Hi I’m Robert. You can call me Bob.
Before I start, there’s one thing you should know. I’m a liar. I can’t help it, it’s compulsive. It’s cool, because once you’re a known liar you can do what you like and nobody believes it. The only drawback is that, these days, I’m never quite sure whether or not I’m lying either. Weird as it might seem to you, the truth and lies are as one to me now. My life certainly seems fantastical when I relate it, but hey, some of it must be true. Mustn’t it?
Well, let’s start with a bit about myself. I’m tall, taller than average anyway. Six feet three at last measurement, what some people might call lanky. Long arms and legs, you know the sort. I was blessed with fair hair that has never faded and blue eyes that have been described as ‘icy’ before now. I’m not what you might call a ‘mans man’, no football or anything like that, I’m more genteel. I like my tea from china cups, that sort, if you know what I mean. I have been called ‘theatrical’ which could mean I have a star-like quality.
I live in a small flat, with all my things around me. It’s nice, in a bohemian way. Flowers grow naturally in the crevices around the windows, they occasionally even creep indoors through the cracks. I don’t discourage them.
My mother lives nearby in an old folks home. She’s mad. Potty. Has got worse since she moved in. She claims not to know who I am, but I can see in her eyes she recognises me. She was always disdainful of me, after all she was a success, an artist whose works sold for thousands, ‘til she went potty. Mother used to use me as her muse, and there are many paintings of me out there, the recognisable ones are mostly of when I was a child, she leant more to abstract as she got older.
Mother was always alone, I didn’t have a dad. Well I suppose someone out there must have contributed to my being, but she would never confirm who that was. I can see a resemblance to a certain actor, but I won’t say his name, I wouldn’t want to cause any embarrassment. Besides, you’ll know straight away when you see me. The likeness is striking.
The first girl I kissed threw herself at me. She was twelve and I was nine. Her name was Barbara something or other, and she had brown curly hair and skin dotted with freckles. She tasted of aniseed, and I’ve never liked it since. In my teens there were a few more conquests, Jilly M being the most notable. She was a model, though I never saw any of her work, long-limbed and cat-like. She prowled around stalking me for a month or more before I gave in and took her out for dinner. Never let them think you’re keen. That’s my advice.
We saw each other regularly for about six months before she disappeared off the scene. It was ok, I was ready to move on. I don’t like people getting too close.
Now, in my thirty’s, though I still go on the odd date, I like to stay free. After all, my job keeps me busy. I procure precious stones for a living, which sounds quite glamourous, though I can assure you, I more often than not end up in god-forsaken places around dusty ill-kempt mining offices, manned by dusty ill-kempt men, where I feel thoroughly out of place. However, it is lucrative, so it’s worth the trouble, and I always have plenty of spare cash handy with which to treat myself to some of life’s little luxuries.
For instance, I recently bought a car. It’s quite a fancy one. Attracts looks, if you know what I mean. I would never take it up to its full speed of course (I am a law abiding citizen), but do like to zoom off down the motorway with the roof down just to explore. I love the coastline so often end up by the sea. The window here is quite high up, and I can’t see out, but I’m sure I can hear the swish of waves nearby.
Once I was lucky enough to be invited on to a friend’s yacht for a sail around the Caribbean. It was a big old yacht (he is a multi-millionaire) and each berth was nearly as big as my entire flat. Oh, I shall never forget it. The sun and champagne, the laughter and swimming in the clear waters around the islands. I came back brown as a berry, and my hair was bleached almost white. I looked fabulous, though I say so myself.
I didn’t see him, or any of the others for that matter, again after that trip. But it was my choice. He was a bit nouveau riche for my liking really. I preferred staying at the big old house up near Edinburgh, you know, with the gentry. Much more my style. We rode every morning. I loved the horses, the feel of their strength and muscles working, the smell of the leather, the steam coming off their coats after a gallop through the mist hidden heather. My favourite was called Warrior, he was (is still probably) a magnificent chestnut. The stable lads brushed him so that his coat shone as though he was carved from polished wood. He was a full 16’ 3 hands, and it was lucky that I am such an experienced rider, because he could be extremely feisty at times. Never got me off though!
The trouble is it is cold in Scotland, and there are midges. Millions of midges. I was bitten to death nearly, and that old house was so cold. Rattley windows, drafty doors. They might have been used to it, but you would have thought they’d have got at least the guest quarters sorted out. So I’ve not been back. I like my cosy little flat better.
I wish I was there now. Cooking tea. I liked to cook. Watching the steak sizzling in its juices, or seeing the beans bubble in theirs. I don’t have much facility for cooking in the flat though, just a small stove. Not like my mother’s big old range. She’d always have pies and cakes cooking inside and stews and soups on the hob.
‘Nothing wrong with good English food’ she’d say as she chopped up greens and potatoes that she’d grown with her own hands in the vegetable patch up in the west corner of the garden ‘a growing boy needs a hearty meal!’
Don’t get that these days. Don’t each much of that mush at all. Seem to be existing on the pills.
I ought to explain.
I was telling my sister about my latest venture. Did I not mention I had a sister? Oh yes. A busy body. Two years younger than me and she thinks she knows best. Anyway, she’d turned up at the old folks home to visit mother at the same time as me. Mother recognised her straight away.
‘I’m off to Botswana on Friday, to one of the diamond mines’ I’d told her.
‘No you’re not Bob’ she said, not even looking at me.
‘Now why do you say that? Do you have to be so cynical?’ I asked her, affronted.
‘Because you wouldn’t know a diamond if you saw one’ she said ‘and besides, not a single word you have ever said has been true.’
Well, I’ve already mentioned I am a liar, so it’s no secret, but she didn’t have to be quite so blunt.
‘Are you having an episode?’ she asked, looking at me a bit peculiarly with a raised eyebrow and patting mum’s hand gently.
Well, that put me in a spin. ‘An episode? What the hell do you mean by that?’
‘Look, fine. You’re going to Botswana. Fine. Why don’t you go and pack?’
Sarcastic sort she is.
‘I wanted to see mother before I go. It’s dangerous out there. They’ve told me I’ll need to carry a gun. I might not come back.’
‘You’re ridiculous. And besides, I don’t think mum would be that bothered. You know she doesn’t recognise you anyway. A gun? Really? Good grief, you are getting madder by the day.’
Well I had to prove myself. Had to. So I pulled the pistol out from my trouser pocket to show her. It was only a small one, for protection, but she screamed like a demon, and ran behind mothers chair.
The orderlies called the police. The police took my gun and called social services. Social services brought me here. To the ‘hospital’.
It’s not all bad. Some of the other people have had similar experiences. One or two have friends in high places, like me, so sooner or later, my situation will improve. I understand my sister, against my wishes, has cleared out the flat. She bought me one or two mementos which she said were of my former life, though I don’t remember picking up a pebble and writing ‘agate’ on it. It does look like my handwriting though. Nor do I remember buying the little plastic pony, or the foot long wooden yacht with the broken mast and holey cotton sails. It has the name ‘wisp o’ the wind’ written on the side.
She tells me she has sold my car. Got less than a thousand for it, and the money has gone to the care home for repairs (the gun went off…accidently, of course, and mother was only grazed) and to paying off one or two of the outstanding debts I’d accumulated.
Sounds like I might be in here for a while. In the meantime, the nurse, who looks remarkably like Jilly M, is sashaying up the corridor, coming to give me some more sedation no doubt. Seems like they’re not interested in my protestations in here.
Or maybe, just maybe, none of this is true.