Songs for Samuel, by Suzanne Wilson


When I was four years old, we listened to Ska and danced in the living room.

Our house, in the middle of our street…

We wanted a fixer upper. Why don’t you have a job? Because I spend all day doing up the house for your mother. Mind your feet. Don’t be going around without slippers on. OUCH. What did I tell you?! And there’s the wee shop wrecked. The volume created when he blew his nose could give you a heart attack. The sneezing was worse. Flannel shirts and overalls. Our house it has a crowd… The boss. The big scary one. Better clear it with her first. There would be a shouting session. Often find him hiding with his fishing equipment upstairs or in the garage, pretending to fix the boat. Do you need your bottom scraped? HAHA. Hey girl! What are you playing at? Don’t be acting the cuddy now. There’s always something happening… Locked in. Smell of timber and guinea pig crap. JULIA! Don’t take off your coat! Ok Daddy my coat is off. No! Get your mother. Daddy, are we going to die in here? You had your lunch half an hour ago. Mummy call the police! Why? I locked Suzanne and Daddy in the shed. Everything’s a disaster in this house. And it’s usually quite loud… Stop shouting! Stop shouting at me! Turn that down. Go to sleep. Don’t let them catch you. Sneak sneak. Creak creak. Our mum she’s so house-proud… You’d think a bomb had hit the place. You need to learn to hoover. You need to learn to iron. Hold this spindle. Tighter. Come here, I’ve got a wee job for you to do. Smell that wood. Wood is good. Smooth. Like a hug. Nothing ever slows her down… You dance like you are running on the spot. No you have to do it PROPERLY. You’re not playing PROPERLY. Down the park. Out the back. Stop picking at that scab.  And a mess is not allowed… Next time I see this left lying on the floor at your backside it’s going in the bin. No! I hate you.

At nine, I was making life more difficult, so I was introduced to the soundtracks of Tarantino. They never get tired… It’s so cold. Stood here at the television with my finger on the button. 2am. Waiting for the creak of the stairs. There are no ghosts. If there were I would have found them by now. I’ve been in every nook and cranny. Dash under the covers. Heart racing. It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming. Now, now, now. GET INTO YOUR BED. Hideous brown carpet in an old, old, house. Snot all over it when in trouble and no harm is done. Of puttin’ me down… Big nose, baldy head. Am I getting fat? For I know you certainly are. Let’s go for a run. Run Run Run. Feeling the heartbeat in your face. Those awful checked shorts. Pick me up from school in a pair of fishing waders. But more on that later. And I never know… Laugh with teeth. Feed me. Feed me teeth. Crown chipped as I tell a story about chasing a cat. Slipping in the snow. Feeling the ice in my nostrils. A shell embedded in cement. Broken nails. Broken screws. Broken toe. Foot trapped in a spindle. Those bloody pegs of oak. The bane of everyone’s existence. When I come around… Watching a small head rattle in time to the motion of the car. Black coat and smell of smoke. Believe everything that I am told. Paint stripper strips the skin under my fingernails. Stupid girl. What I’m gonna find… Empty cans of cider. Empty friendships consoled. They never wanted me around. I was told that. A maroon duvet trimmed with gold. Watching everything, including us. Goodfellas. Big Labowski. Everything with Arnie. Everything with Jim. Defiance was awful however. So awful that we laughed. Don’t let them make up your mind… Am I going to have to go there and deal with it myself? Just take this, he would point at his fist, and make a connection with this, he would then point to his nose. That’s how problems would be solved. But I just wanted to hide. Behind both of them. Don’t you know Girl, you’ll be a woman soon… Look at that big bullet hole between your eyes. I know that it’s there don’t need to point it out. Old terry cloth dressing gown soaked in milk. Hot oats. Why are we up if it is still dark outside? I don’t want toast. Radio begins to play the School Run and I’m still not dressed so we know that we will be late. Again. Please, come take my hand Girl, you’ll be a woman soon… Running so fast I would get carried away. The horror. The burning as flesh was ripped from my knee so I bled. Hold your breath and count to three. The worst was having chewed up hands. Immersing them in an antiseptic, milk-like substance. Pick out the stones and gravel to ensure a scar is left. Soon you’ll need a man… Deliberately driving around the back of the supermarket, just to beat a nursery bus. Trying to make the trip to school slightly more appealing. I’m not going, I’m not going! Well I hated it more than you. I’ve been misunderstood for all of my life… It was love at first sight when she first saw him running away from a large group of men over a small bridge. So she packed him into a large cardboard box. He then knew that she liked him. But what they’re sayin’… Purple paint. But it just caused laughter that is still reminisced about to this very day. But only by me, as it is with many things. Girl, just cuts like a knife “The boy’s no good”… There is no God. There is nothing. But if there was, I would ask Him to make it Christmas again. Just one more time. So we could all be together. And no one would be dead. Please.

Ten years later, he shuffled away from this earth and left me to choke on my own youthful tears.

