflicted are the measure.
Looking back now at those days from the vantage point of fourteen years on, I can see how much mother had to endure, not only from me, but my father as well.
Some said my father was a genius. He and mother had met when both of them were just starting as tutors at the university; my father in the Physics Department. It was expected that he would have a brilliant career; sadly it never happened.
How it all began I'm not sure because I was only a kid when my father first started to drink excessively. By the time I did understand about such things father was an alcoholic. In addition he had taken to gambling believing that mathematically he could come up with a system that would mean he would always win.
Of course, as he explained endlessly, like all such systems it had to be perfected. In the process of perfecting his system to my knowledge he twice emptied his and mother's joint bank account and ran into overdraft. There may have been more times that I did not know of.
By the time I was around eleven his career was in tatters. He had been dismissed, not only from his university position, but from a series of jobs and was on a fast downward slope.
There were times when he had treatment and it looked as if he would overcome his alcoholism and gambling obsession, but it never lasted.
How or why mother tolerated his behaviour and why she stayed with him is still a mystery to me. Knowing her as I do I think she is one of the minority of people who these days take their marriage vows seriously; that and the hope that one day father would get back on track again.
I can recall a time when I was fifteen and I'd just been suspended from school for the second time and father was going through one of his frequent drinking and gambling periods. I found mother sitting at the kitchen table crying. I had never seen her cry before. I wanted to comfort her, but didn't know how.
I suppose my inability to say or do anything arose from the guilty knowledge that I was in part responsible for her distress.
Mother's hope that father would change was a vain one, and finally it was he who made an end of it. One day he left the house and didn't return. Mother eventually contacted the police and reported him as missing. At first I don't think they took it seriously, no doubt believing it was just one more guy who'd run off with another woman.
It became serious when a couple walking along an isolated beach found a heap of clothes that were eventually identified as belonging to father. In addition his car was parked at the top of the cliffs that skirted the beach. No body was ever recovered and at the inquest an open verdict was given.
Most people, including mother, believed he had committed suicide, and that seems rational enough, but I'm not so sure.
What are the alternatives? Accidental death; he went for a swim, got into trouble and drowned? Murder; that's a possibility, the murderer wanting it to make it look like suicide; I think that the police believed it might be murder and questioned mother, me and a few other people, but it all came to nothing.
I have what most would think an absurd belief that father is still alive. He knew he had ruined his life and thought he could make a fresh start, so he faked suicide and disappeared. I sometimes wonder if one day he'll just walk into the house. I don't think I really grieved over father's death. It was in fact something of a relief not to have him around either boozed out of his mind, or bringing yet another financial disaster upon us, or more likely both at the same time.
I couldn't read mother at that time. Always a very quiet person she became almost incommunicado for a while. Perhaps it was something like this that she had expected to happen and she probably felt a sense of relief that it was over and was in the process of digesting it.
I am tempted to call father's death, if that is what it was, a tragic event, but the real tragedy had taken place long before his actual death when he began to ruin a promising career, and with it what could have been a fulfilling relationship with mother.
From what I have been told, when they married they were seen as "The beautiful couple." That's how they were for some time. From the wedding photographs I could see that my father was a very handsome man and mother undoubtedly an attractive woman.
Eventually my father's drinking had started to mar his looks, and by the time of his disappearance my mother was still attractive but had a weary look about her.
Not long after these events I had my sixteenth birthday. I think what had happened to my father and the waste of it all had a positive effect on me. I can remember coming to the conclusion I'd better start doing something about my life and future.
Perhaps my hormones had settled down a bit, and instead of being a long streak of misery, and while still growing upwards, I could see the first signs of my filling out. I even flattered myself that I resembled my father when he was young.
It was during the following year that I not only got down to studying and attempting to be a less obnoxious person, when I also had what I call my "Near sex experience."
It came about like this: there was a girl in my class called Mercy. She was a buxom creature with frizzy red hair and a white freckled complexion. Her major asset was huge breasts that threatened to burst out of her clothing. Some of the guys used to joke about those might mammary glands, saying there they arrived on the scene five minutes before the rest of her.
At one time she had been very popular with the other guys in the class, but I'd noted they'd gradually dropped away from her.
I should have taken a warning from this drop off in her popularity, but being somewhat naïve about such things I didn't. I don't know how I managed it, but I scraped up the courage to ask her for a date. She accepted and we went to see a film at what was known locally as "The Flea Pit." Believe it or not this was my first date with a girl.
