Not when i was born. There was too much blood, pain and screaming. Mama wished herself anywhere else but splayed legged on the delivery table. I slipped muddy and slick, into a puddle of flesh and gore. The doctor couldn't care less. Mama couldn't care less. Papa would return from work many hours later and know that he had another son. Or maybe he'd be too tired and would want his supper. Aunt Martha would leave him be. He'd know tomorrow then. I wasn't going anywhere and Papa couldn't care less.
Not when I was a cute toddler. Well almost cute. Mamma was always tired. She hadn't wanted me anyway. Her body refused to nourish me. My siblings resented me. They resented that I took up space. They resented that I had to be fed. They resented that I cried and then papa would be mad. They resented that I was so thick, to not know that it was my fault papa was angry all the time.That I just couldn't get it that they didn't give a shit about me. Resented the insistent grimy, dimpled fists I reached out to them, making it difficult for them to pretend that I wasn't there.
Not when I was a lanky kid at school. The girls laughed at my thinness. They laughed at my pimples. They laughed at the permanent dried flakey trail that snot marked down my philtrum. They laughed at my pants that hung well above my ankles. They laughed when I shyly fished a naked toffee from the depths of my pocket for dear pretty Isabel. Isabel cried. They laughed. Naked toffee, bits of paper and lint, in a sticky coital embrace. Isabel cried hot tears of mortification, cheeks burning with shame. Not ever in school.
Not in class. The teacher hit me every chance he got. Teacher said i was too ugly, too tall, too poor, too dumb, too insignificant to be of any use to the world. I wasn't allowed on the football team. I was too clumsy to field and I was cockeyed. That made me pretty useless as a batsman. Or so they said.
Not at the railway station where i worked 45 years of my life. The men thought me queer and the women couldn't tell for sure where I was looking. It made them nervous that I could look brazenly at the roundness of their breasts and they couldn't catch me at it. The passengers never made eye contact. And if they did, they thought I was deliberately looking over their heads.
Not in my marriage. My wife closed her eyes and her body every time i mounted her. I once got her flowers. She scoffed her most jaded and weary scoff, and threw them out with the rest of the dinner. She complained of a headache later and slept with her back to me. She looked at me with unmasked contempt and she had my children with the same disinterest and detachment as she reared the pigs with. She fell asleep long before I came inside her. And would wake up after I rolled off her, only to carefully wipe herself clean off every trace of me. And then fat, ugly Isabel went back to sleep.
Not as a father. My children were embarrassed about me. They thought me a duffer and a failure of paternity. They feigned respect to avoid eye contact or any kind of contact, for that matter. They imitated my walk and my slouch; they mocked my talk and they crossed their eyes rudely every time they played house or It. I can't remember what they looked like smiling, or the colour of their eyes, the shape of their teeth or the smell of their hair. Even the dog didn't like me much.
But not today. Today is different. Today I'm special. Today my wife did her wifely duties with utmost sincerity. Today I'm the loving husband and she, my faithful wife - my deeply feeling wife. Today my children observed the most respectful of silences in my presence. Today I'm the well-wished neighbor - some of them came by with carefully wrapped parcels of food - assuming that had to be my favorite. One even brought a jar of whiskey. I received them in my best suit. Today they all paid attention to me and only me. I was the star. Today my house smells of freshly washed curtains, clean laundry, disinfectant and good cooking. Today my siblings came by and treated my wife like family. Today there are lights in the sitting room and the vases have fresh flowers in them and doilies under. Today I received the priest in my house. Today I'm the valued parishioner. Today my wife wept bitterly for the life we never had. And the cherished moments, I honestly couldn't remember. Today my children kissed my cheeks voluntarily - with tears in their eyes. Nasty Mrs. Toms, sweet Mrs. Michael and dear Miss. May said a rosary each for me. Today snooty Robert from across the road, Peter from the bakery and the old crook Charlie took off their hats in my presence. Today, is the day i died. And for the first time, I feel love.