Sunday, January 11

A Home Video

A HOME VIDEO looking up at me from the table.
We were in a pub and my father pulled his phone out, fiddled with it for some time, then—‘Look at this’: a home video.
It was me – that I recognised but only just about – on Southend beach. I was young, a toddler, most likely two or three or just between, playing with a plastic ball, holding it up, dropping it on my own head and then returning to my father who held the camera steady on me. The ball did not roll very far because of the pebbles in the sand. I went back to the ball. I repeated it over and over for the length of the home video on my father’s phone.
‘. . . The fuckin eighties,’ I said—‘Everything’s grey or brown . . . ’
Stumbling with unsteady feet back & forth, I took my face close to my father’s, close to the lens, and smiled; blurred in the shades of the film and the distance of the beach rolling up toward the prom in clotted focus, the sky unimpressively overcast. Back & forth. A smile and dancing.
My girlfriend—‘You smiled . . . I don’t believe it.’
My mother—‘O, he used to smile all the time. He was a very happy child.’
‘I spunked it all too early.’
If I had known my father was going to present such a home video from his pocket, I would surely have objected. Anyway, there I was, on a beach on a grey day, playing with a ball and enjoying it, back & forth.
It was twenty-seven years ago.
I could not get my head around that, those days and all those weeks and years and all of it seemed to have amounted to very little more than intense unhappiness – and from when I had been so entertained by an inflated ball of plastic! I was very keen for my father to end the video, though far be it from me to launch the phone to the other side of the pub.
The home video played on.
The next clip was a scene from our home (in that village that plays so heavily on my mind). My brother and I in the living room – the old d├ęcor in eighty colours – and music that played was overshadowed by the music in the pub (twenty-four years later). The attention of the cameraman now, my father, was on my brother, younger, newer, inexistent before but now quite alive. Like a cat he would pounce on me, we would wrestle and then break, to fool around. The music was still playing in that old living room. I danced around.
‘He loved dancing.’
I was dancing and fiddling with the controls of the stereo that were underneath the television.
That was the home video, and I had not been prepared for it.

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