Part Time Dad
It’s the Saturday before Christmas and I’m on a packed Tube train headed for Oxford Circus. I hate Christmas. I hate the Tube. Shopping and people – I hate them too. I am devoid of the Christmas spirit but I have promised all year to take my son, Josh, who is nine, to Hamleys. We probably won’t buy anything there because it’ll be ridiculously overpriced because most of their customers are tourists who won’t realise there are other toy retailers within half an hour’s walk. Josh and I are standing – the train is packed and we’re up against a door.
My son looks like the Milky Bar Kid. Little thatch of blond hair, spectacles that keep falling down his slightly freckled nose. So far, so cute. Add to this the fact that he has somehow managed to cultivate an accent which combines the cut glass Sarf Lahndn voice of his father and the sing song soft Welsh lilt of his bitch mother and he has quite a sweet little voice too.
A voice which, sadly for me, he is about to shatter the traditional silence of the packed Tube train with.
“What does homosexual mean?”
Now, at this point, I ought to point out that I am wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the legend “GAY DAD” in big letters. They’re a band I went to see the weekend before. I liked the T-shirt and I knew that wearing it when I went to pick my son up would upset his evil cow mother.
I look at the rest of the people in our carriage who have turned their heads to me as one, like some Christmas shopping Hydra. They’re all clearly keen on hearing me answer this question and, having clocked the T-shirt I’m wearing, have agreed between themselves on the events that have led me to this moment.
I reckon they think that I’m gay and that my son was the result of a doomed relationship with a woman in which I lived in denial of my true sexuality until I could stand it no more. Perhaps they’ve added a boyfriend. A job too. Perhaps I live in Muswell Hill with a set designer called Piers.
Their eyes haven’t moved. The Hydra, like my son, wants to know what a homosexual is.
“Daddy? What does homosexual mean?”
“Well, it’s a very long word for a small boy to be using. I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
“Billy called me one.”
“Well, Billy shouldn’t use words he doesn’t understand. It’s not an insult, ignore Billy, he’s being very childish.”
Even my stupid hateful and ugly piece of shit of an ex would have to agree that I had displayed something approaching maturity here. The rest of the carriage, I feel, are about to break into polite applause at my thoughtful parenting skills. We’re all bonding together in the warm glow of my magnificent answer. I feel Christmassy. Come on Hydra, let’s go to the pub and drink some mulled wine and crack open a walnut.
Josh ruins it though. Josh ruins Christmas.
“It’s OK though Dad. I called him a cunt.”