The smell is disgusting. The mixture of piss and decaying meat is how I imagine a month-old corpse to smell. You know, a corpse that’s been left to bloat and fester undiscovered, like that chap in Brixton I read about last week. They only found him when a cat was spotted playing with a gnawed-off finger. When they got in his flat, he was just a nameless lump of rotting flesh. His eye sockets were writhing with maggots.
I stare at my father slumped in his faded Queen Anne chair. A bottle of Bells lies abandoned by his side, its backwashed contents seeping into the carpet, staining old stains. I paid £12.99 for the whiskey at the Polish shop down the road, it’s cheaper at Tesco but the walk is too dangerous. It’s never worth getting dog shit encrusted on your soles, just to save £1.50.
How easy it would be for me to hold my hand over his mouth, to pinch his nose and watch him struggle with his alcohol-numbed limbs. That would put us both out of our misery. That would mean I’d have to touch him, though, and I’d only do that if armed with a gas mask and industrial Marigolds.
He never eats, just glugs his poison before pissing it out into his trousers. Sometimes I wonder if when the cirrhosis does finally finish him off, whether his body will decay like a normal corpse. I’m sure that all the booze he’s drunk will embalm him from the inside-out, and preserve him for evermore. I could keep him then. I’d wash and shave him and dress him in his smartest suit, the one he wore to Mum’s funeral. I’d play his Bobby Darin LPs on Grandma’s old gramophone whilst we played dominoes. Just like we used to.
Joan Collins winks at us from the TV screen. The foam pads in her gold Lamé make her look deformed. Her lips are stained with L’Oreal’s Cherry Passion; she looks like a whore. My Dad’s had a soft spot for Joan ever since he saw her on the cover of Tit-Bits back in ‘51. That’s why he married my mother; he always said that with her hair up, she looked like Joan, only with chunkier ankles.
I’ve laddered Mum’s stockings again. She wouldn’t be happy with me. As a child, I would sit on the floor and watch her as she put her tip-toe up on her dressing table stool. The stocking would be crumpled around her ankle, as though her leg had discarded it like a snake skin. She’d pull on baby blue cotton gloves and delicately slide the nude silk up her leg, before securing it with straps at her thigh. I loved how these stockings changed her skin; all her blemishes vanished under a silken illusion of perfection.
I always try to be as careful as her when I put on stockings, but I guess men’s hands will never have the delicate touch of a woman’s. My fingers are calloused and rough from years picking litter and cleaning the cobbled streets. I’ve got an old pot of Mum’s Ponds Cold Cream locked in my bedside draw that I put on my hands every Friday. There’s hardly any left now, though, so I use it sparingly.
Dad saw me once, dressed in Mum’s Sunday best. It was a blue viscose tea dress, sprinkled with small white flowers. I remember her wearing it the Easter before she died. All the men stared at her as we walked to church. I didn’t like them looking at her like that. I spat at them when her back was turned. I wonder if I look as beautiful in it as she did.
I was getting the meatloaf out of the oven when I felt his hands on me. He cupped the curve of my buttocks as I bent over, murmuring her name. I’m not sure if he knew it was me and not her. Either way, he didn’t seem to care. I heard him fumbling with his zip. I stayed bent over and clung tightly to the hob. Maybe my plan would work after all. If he thought Mum was still alive, maybe he’d stop drinking. Maybe he’d get better.