This was written and posted in August 2009 and almost immediately forgotten. I came across it recently and decided to air it again.
NO MAN IS WORTH CRYING OVER
A little something written after hearing
a man tell his daughter that no man was
worth crying over.
I could hear the words as distinctly as if father was sitting alongside. The expression was a frequent comfort when the break-up of teenage romances threatened to ruffle my sanity but it did not occur to me to question the criticism of his own gender. Dear father, always on my side.
The wind lifted my hair. The bridge wasn’t an ideal spot for contemplation but I’d needed to get out of the silent house and away from Kenny’s leftover possessions. I shifted to ease the pain of stone on flesh and to massage the weals on lower limbs. The roughness of the bench wasn’t something Kenny and I noticed when we were courting. Far below, the water frothed and foamed and smashed against the riverbank. I had no coat. I hadn’t bargained for a storm.
Kenny had promised to ring as soon as he reached Seattle but I didn’t expect a call until he’d fought off the jetlag. Notwithstanding, I was in possession of a fully-charged mobile phone … just in case. Kenny was to manage the overseas office short-term. Nine months to a year, he said. It’ll soon pass. Short term to me suggested weeks rather than months. I could have coped with short-term. I wondered if the future would look less bleak with children to care for. We didn’t have kids. Kenny couldn’t deliver the goods.
No man is worth crying over.
From habit, I blinked away the tears.
Kenny did everything he could to make amends for his deficiency. He really stretched himself to get the house we wanted, with a fabulous garden and an adjacent field the size of half a football pitch. Ideal for kids. On our fifth anniversary he presented me with a new Peugeot. My shopping car, he called it. That was the day father had his heart attack. The car was useful for ferrying relations after the funeral. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t cry.
The rain was holding off but the wind was still on the wild side. A polythene bag was caught on a nearby sycamore, one minute billowing like a windsock, the next deflated and limp. For about the fourth time I checked that the mobile was switched on. The idea of missing Kenny due to an oversight was too awful to imagine. He was all I had in the world; I wasn’t sure I could struggle through a whole year on my own. Or even nine months. I stood up then and paced about, needing activity to stop myself dwelling on the awful reality of a solo existence. Symptoms of impending lamentation, a tightening throat and burning eyes, were hard to resist.
No man is worth crying over.
Oh father, how wretched you were to advise repression. How desperately I need to cry.
A pair of mallards flew over the pathway, circled, then landed gracefully on the swirling water. The suddenness of their appearance startled a cyclist pedalling furiously with his head held low. In the process of recovering his balance he saw me on the bridge, watching. He laughed sheepishly and hunched his shoulders as if to verify ineptitude. Like Kenny did sometimes when he was playing the fool. At that point, as I was picturing one of those private moments, the mobile rang. I stumbled against the parapet in my rush to answer.
‘I miss you already,’ Kenny said. ‘God knows how I’m going to manage without you.’ He sounded very despondent.
I soothed him, restoring his composure with maternal phrases. It struck me how like a child he was. My child. It had taken his departure to make me see how bonded we were, bound together by the very childless fact that hitherto was so upsetting.
You’ll have to come over here, Peg. I’m all at sea on my own. I feel quite severed.’
I couldn’t answer. I was too choked. Joyful tears cascaded like a waterfall, the deluge that had waited too long for release. Father’s words were as distinct as if he was standing next to me. No man is worth crying over. But it was a voice from the past, no longer as important as when I was young, or as influential. My man was definitely worth crying over.
‘Just imagine, father,’ I whispered as I switched off the phone. ‘Your little girl has grown up at last.’