Perhaps we should have realised earlier that we were being inappropriately stalked by our creepy landlord.
Normally, I think mum would have spotted it very early on, but during the time we were living there, mum was going through some stuff. Her youngest kid, my brother Tommy, was about to go and live with his father for a while. His behaviour was disruptive, his mood was erratic, and most of all he was keen on the idea of going to live with his dad. Mum was not equipped to have one of her three kids move out yet, and she certainly wasn’t ready for it to be her youngest; her baby.
I guess I’d never thought of us kids as a source of stability for mum before this. I mean, we were kids. Being disruptive, unpredictable and completely dependent was pretty much our whole deal. And yet, we were a constant. Our family life was always in flux, as the very existence of this project proves: but I think, for mum, the three of us provided a sense of stability: as the world around us spun and spun, we were the focal point that kept her from barfing. But that focal point was about to get all wobbly.
To say mum’s relationship with Dale was complicated, tumultuous and bad for her health (in all of the ways) would be a face-meltingly gross understatement. But he had never mistreated Tommy, and had in fact always revered him like some sort of small god (one of those Nordic, mischief-based ones). So while dealing with the standard, to-be-expected sadness of having a child move away, she was also having to interact with the man who made so many of us miserable (her in particular), and face the horrible possibility that the best thing for her son was for him to be somewhere where she wasn’t. The stress of this, and the sadness of the impending shift in her life caused her brain to sort of stop working.
At least that’s what she says, in 2015, by way of explaining why on this giant screaming earth she started dating…Nathan.
Nathan was a GIANT dweeb. And this is quite an accomplishment considering how short he was. He was like a dweeb TARDIS. If you look up “short man syndrome” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Nathan; standing in heeled shoes on a box, holding a picture of Tom Cruise and pouting. Straight up: he was a tool. Harmless, but a tool. Nevertheless, for a while he and mum saw something in each other: he saw her kindness and vulnerability; she saw his protective nature and…the top of his head, probably. Whatever it was, they started dating, and it was fine, I guess.
Nathan and mum had only been seeing each other for a couple of months when we discovered that our landlord was the hand (butt) that rocked (crinkled) the cradle (bedspread): their relationship was kicked up a few notches probably quicker than it should have been when we high-tailed it out of Ainsworth Street, and into Nathan’s apartment two bedroom apartment in Ascot.
Oh sure, Ascot is one of Brisbane’s fancier suburbs, and there’s a certain level of social clout that comes with saying one lives in Ascot…unless it’s the part of Ascot between DOOMBEN Racecourse and DOOMBEN train station. DOOMBEN doesn’t sound as fancy as Ascot. (And no, italics doesn’t help, I tried that: Doomben. See? Still rubbish.)
Nathan was a security guard: not the stand-outside-a-building type, the patrolling a whole bunch of buildings at night type. This meant he had a car stamped with the security company logo, and two handguns he kept locked in a safe in his office. The logo stamps on the car and the locked-away guns were everything to him. They represented the manhood he assumed his diminutive stature denied him. To his credit, he wasn’t constantly waving the guns around or anything. He only removed them from the safe once, but on that one occasion he did snottily dare me to hold it, which I did just to stop him wanging on about it. I held it very reluctantly—flat, in the palm of my hand, like I was going to feed it to a horse. It was heavier than I was expecting and I was kind of grossed out, which Nathan found highly amusing. Had there been a horse nearby I would definitely have fed the gun to the horse, just to piss him off.
Look, if Nathan had just stopped fretting so much about his height and trying to overcompensate for it, he wouldn’t have been considered by the wider community to be quite such a cracking dullard, and would have been respected more. Thank goodness I was already an adult by this time and didn’t have to accept him as any kind of authority figure. But that didn’t stop him trying to throw his imaginary authority around like a free sample in a supermarket aisle. He tried several times, without success, to bark orders to make a coffee at me or demand to know where I was going when I left the house. Bless his low-to-the-ground heart, he was trying to be a father figure to me. But I already had a father, and while we weren’t in solid contact at the time, I had never felt a need to replace him.
Poor Nathan. He was, if anything, the only person I’ve ever met unluckier than me. I mean, think about it: the one person on this planet who could have really benefitted from my lifelong pathological need to obey and respect adults was the first person that I, as a brand new adult myself, wilfully dismissed as any kind of authority. All he needed was the blind, default respect I offered every other grown-up I had ever met, and he ended up being the first person to whom it was denied.
If I know my Yiddish (and I do NOT), Nathan was the very definition of a schlimazel.