I hurt myself today… Walked nine miles from Linda’s in Moorfields to the Green Road at the screech of cats. The January snow was a knee deep. To see if I still feel… Lips split. Brown slops soot compacted. I focus on the pain… I stood on the path only six hours before trying to capture a blizzard in my mouth. Smoking a badly made roll up. The only thing that’s real… While the parents are away. Mentos in coke are replaced with fags and a sense of rebellion. Tobacco grips to the underside of a fingernail. The needle tears a hole… Are you impressed yet, little sis? I have travelled the world. Seen it all done them all. The old familiar sting… Meanwhile footsteps are thudding towards us from miles away. Counting those last few heartbeats. Try to kill it all away…  I thought I was drowning, but I turned out to be sorely mistaken. But I remember everything… It wasn’t me at all. Door slams. I take no heed. What have I become… I dream of Mitchell. I breathe in slumbering bodies and sweat. Then she is there. My sweetest friend…  Standing over me, with that usual expression and speaks the words Have you seen your daddy? Everyone I know goes away in the end… No. And don’t watch me while I sleep. Like in that awful cartoon, I really hated it. Should I wash my hair this morning? Then comes the screams. The incessant screaming. How long she had been screaming for I don’t know. It felt like for hours but could only have been a minute. It still hasn’t stopped. Bleating, sharp in my ear like a trapped goat. Over and over. My ears are fizzing. And you could have it all… I am there in a clatter of thunder. I scream at an ambulance. Like a response to a mating call, it is there in an instant. But the snow. There is so much snow. Frozen piss that burns my hands. It’s not real, nothing is real. It’s all a rehearsal for a play that will never be performed. Everyone is acting their part as best they can. My empire of dirt… So many people and so much snow. He had a shower, that much we know. The condensation was fresh, I could still see it. I wanted to touch it but there was no time. I will let you down…  The police were here and I had to answer some questions. I used Buster as a guard. Held that little paw as tightly as I could. Those big black eyes had seen it all. Let out to do his ablutions. To piss up the snow. Seen more than anyone.  He knew what was going on just as much as we did. But growls and barks replaced the cries. I will make you hurt … The only man left in our home.

For the next three years the music became vulgar and hate-filled, much like his eldest daughter.

In your snatch fits pleasure, broom-shaped pleasure… Thrust myself far enough so I might break. Stick a hockey stick through the neighbour’s living room window. It looked like sugar all over the garden path. It earned me a slap and nothing more. Pour bleach in the garden, but no one batted an eyelid as I screamed at them. I screamed until my eyes blurred and dribble ran down my chin. “You’re the man of the house now, Suzanne.” It was my time to shine, be the adult they wanted, so I became more irresponsible than I thought I could ever be. Deep greedy and Googling every corner… I ran away, like a nasty little bitch, left them to deal with it. Fucking, sweating, crying, laughing. More drinking than ever. More men and more nights out. Australia welcomed me to this. But it wasn’t enough, never enough. Then came the powders and the smokes and the crystals and the trouble. At one point an overdose and another point the police. Dead in the middle of the C-O-double M-O-N… You all need to get over it, because I’M FINE. Nothing can touch me. Crying, fucking aches and pains. Slut, slag, little punk. Black hair, black clothes and two black eyes. Little did I know then… I said that I’M FINE. Spittle, terrible spittle, run away again and again. You aren’t part of the pack anymore. I don’t need no pack. You started a pack and now look at you. Call yourself a mother. That the Mandela Boys soon become Mandela Men…. Fingernails packed with dirt, grit and puss as I weep in the corner of a burnt out building. My face repeatedly scraping against a blackened brick wall. Mouth filled with the taste of blood and snot. Tall woman, pull the pylons down… Knuckles chewed by teeth. Feeding myself then feeding myself teeth. Heave and spit. The lunge of my stomach almost orgasmic. Thinner wrists and brittle bones. Your electrolyte count is low but I’M FINE. And wrap them around the necks… Rope, dangling, knotted. Heart stops body dangles. Then everyone started to scream and take notice. Of all the feckless men that queue to be the next…. I was wanted. I was sexy. For the first time in twenty years of being the goofy second choice. I could have whoever and whatever I wanted. I went through many. Maybe this one or this bloke. Maybe just one of them will care. Steepled fingers, ring leaders… I stopped sounding like myself, sounding like my new self. Crash around. Snort everything in sight. Never alone, can’t be alone. Don’t leave me alone but I’M FINE. Queue jumpers, rock fist paper scissors, lingered fluffers… Everything ended up half –digested at the bottom of the bowl. Crying at the sky. Laughing, smoking, mistaken for a prostitute. Too thin, too aggressive, too reckless. In your hoof lies the heartland… Not addicted to the drug, but addicted to the feeling. Feeling loved and loving back. Look over the water with lights in my eyes. I need no one and nothing, just the knowing that I’M FINE. Where we tent for our treasure, pleasure, leisure, les yeux… Early mornings, trekking through London not knowing where I am or who I am with, seeing stars and convinced that life couldn’t get much better than this. This unwashed body covered in scars and dirt and filled with chemicals that would make my mother weep. It’s all in your eyes… That’s all very well and good but what you are all are failing to see is that I’M FINE. In your snatch fits pleasure, broom-shaped pleasure… Used, dirty, abused, unloved and up for anything. I’ll be the Nancy to your Sid. Deep greedy and Googling every corner… The sad damaged eyes ask me why? Take a deep breath and let it out. Blended by the lights… I’m not fine.

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