HAZMAT Suits

I’m sat in a cafe with my mother, there are newspapers spread out across our table and every single headline says something about how we’re all going to nuclear war. I look at the words ‘nuclear war’ and I look around the cafe, nobody seems to give a shit that we’re all going to be turned to dust any minute now. They’re just looking at their phones, chatting away to their friends, going goo-goo-ga-ga with their babies, eating their bacon sandwiches like usual. My mother has been trying to tell me something important, I can tell by the look on her face, but I haven’t really been listening. I tune in quickly to see if there’s anything good on mother FM.

‘Even when you were a teenager, you were totally obsessive with boys, calling up Billy every hour, crying down the phone, totally hysterical because you weren’t going to see him for twenty-four hours.’ ‘Nope’ I say to myself ‘just the usual rubbish’ and tune out again. NUCLEAR. WAR. NUCLEAR. WAR. NUCLEAR. WAR. Why aren’t any of them building bunkers in their gardens and buying HAZMAT suits like any sane person would do? ‘Look Mum’ I say, interrupting the white noise coming from her opening and closing trap and pointing to the headlines ‘nuclear war.’ She just looks at me, as if to say ‘yeah and so what?’ ‘Aren’t you frightened?’ I ask her.

I am frightened, I’m fucking terrified. Ever since that terrible nightmare I had. I could hear the bomb falling out of the sky like in cartoons when they drop the anvil over the cliff and then this bright white and green light went off so I couldn’t really see anything for a few moments. When my vision finally returned, all I saw was a wall of fire coming towards me in slow motion. I tried to crawl under something beside me but it was pointless. I slowly watched my outstretched fingers turn to ash right in front of me, then my wrists, then my forearms, then the rest of me. I felt my entire body be burnt to nothing until there was just a black outline on the floor where I once was. Then I woke up.

‘I lived through the Cold War darling’ she says with slight condescension ‘you just get used it.’ ‘Bully for you’ I say sarcastically, forgetting for a moment that she’s my mother and that society expects me to be respectful of my mother. ‘Sorry for not being used to the threat of total, imminent destruction of mankind.’ She drinks her tea and says nothing. ‘It’s just scary, that’s all’ I add in a soft, vulnerable tone. ‘Nothing will happen’ she smiles ‘and if it does, well, then we’ll be with God wont we?’ and then she finishes her tea and sits quietly, thinking about her God and about how blissful it would be to be evaporated by an atom ripping apart above her head so she can go hang out with her God in a field full of daisies. ‘Ok’ is all I say, because there really is nothing more to say to that, is there?

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Little Brother

I’ve always been a sucker for love, maybe I didn’t get enough of it as a kid. When I was about a year old, my little brother was born but he was born all wrong. He was in hospital for months and months attached to machines and covered in tubes, just like one of the sick little babies they show on the telly when they’re trying to raise money for the children’s hospital.

 So anyway, my dad stayed at home and looked after us three kids; my older brother, my sister and me, while my mum spent all her time at the hospital standing over his little glass box looking down at him underneath all of those wires and stuff. It was during this period that I supposedly became withdrawn.

‘You went sort of, odd’ my mum told me once ‘and you sort of stayed that way.’ She said this last bit with a laugh and a wink, but the punchline was one of those jokes that isn’t really a joke at all. These are the best kind of jokes, the most effective comedy is always based in truth, I say. It’s the kind that gets you deep, touches some part of your soul. It’s the kind that hurts at first but then makes you feel better than you did to begin with. A bit like vomiting. Yeah, the best jokes sort of make your soul vomit.

So my mum thinks I never really recovered from that period of maternal separation and I reckon it’s as good an excuse as any to pass off my neediness. I mean, it’s a lot better than it being some kind of inherent personality flaw, like narcissism or psychopathy or…general, umm, crappiness. I think ‘generalised crappiness disorder’ would be too much for my poor vomiting soul to bare, it’s much easier if I just rue the day that my little brother was ever born.