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Vampire Story


I hope you don't mind if I stay inside. I want to talk to you like this for a bit, through the closed window. I know you can hear me.

Before we go any further, I need to understand you. And to do that, you need to understand me, about how it’s been. We've never had time together as sons and fathers are meant to do. You don’t know anything about my life. I need to tell you my story first, but not the way most people do. Not ‘I-was-born-in-1979-and-then-this-happened-and-then-that’. No, for you to understand, I need to tell the story of my life in women.

Kathryn Torok (nee Windham-Harris)
You know her, or at least, people who believe married people know each other would say. For a long time she was all I knew about you. She told me you couldn't take the heat, that the third day you had to share a bathroom with a plastic bucket of shitty nappies you flipped. That's all she'd ever say when I’d ask; you could have said more yourself if you'd left a note. But maybe it wasn’t that easy.

Eva Torok
Nan. I was the only one who liked to visit her. I was hers in a way that didn't include my sisters. We'd sit in her lounge drinking squash and eating cake. Nan would talk non-stop, always starting in Hungary, like how our great-grandfather used to get the best prices for his calves at the market in Bekescsaba, and end up in England complaining about the price of cabbage at Lumleys’. Mum would flinch every time she belched out loud, or pulled up her skirt in front of us to hook her stocking back on her suspenders. I didn't care. I loved her. I loved how she gave me bigger pieces of cake than my sisters and how she tried, visit after visit, to get me in the kitchen with her while she washed up. And every time Mum said no. I couldn’t be alone with her.

Nan lost her rag about it sometimes; she’d stand in the kitchen doorway with fists stuck in her doughy hips.

"Why no? I lose son, why I not have grandson? Why?"

Mum's face would freeze dry, and she’d hiss through her lipstick. "We made an agreement, Eva."
"A son is a son. A son want to know about his father!"

"We made an agreement."

School Teachers
I won't name them, because none of them were worth names. Never what they seemed. All smiles the first day, but like mad scientists they all couldn’t wait to re-programme me. And they had rules for everything, for where I stood in line outside, for where I hung my coat, for when I could eat my snack, for where I sat and when I sat and when I sat and when I sat. I couldn't get the good things from them I got from Nan. They preferred my sisters because they both sat so beautifully.

Margaret Windham-Harris
Nanna. Your mother-in-law. How well did you know her? Lived in an antiseptic bungalow full of sulking cats and old porcelain. As the three of us got older, we saw more of her and less of Nan. On Saturdays she and mum went antique shopping. The worst year of my life began when my sisters decided to start collecting Victorian costume jewellery.

Dr. Helen Ryder
School psychologist. Because that same year I started collecting bikes without asking the owners. I rode them to the business park and trashed them in the empty lots. Knew I'd get caught. Having a psychologist was like having a Mum who'd read Shakespeare and let me swear in sessions. But in the end her plan for me was the same; you’d think I could have guessed. The only good thing I can say for her is that she told Mum I should start seeing Nan again.

Eva Torok
Changed. Hadn't seen or heard from us in six years. Didn't believe it was me on the other end of the phone. Didn't believe I was asking to stay the night. She was waiting on the pavement outside her house when Mum turned into her street to drop me off.

But once we got inside the house we were friends again. We did all the old things, drank squash and ate cake in the lounge. Nan talked, talked as if I would care whether she bought the Polish sauerkraut from Tesco or the Ukrainian stuff from Sainsburys. Then she suddenly went quiet, and ate her cake very slowly. When she finished, she picked the crumbs off her lap one at a time and ate them. Smoothed out her dress. Licked her lips. And told me everything.

It came out of her like water from a burst pipe, half in her style of English, half in Hungarian. If I interrupted with questions she went back to the beginning, and repeated it until I got the picture. That's what it was, a picture. A B-movie poster, not real life.

"You want me to believe I come from a line of vampires?"

"Dynasty, Timothy. Din-nass-tee." She said it like that, sticking out her chin. It was the longest English word she'd ever used. She must have driven people crazy, poking strangers in the arm and jabbering at them until they caught her drift and taught her the word.
"First the grandfather he take son, then the father he take son, and then the son...yeah? Soon, only women left,...you understand?"

I shook my head at her. It made her scowl.