Some time during the film our hands touched and fingers intertwined. By the end of the programme our hands were hot and sweaty and my penis was hard and dripping eagerly.
I'd taken over my father's car so I started to drive Mercy home. She lived a little way out of town where there is a small cluster of houses near the cliff top. Before we got to the house Mercy said, "Why don't we stop here and look at the moon reflecting on the sea."
I should point out that there was no moon in evidence that night.
This, I decided, was it. I stopped the car, its nose pointing out to sea, and took Mercy's hand again. She leaned her head on my shoulder and screwing up my courage I kissed her. I admit it wasn't a very expert kiss since I'd had no prior experience of kissing a girl – well only mother when I was a kid.
Mercy turned it into a full-blown job, and in seconds her tongue felt as if it was halfway down my throat. I responded – or is it reacted? She was wearing a low cut dress that had her nearly naked to the nipples.
I shoved my hand down the top of her dress to take hold of a breast. Then I got my reward. She struck me a stinging blow across the face and said, "You filthy bastard, I'm not that sort of girl."
I think she said a few more things in similar vein but I was recovering from the shock of the blow. She got out of the car and stomped off up the road disappearing her rear end wagging wrathfully (she had a rear end to match her boobs) into the dark. I suppose I should have driven after her but since her house was only about half a kilometre from where I had parked I let her stomp on.
That ended my near sex experience. I learned later that most of the other guys in my class had received the same treatment; a nice lead up and then a swipe across the face. I also learned she was known as "Balls breaker Bested," (Bested was her family name).
Being somewhat hesitant when it came to things social I made no further attempts to date girls.
The strange thing is, about six months after my close encounter with Mercy she left school. Rumour had it that she was pregnant and daddy was a widower farmer some twenty years older than Mercy.
The rumours proved to be true since their wedding was announced in the local paper. About a year later I saw her outside the supermarket pushing a baby in a pram. She passed me without a glance.
No doubt the farmer was somewhat more experienced in matters sexual than most of the guys who had attempted Mercy, and maybe he got a bit insistent and had forcefully invaded Fortress Mercy Vagina which lacked the defence of the contraceptive pill.
I considered I'd had a narrow escape, because if Mercy had been merciful and let me relieve my overfull testes into her, I might have been daddy and then saddled later in life with an overweight partner with couple of collapsed and dangling bosoms. I think a number of the guys breathed a sigh of relief.
Mother gradually came out of her time of silence and started to talk again. Not only did she talk, but she smiled, something I hadn't seen her do for a long time. Since my years of near insanity which they call "Adolescence" seemed to have calmed down we were getting along very well together; which might have been another reason for her smiles.
Mother also took to going out occasionally in the evenings; something she had rarely done when father was around. Once when she was out at a faculty function, father, well and truly boozed, had decided to cook something in a pan of oil.
During the course of this the cooking oil had caught fire and in attempting to put it out he somehow managed start a fire in the kitchen. It was just as well I was at home and smelt the smoke, because by the time I got to the kitchen the top of a low wooden cupboard was soaked with oil and burning very merrily.
After that mother tried never to go out when father was drunk, and since he mostly was drunk, that constricted her life.
Now, with her newly acquired freedom she started to go out on dates with some of the younger and single members of the faculty – with a couple of divorced guys as well I believe.
She never said much about these dates but they did go to concerts and theatres, and that was also something mother had been denied in those last few years when my father was around.
Mother never said much about the men she dated, but none of them seemed to last very long. I think that after her experiences with father she was wary, and didn't want to get too deeply involved. Whether or not these relationships became sexual I didn't know.
So for a while she played the merry widow, and then that petered out and she spent more time at home with me. I don't know why the dating tapered off but guessing I would say that the men wanted more than mother was prepared to give.
I wondered half humorously if she slapped their faces if and when they tried something. I don't really think so because mother isn't the slapping type. Perhaps she would be more likely to give them a brief dissertation on the virtues of abstinence.
Actually I don't think it was attempts on her virtue that caused the dating decline; it was more likely to be suggestions of something long term like marriage. On that score I had some sympathy for the guys because gradually I was coming to realise that mother was the sort of woman that any virile male would like to be married to.
Now that's another odd thing; I'd never really considered mother's looks while I was a kid, nor during that time when I was half kid and half adult. It was during those last two years at high school that I came to appreciate what a fine looking woman she was.
