I didn’t like him when I first saw him

by Rae Leaver

“I didn’t like him when I first saw him
All too preppy, all too clean, All too “teenage student’s dream”. 
I didn’t trust his quirky socks 
Or the way he’d try to shock 
With tales of his life, aged seventeen. 
I did like his favourite book; it’s Peter Pan 
And he’ll always stop class to ask how I am 
When I’m looking down. 
So I guess that evens out.
 
And I was down. 
Really down In a really unforgiving way 
I didn’t cut myself 
Don’t be obscene.
I’m not that much of a fucking cliche. 
But I did try to kill myself. 
Just once. 
Enough of that.
 
I try to remember when it all changed. 
It’s hard to say, 
I was indifferent to him on the nineteenth 
But mad in love by Christmas day.
I even said those sacred words 
Those holy three: 
I love you. 
And you know what?
Mad bastard. 
He said them back to me too.
 
School was. 
Well, it was weird. 
After the bliss of Christmas and New Year 
To come back and to be. 
Well. 
To be me again 
In the mix of social groups, to see again 
How I fit in to life with these others 
Those prettier, young and sweet and fun 
I wondered what I possibly could have done 
To attract him. 
You know? 
He knew poetry. 
He’d been to Tibet, earned a million pounds 
Had Paul Smith shirts and lived in 
The poshest house in town. 
Why did he pick me?

He kept me back one day, 
I sat next to him 
I put my hand, under the desk, on his knee 
That was the worst of it, I think. 
The rest of the time, I don’t think we ever touched. 
Just watched each other in silence.
I thought it was noble as shit.
Not degrading ourselves. 
He respected me, I thought he cared 
Now I know the truth; he was just shit-scared.

This one day, I saw his wife in town. 
His wife, yeah. I knew about her 
I’m not going to stand and lie and say I was shocked to the core.
I knew the score when I started it. Or he started it, Or. 
She was tiny, petite they call it, not just short 
But thin, clear skinned, bright eyes. Big smile. 
And pregnant. Glowing. Round belly
Sticking out from her little frame. 
It looked obscene. To see it there, it chilled me deep 
She came over. I thought about ducking down
But when you live in a town as small as ours It’s pointless. 
You can’t hide from these things. 
She smiled and said she recognised my face 
I smiled back. I didn’t know what to say. 
She spoke instead. She said she was glad 
That there were kids like me around the place, 
Proper bright kids. Kids that made her husband proud, 
And made her smile with every tale he told At the end of the day. 
She thanked me. 
And I cried. She asked me why 
I told her I didn’t know.
And it’s true. I didn’t. I don’t.
 
So yesterday, I went to see him in his home. 
Their home. 
School’s over now, and he’s alone 
With the kids for the weekend
While she’s away with her mum. 
So I ring the doorbell. 
And there’s his son. His little boy. He’s only four
But he’s tall and clever. He frowns at me. 
For a moment I reckon he knows 
But that’s fucking dumb. 
He turns away and he runs 
To his dad, whose eyes light up at the sight of me 
I steady myself, I don’t know what to say, 
How to start. It’s weird, but this whole thing seems 
Beyond my abilities. I don’t have the words 
Or the pieces to connect what I’m feeling to my mouth. 
“I love you but I want you to be happy” is the best I have. 
He smiles and tells me it’s okay, 
That sometimes, anyway, he kind of wishes he was my
Dad.
 
That’s too much for me to understand,
So I stand up, brush down, walk, but then he grabs my hand
And says I know, that might not be right, but you’ll see 
What I mean one day, don’t go, not yet. 
My heart is in my mouth. I don’t get
What he could want. His grip on my hand is light 
Like it’s not even there. I follow him, even though 
I don’t know where he wants to take me 
We carry on up the stairs
Footstep. Heartbeat. Footstep 
I know his bedroom’s to the left; we went up there, once before 
The night that. No. 
We turn to the right. 
I’ve never been there, but I know 
What awaits. He phoned me when she was born 
I’d spend the night alone. I’d waited by the phone. 
He told me he was covered in his wife’s blood from when she’d torn 
And he had a new, baby girl. 
I felt sick. And I feel it now. I don’t understand how 
This thing can exist. But here she is. 
He drops my hand. I stare ahead. 
Her crib is white; she is, in this, untouched 
I don’t want to ruin her. He picks her up 
And beams at me. Look, you see, 
She reminds me of you. I gave her your name.
 
I have nothing to say to that. 
But, strangely It makes her real. 
I start to feel a strange sensation. 
She’s mine now. As much mine as theirs. 
He puts her in my arms. I feel the weight of her head. 
It’s frightening to think that with a small push to that tiny soft spot
She could be dead. 
But scarier to think she’s alive. The potential. 
She’s this now, but she’ll be more. 
Things change, you know? 
She changes. We can’t be as before. 
I cry now, and now I know why. I’m so glad that I didn’t die 
Before I could see this. This miracle in child. 
A tiny life, that will learn, change, and grow. 
And I said “Thank you, sir, For teaching me 
The only thing I ever needed to know.”