‘When are we going to talk about it, Tan?’ Tears in Nye’s eyes, a catch in his voice. ‘I’ve always wanted this, since I was a boy myself. To be a father.’You are that for me, who never had one. This, too, I did not say.
‘I’ve never wanted to have a small person in my power.’ I said instead. ‘What if I they felt trapped, like I did? I’ve got no model for family life, no feeling for it. It’s only something I wanted to escape. And what if we have a child and each stage of its life triggers memories of what I’m trying to forget in mine?’
‘But I’ve loved you ten years now. When will enough time have passed for you to be over all that?’
Never, I thought.
But instead of that terminal answer, I asked for just a little longer, please: If Nye and I could both cast off our inertia, our shyness — if we booked holidays and went abroad like normal people instead of spending our annual leaves parked by our childhood beaches reading books with our feet on the dashboard — if we began to use our money instead of only saving it for accidents and emergencies (his carefulness a legacy of growing up in that mining valley during the strikes; my caution got from the short rations of Mother and me alone) — if we lived more in our bodies and less in imagination — then we could try for one.
This time next year. Yes?
Like the Miller’s daughter who promises her firstborn child to a stranger if he will spin straw into gold, I did not think we would change very much, or that Nye would hold me to that moment.
Before we kissed on it in the white light that revealed his age and mine, I should have remembered the shadow side of bargains: their strange insistence on terms. Even when those who make them have no belief in fate or design themselves.The Cure For Sleep
This month’s extract from The Cure For Sleep for subscribers on Substack looked at pledges, promises and bargains. Readers were then invited to share short true tales of their own on this theme. Here is where those responses are showcased.