The departure of my father, apart from that time of silence, seemed to have peeled some years from her. For a long time her only relief from father and I had been her work. How tutoring a bunch of dim students could be a relief only shows what a lousy pair father and I were.
By the time I was seventeen mother had risen to become a senior lecturer in the faculty, and went off each day to regale the slow of wit with her love of literature. Over the years she had managed to instil some of that love in me, and with my post sixteenth birthday resolve to study hard, I started to excel in English and English literature. This started to rub off on other subjects, success, as it were, breeding success.
When I was a child mother had sometimes taken me to museums and art galleries and, if she considered it suitable, to some concerts and theatre.
During my pubescence if mother asked me to go with her to the theatre or a concert I'd refuse in a snarly manner. It wasn't that I didn't want to go, but going with mother seemed such a kid thing to do, so I ended up not going at all.
I also think that there was so much misery and confusion inside me I wanted to pass it on to someone else, and as the song says, it's always the one you love that you hurt. God know how many hurtful things I said and did to mother in those days.
In the end mother gave up asking me to go out with her, so it came as a mild but pleasant surprise when one evening she asked me to go and see a play with her.
It happened to be a Shakespeare play that was on the faculty curriculum that year and I didn't have mother all to myself. She had made up a small party of her students to go to the theatre with her. As best as I can recall there were three guys and five girls.
I sat through a rather average performance of "All's Well That Ends Well." Afterwards we went for a cup of coffee and I discovered that these were the brighter of mother's students. The discussion was really a critique of the performance and in their view it hadn't stacked up well.
They were all older than me, one of the women being at least forty; what they call "A mature age student." One thing was clear, they all admired mother and seemed fond of her.
I kept quiet just listening and watching. It was obvious that the guys admired mother for more than her knowledge. I noticed that while she was friendly with them, she kept them at a little distance, quickly turning aside anything that seemed like a suggestive remark.
For me mother had always been just mother. It was no surprise to me that men somewhere near her own age would be interested in her, but young guys almost half her age? Observing this I started to take more notice of mother's appearance.
I came to realise just how attractive she was, but it was an attractiveness I found hard to define. It was one evening that her strange beauty was driven home to me.
I was sitting in the lounge idly looking through an old photograph album when she came into the room. I glanced up, and my attention was riveted. Evening sunlight was coming in through the glass of the French windows and she was caught in its golden glow.
She stood looking at me for a few moments, and then giving a beautifully impatient movement of her head she shook back the ruddy brown curls and waves of her hair and they seemed to flash and gleam in the fading sunlight.
She smiled and asked, "What are you doing?"
"Visiting the past," I replied.
She came and sat on the arm of the chair and looked down at the photographs. I was aware of a faint fragrance, a fragrance that I had experienced more potently with Mercy, but with her it had been mingled with a distinct smell of perspiration. With mother it was delicate, yet subtle as it was it screamed "Female."
I looked up at her face and although I had seen those features thousands of times, I seemed to be seeing them anew.
Beneath that gorgeous tangle of dark hair her forehead was almost as smooth and clear as a contented child's. There was also something innocent about her short, slightly tip tilted nose.
Between their narrow lids her cat green eyes seemed to reflect inner laughter, that laughter being reflected in the corners of her mouth in a faintly ironic smile that seemed to say, "I have known pain and more may come, but at this moment I am content."
Her mouth seemed full of contradictions; the lips were full and looked as if they had been carved by a sculptor; sensitive, voluptuous yet grave and sad; lips that were defenceless in their brooding sensuality, they seemed to be abandoned to their helplessness by her small, unassertive chin.
Her neck long and finely moulded, it ended at her gently sloping shoulders, and there, concealed yet indicated by the swell of the shirt she was wearing, breasts that suggested they were not overly large but firm. For those who have some knowledge of these things I can tell you that I had once seen her bras in the linen basket with the label 34C on them. They were not like the Mercy tits that must have been in the 42G range.
Since she was sitting I could not properly see her body, but of course I knew she was slim, with slender yet nicely shaped arms and legs, her feet and hands small.
She pointed to a faded sepia photograph. "Your great grandmother," she said. For all the fussy clothes that entombed her and the faded state of the photo, I could detect the resemblance between her and mother.
I have used the word attractive to describe mother, but it is more than her looks that gives rise to that word. In a crowd she might warrant a casual glance from the female hunting males, but unless they were perceptive they might not glance again. It was some inner quality that shone through the physical that really deserved the appellation attractive, and it was on that evening I first came to understand this.