“Back in a tick,” I say to my friend.
On an unassuming Wednesday evening an email arrives and turns the world on its head. It is from my friend Sue and it makes no sense at all. It is about her mate’s website. It says: “Would you consider doing her a few drawings, like you have on your blog, on a commission basis?” This is a joke, I think. “This is not a joke,” says the email.
I am too stunned to laugh. My husband isn’t. He laughs for three full days and three full nights while I negotiate money – real, proper money – to do crap drawings.
I write a proposal detailing the crap drawings I will do. I think greedily about how this will be the easiest money I ever make. Then I try to draw them. They are total crap. I can’t draw arms. I can’t draw legs. I can’t fucking draw!
The problem with my sister is that she shares my genes. They are strange genes, darkly comic genes, genes laced with disaster. And so with quirky DNA poisoning her judgement, last week she made a momentous, life-endangering mistake.
She was invited to a party by an acquaintance. “It’s a biker party,” said the acquaintance. My sister went home and invited her husband. “It’s a biker party,” she said.
They got their costumes ready. She scrounged a brown leather jacket, applied heavy makeup and etched a fake tattoo on her neck: “HW” for “Harley Whore”. He purchased a thick, preposterous handlebar moustache and stuck it to his upper lip. They went to the party. It was not a dress-up party: It was an actual biker party.
I wake to the high-pitched squeal of a car skidding out of control. It is followed by a thunderous bang. I sit bolt upright in bed. My husband tries to sit up but I panic tackle him and halt his progress. Clutching both his shoulders I murmur into his face, “Oh God! Oh God!” He peels my fingers from his shoulders and runs to the window.
“The driver’s making a run for it,” he reports.
I dash to the window. There is a car in the neighbour’s front garden, its bonnet buried in the trunk of a tree. Another tree has been split in half and flung down the street. I grab the phone and dial emergency. My husband pulls a grey hoodie on and runs for the front door. I follow him.
I thought that I had lost every scrap of privacy and every inch of dignity. I figured there was simply no humiliation parenthood hadn’t served up. I mean, approximately 843 people looked up my vagina during my pregnancy and labour, I’ve hosted a tea party with vomit spattered through my hair and I’ve used a toothpick to fish human faeces from the cracks between wooden floorboards. But life is full of surprises and it turns out I was holding on to a skerrick of pride.
I discovered this a fortnight ago when my daughter started using the toilet. She needed encouragement to forsake nappies for the porcelain throne and I gave it to her. I clapped wildly every time she did what she was supposed to do. I made up loud, insane songs about bodily functions. I did dances, recited rhymes and penned limericks on the hoof. I turned that bathroom into a god damn cabaret. I overdid it. Within a week I couldn’t get her off the toilet.