Howard’s trying to move house. But as with most things in his life, it makes him nervous…
I get nervous. Everyone gets nervous, I know, but not like me. Let me give you an example. I moved house last week. It took a while, not least because of the van thing. I went in to get the van, which should have been easy. Then the lady behind the desk starts asking me these questions.
‘Have you ever been suspended from driving?’
‘Have you been in an accident in the last five years?’
‘Have you ever been refused insurance?’
And my mind starts spinning. What’s gonna happen if I say yes? I’m glancing around me at the three exits. I clocked them the moment I came in. One has a security lock, so it would take a little longer to get out that way, but the other two are good. I always check the exits; it’s second nature, like sitting with my back to the wall in a restaurant.
Anyway, I say ‘no’ to all the questions and she smiles at me, so then I’m wondering if it’s the kind of smile that happens naturally or if she’s trying to put me at ease. I hate it when people do that, because it means they noticed I’m not at my ease. Then I start worrying they’re thinking about me being nervous, which, as I’m sure you can guess, makes me nervous.
‘Are you alright, sir?’ she asks.
‘Uh, yeah, of course, I’m fine.’
‘It’s just that you’re sweating a lot.’
‘I always do that. Sorry, please, carry on.’ I don’t sound like I’m pleading, not that much. I don’t think.
‘Okay, well, let me go through a few things with you, then.’
She lays this sheet of paper on the desk and uses the dreaded words ‘excess’ and ‘in the event of an accident.’ She goes on and on, circling these figures on the paper that make my head ache. My hands are covered in sweat and I’m pressing them against my jeans so much I can feel the damp through the material.
Then she asks me to sign. I stare at the pen in her hand, magnified until I can see every tiny fine detail. I’ll never be able to hold it. I don’t have a chance. It’ll slip through my fingers and she’ll tell me I can’t have the van, but it’s irrelevant anyway because I’m already running for the exit.
So yeah, that didn’t go so well. In the end, my dad got the van for me. He’s cool, my old man. He doesn’t get nervous and he doesn’t make me feel bad for it. Not like mum.
I haven’t seen mum in ten years, which isn’t a loss on either side. She couldn’t stand me as a kid. She couldn’t stand having to hold my hand when I had to go anywhere. She said she loved it when I was five, but hated it when I was 25. Maybe she had a point. Nothing I could do about it, though. Well, not about needing her to hold my hand, anyway.
So yeah, my old man’s been alone since and it’s not done him any harm either.
Anyway, he got the van and turned up at my place early on Wednesday. Work gave me the week off because they knew it might take a while. My house is a bit of a mess. I would say it’s not my fault, only it is.
You see, I have trouble throwing stuff away. I don’t know why, it’s not like I use any of it. But the trouble is, I get nervous that maybe one day I will. Maybe one day I’ll want to read those magazines again. Maybe one day I’ll use those old cereal boxes for some cool craft project. Maybe one day I’ll find a use for all those off-cuts of carpet.
Maybe. It doesn’t matter, really, cos I couldn’t throw them away if I wanted to.
So we packed them in boxes and then into the van, and we chatted while we did it. Well, actually, dad chatted and I listened. He likes to talk and I love listening, so it worked out well.
It took most of a day to fill the van the first time. After three days, we’d done four trips and we were most of the way there. Dad only lost his temper once, when we were packing up the cupboards in the kitchen and he found the boxes of used tea bags. I’ve heard loads about how you can use them again, or make stuff with them, and I couldn’t bear to throw them because I knew the moment I did, I’d find the time to use them.
Anyway, he shouted a bit and I just looked glum until he said ‘aww, damn it, Howard, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.’ I knew he didn’t, so I just shrugged and said. ‘That’s alright, dad, I know.’ He hugged me, which was a bit tricky, what with me being a bit nervous about that kind of touching, but it went well in the end and we packed the tea bags with everything else.
We finished on Friday night. It was pretty late, past my normal bed time, but Dad insisted on getting us a beer each and we sat out on the new porch, watching the world go by and sipping our drinks. I hate beer. It tastes funny and makes my head lose its balance. I like my head being balanced.
It was nice, anyway, and I poured most of mine away once Dad left. My new house is amazing. It’s got so many shelves and cupboards. I can pack all of my stuff away out of sight and no one sees it, least of all me. I get nervous if I can see too much stuff. What if it comes alive in the night? But when it’s behind cupboard doors, I know it won’t. I know it.
So I like it here. There’s a man who wanders back and forth outside the windows now and then. He’s a bit scary, but I don’t mind, actually, because he’s keeping me safe. Dad said it was good that I was safe, because then no one would get hurt. I’m sure he meant I wouldn’t get hurt.
I shouldn’t have drunk that beer, I feel a bit funny. Dad’s put a picture of mum on the mantelpiece, which is nice. It’s nice to look at her. I miss her, though I don’t know why. She never loved me. I can still remember the last words she said to me.
‘Howard, put the knife down, you aren’t allowed knives, you know that.’
I ask you, is that any way to speak to a 29 year old boy?