23C: Dad Rule Number One
You know things are getting weird when you find yourself reading about your dad on Wikipedia, and checking out his books and artworks online. These four books I have here are just his memoir volumes. He also has books of art criticism, and one book of poetry. Then it seems he’s also exhibited some well-regarded photographic work. And he is indeed still living in Rome. His carpark Monaro days are long past. But they were the making of him.
And as I read about it, learning about it for the first time, I remember it, being involved with it, and experience these new memories writing over major parts of my life. As I look around my living room, I’m aware, from one glance to the next, of changes and shifts, details little and large. I flick my gaze around the living room, and in that time the couch changes three times. Dad’s memoir books in front of me are sometimes only three, but usually four. I see four different TVs. Everything, even as you stare, looks a little blurry, a little fuzzy. It’s hard to see sharp edges on things. This is liquid reality, life in a world with universal time travel. Things change. You get used to it. They change in front of your eyes, and behind them, too, all the time. Liquid reality also means liquid identity. You get used to not knowing for sure exactly who you are. You learn to accept sudden revelations about your own history, even when these revelations over-write previous histories. Dad and I used to have a sullen, difficult relationship of mutual incomprehension and barely suppressed hostility.
I flick the pages of DOWN AND OUT AT TRIGG BEACH again. Long, looping sentences, vivid images, blunt statements, no dancing around uncomfortable facts. And there again, in the dedication, the reference to me. The Robbie he used to know, and the Dad I used to know, would never have said that.
I pick up the pages again, and suppress the urge to strap myself to the chair lest another major surprise sweep me away.
I mentioned at the beginning that there was something big and crazy I wanted to talk to you about. It might not be feasible. But I was thinking about when I was a boy. This was the late 1940s, early 1950s.
Dad was having his way with me, and shopping me round to his grubby mates, and to Father Bruce, who also had some contacts. It was very special, they told me, a rare privilege not granted to just any boy. Just the most special, gifted, most promising boys. The entire thing was for such rare and special boys that nobody must ever know about it. It was a secret order for boys who would become powerful men, leaders in society.
I was ready to kill myself. I was 11. My dad saw only what he could make pimping me out, four, five times a day. I tried running into traffic. I tried twice running in front of a train. Then I heard about plastic bags, but they made me panic. I never lasted longer than nine seconds with those bags.
But the “transactions” went on.
Decades later, I met you. A Time Traveller on a mission. The ethical ise of time machines to relieve suffering.
I thought about it. So here it is.
Please, please, feel free to refuse. I destroyed our family. It wasn’t much but it was what we had. It worked well enough most of the time. And we got our dog back. Zonk lived! But anyway. I destroyed our home. I wrecked everything. It’s all my fault. I should never have gotten together with your mum. If I hadn’t met your mum, none of this would have happened.
You think you know where I’m going with this, but you don’t.
I want you to rescue me from my father. I want you to come and get me from my dad, and let me live with you in the future. It’s not kidnapping. We’re family. There are no state lines. It’s only a movement in time, not in space. We’ll be in the same city, in fact.
And you’d be saving me.
You’d make your way in, pretending to be a possible client. At length, you’d get the green light, and then you and I time travel out of there before anybody’s the wiser.
What we do at the other end I don’t know. The legalities. I’d be a missing child. You might be a suspected, wanted kidnapper. You might be a suspected sex predator.
But if we tell the truth, it could work. The truth is an absolute defence, I’ve read.
Then you get to raise me as if I was your son, even though I was going to be your dad.
The one thing that troubles my sleep is that I get rescued but never meet Jennie. We never produce you. You never exist. What happens?
I lay back on the blurry couch, feeling it changing under my back, the sheaf of pages by my side. Dad’s proposing a daring mission into the past to rescue his child self from diabolical abuse. How could I not be in favour of that? But what happens to me? Everything currently understood about liquid reality suggests that things change around the perceiver (the physical environment) and also inside (memories, attitudes, ideas). It’s also possible for “stubs” to form, short branches from a timeline where events have just begun to deviate, which run parallel to the main timeline but have no bearing on the original timeline. Going into the past to rescue Young Dad would create a stub. It shouldn’t have a bearing on events here, as I understand it.
Interestingly, the best person to ask about this would be Fiona, and I was none too inclined to doing that just at the moment.
I’m at work now, on my lunch break, writing now because it’s warmer. My hand hurts less. There’s a bit of sunlight. I feel a little bit like life is normal in sunlight.
But our life left the normal scale months ago. Left it like an airliner leaving a runway. We accelerated so fast we couldn’t breathe and left the Earth behind, shooting off into a void of madness. What a trip it’s been.
There was someone outside the Monaro last night, must’ve been after two in the morning. Touched the window glass, left a print. I just about shat meself. I’ll find a different carpark tonight, another beachside carpark. I’ve always loved the beach, the margin between land and sea, soil and water. Two different worlds meeting on a thin strip of loose strip of pale sand. Did you know that beach sand is different at every beach around the world, when you examine it microscopically?
Thank you for your help with the book. I hardly know what to think. There are times when I feel so excruciatingly embarrassed that I want to ring them up and take it back. Then times when I am quietly confident in it. I wrote down everything I could about my life, such as it’s been. I left nothing out. It’s all there. The restlessness. The buzzing in my head, the screaming all through my body. How awful it is being unable to hold a job, to keep money, to save money! To keep money for food, for the phone, for the laundromat.
Christ, I miss cups of tea!
How could I set up a small Primus camping stove in here where I could boil a kettle? Could I do that? A cup of tea would help.
How do you think Robbie’s doing tonight? Is he okay, do you think? Is he going to come back to us?
Will he forgive us?
Will you forgive us?
I, for my part, am abjectly sorry. I let you down. Dad Rule Number 1, that one.
Okay, lunch hour’s over. Talk to you more soon. Best of luck with Robbie! Your mum and I love you!
PS: don’t forget my mad idea!