by Lynn Clement
‘I’m turning over a new leaf,’ I say to my mother. She looks at me with sadness in her eyes.
‘No I mean it mum, this time it’s for real.’
She kisses my cheek and waves as she gets to the door.
Flopping back on my pillow, I am exhausted at the pretence of it all. Closing my eyes, the old pictures come. I was in a pink frilly frock, or was it purple – lilac maybe. We were in the back entry to our two up two down in the heart of Salford city. Five years old and happy as Larry, whoever he is? Why do people say that, ‘Happy as Larry?’ It’s a good name though, short for Laurence, nearly as good as the one I picked.
Another memory flashes in my mind, that one where I was with my cousins Kathleen and Frank. We were playing by the river Irwell. Frank was showing off as usual. I adored him. He was my hero in a way and I wanted to be like him. After that day, I wanted to be him.
We were mucking around at the water’s edge and the dog fell in. I didn’t know any of us knew how to swim. We didn’t have lessons and I don’t remember our parents taking us swimming either. But Frank loved that dog and he wasn’t about to let him drown. Frank dived in, well belly- flopped really with an almighty splash that sent the water splattering over me and Kathleen. He was a big lad Frank. And he was strong. He got the dog, Laddie to the side where he could scramble out. Me and Kathleen managed to drag Frank half way up the bank where he was able to grab some roots and pull himself onto the grass. He lay there flat on his back, panting, a bit like the dog. Laddie had recovered quickly and was now licking his privates and I remember laughing out loud. Breaking the tension I said, ‘Don’t you do that Frank!’ I think Frank swore at me, but in that moment I fell in love.
The love wasn’t for Frank as such, although I liked him a lot; he was my cousin after all, but for what he was. I hadn’t dived in. Kathleen hadn’t dived in but Frank had. Was that when I realised I was wrong? Something was wrong. I’m not sure really. It’s taken me forty years to know.
The nurse interrupts my thoughts.’ Hello Frankie,’ she says. ‘How are you feeling today?’ She reaches for the medication as she speaks.
‘I’m ok,’ I say. ‘Just had a visit from mother,’
‘How’s she taking it?’
‘The usual,’ I say, ‘trying to put a brave face on it.’
‘It’s a big thing for her,’ says Nurse Downing.
‘It’s a big thing for me,’ I say.
She tells me the surgeon will be here in a little while and gives me my pre-op medicine. I’m hoping it will calm the nerves. I am so scared but now I know, I need this. This is my new leaf. No more depression. No more suicide attempts. No more longing to be someone that my body says I’m not. The real me revealed.
I begin to drift off and I can see my mother’s sad eyes saying goodbye to her little girl at the ward door.