"Timothy, I lose you father. I lose husband."

“Nan, this is stupid.”

“No, no stupid. I know.”

I dropped my head and studied her carpet.

“Timothy, please…”

I wouldn’t move. She went quiet and eventually I heard her leave the room. After a few minutes she came back, and her footsteps came right up to me and she knelt, actually knelt in front of my chair so I had to look at her face. She held her hands out to me, palms together.

"Timothy, you take this."

I looked at the chain and the heavy cross she held. Dirty metal, could have been silver, except Nan couldn’t afford silver.

"Timothy you wear it, please. I wait so long."

I screwed up my face at her and shook my head.

“Timothy… please!!”

When I saw tears in her eyes I shut mine. I don't do tears.

"For me, Timothy. I lose enough."

"Nan, just tell me what happened to Dad," I said.

"I tell you."

"You want me to believe that?”

“Timothy, I tell you.”

I shook my head. I shook my head and my hands like I could shake it all off.

"Timothy, please. Your father is devil. Wear this now, please"

“You don’t want me to know about him either!!”

And I shot out of the chair. I ran out the lounge and up the stairs; I ran into the bedroom where I am now and shut the door. Shut and locked it. And I don't know what Nan did about it because I got my iPod out of my bag and went through my playlist twice at full volume. Then I fell asleep because there was nothing else to do.

I don't know whether I woke up in the night or whether I dreamt. You know. It seemed that I opened my eyes in the dark and saw things on the ceiling. Black silk scarves slinking around the lightshade and along the coving. And the feeling of eyes. And from outside the window, this window, a squeaking, like the sound I used to make writing my name on a wet car windscreen.

I'd seem to close my eyes and sleep, then wake up again to the same thing. The scarves made breezes I could see, but I felt hot and full of needles. How many times did it happen?

Six? You'll know. The first thing I did in the morning was get up and look for smears on the window.

But there weren’t any. I packed and came downstairs to sulk over my cereal while Nan washed dishes with her back to me. But later I watched her reflection in the microwave as she stood in the hallway. She stuck her hand down her dress and pulled a wad of tissue out of her bra. She put that inside my sports bag.

Mum came for me. She had the radio playing loud when I got in the car and I took the hint. But somewhere along the M6 I said, “I don’t know if I want to see Nan again.” Mum didn’t answer right away or even nod. She waited until we were stuck in a queue at traffic lights.

She said, “Tim, not everyone can lose someone and live with the truth. A story makes it easier.” I didn’t say anything. But I thought, Nan is just another one of them. Just another woman.

Tara Millington
She's the reason I'm back in this bedroom again, in spite everything I’ve just told you. Only Nan would let me in her house now. And she doesn't know the whole truth.

You'd think I'd know better, with all my experience of women -- the dynasty of life controllers. I thought Tara was different. The Tara I met was wild: she had black hair, she wore black lipstick, black nail varnish and a navel stud. I loved her because Mum hated her. But I know now that no matter what clothes they wear, no matter what music they like, the truth is they all play for the same side, and for the same thing. I saw Tara yesterday for the first time in four months. She was wearing a maternity top she’d borrowed from her cousin and no makeup; she said she just couldn't keep her promise to me like we’d agreed, she said it felt too alive, said it had changed her. I thought at fifteen she wouldn't want the hassle.

So here I am. And there you are, floating outside my window. I can see others behind you--is that my grandfather, my great-grandfather? It's weird; all I see are reflections of myself. Young. Free. If it weren’t for the Dynasty, you wouldn’t be like that. You’d be middle aged; you’d have a mortgage, a gut, and a pension plan. You’d be tied to a woman, feeding her kids, paying university fees. But you’re in another world; you’ve pushed back the boundaries. What a hell of a gang you must be, like a never ending student piss up, prowling the city at night, a terror to all those respectable neighbourhoods full of women and children.

Women and children. God, how long before I have to tell Nan? And how long before she tells everyone else? How long before Tara hits me for child support, and sucks all the excitement out of my life, all the freedom, the buzz? How long before all these women finally catch up with me, and turn me into one of their own, one of their bloodless middle class? Who are the vampires, anyway?

I think I understand you now. But do I open the window, or keep it closed? I'm not sure which would protect me.


January 2015



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