Rob and I have gravitated towards each other from quite a young age. Being tougher than me, he won't thank me for saying it but I utterly love him to pieces, would gladly take a bullet for the guy and regard him as the only family I have. We never really spoke about it when we were kids (living in constant state of fear tends to leave you tongue-tied), but there's absolutely no doubt that we were very much the black sheep of the family. We were even told more than once that their desired domestic unit consisted of Bob, Irene a boy and a girl. They got all of that, but also happened to have two children in the middle who one might regard as mistakes, mishaps, accidents or aberations. We were them and it shows in the way that people were treated.
When I look back, things started to go wrong when my sister was born. Bob's response was to spoil and indulge her, create an insurance policy against any thoughts Irene might have had of fucking him off and doing her own thing. Rather than rise above it and remember her other kids, she joined in this rather disturbing Dutch auction and so effectively all of their time and money (outside of the booze and fags budget, which remained a constant) went on her. The rest of us got fuck all and were basically neglected from that point onwards. Rob suffered more than anyone as a result and, although I had serious self-image problems of my own, I was Kevin Pietersen compared to him.
It was also around that time that Deano (my older brother) began to (at least as far as they were concerned) spin off the rails. In actuality, this consisted of getting drunk a few times, smoking a bit of blow and recognising formal education for the utter crock of shit that it is. Of course you'd rather he hadn't been doing it, but on reflection it was hardly earth-shattering stuff. My suspicion is this was his way of reminding his parents that he was still alive, forcing them to acknowledge his existence. He'd gone from being Goldenballs and the blue-eyed boy (which Rob and I never were) to just being another old toy that his Mum and Dad had got bored of. The drop was harsh, utterly unfair on someone so young and he couldn't cope. The fella has his faults, but I'm certainly not judging in this instance.
Rob got it something chronic though – I have no problem stating out loud that in absolute terms, he suffered more than anyone. He was constantly belittled, told he was no good and amounted to nothing. He was threatened with being sent to a school that was for people who were actually mentally retarded. He had it drummed into him at a young age that any sort of meaningful career would elude him and a job as a binman (not that I've anything against anyone who works on the bins for a living) was the best he could hope for. He tried to move out to get away from it all and was beaten up (more about that some other time). The lad has been through hell and come out of it stronger, tougher and more resilient than I'll ever be. I don't just love him, I really admire him and I'm dead proud to say he's my brother.
Knowing that both of your parents would have been happier had you never been born is a concept that (thankfully) will be alien to most of you. Confirmation of this came a couple of years ago when Bob was in hospital in the process of having a leg removed and, when asked if he had children, he chose not to mention us since, as far as he was concerned, we didn't exist. We were an inconvenience to him, it's as simple and as complicated as that. Exactly why I think he had kids in the first place is something I'll come to soon enough, but Rob and I know deep down how little we meant to both of them. Ultimately, it came down to what you could do for them, which is the polar opposite of what you'd expect in a parent-child relationship.
Sometimes I wonder how I'd get on if I went on that programme “Who Do You Think You Are?”. I'll tell you what I knew for some twenty-five years of my life. One side of Bob's family hail from Milan, the D'Angelucci clan (they support Internazionale and not AC, I was ultra fucking rapid when it came to asking that question!!). My great-grandfather, being an Italian living in Britain during the Second World War, was interned on the Isle of Wight in the early 1940s and this became the thread on which a novel (written by Bob, no less) was based. The other side of his family hailed from Dublin and were descendants of Pedraig Pearse, the Irish freedom fighter or terrorist depending on your perspective
Just tonight I watched 'In the Name of the Father' as a sort of tribute to Gerry Conlon (RIP and God bless). As teenagers we were forbidden from watching this film as it jarred a raw nerve and touched upon subjects dear to Bob's heart. We respected that and never asked to watch it, avoided talking about the whole Northern Ireland situation and generally steered well fucking clear.
Anyway, the punchline, you ready for it? I don't hail from Italians, that much is certain. Of course there is nothing remotely Mediterranean about me whatsoever, but when your biological father tells you this shit at a young age you're inclined to take his word for it. Hey, Vincenzo 'ICE' Nardiello had pale skin too so there. In all seriousness, I think this was a dating lie that was told to impress someone and got out of hand when it went down the road of engagement, marriage and having kids. Who and what do I hail from on Bob's side of the tree? I have absolutely no idea, and as a consequence I have precious little grasp of who I am. Not that either Bob or Irene have ever stopped to reflect on this and the impact it might have on other people.
Names removed to protect the innocent, at least for now...
I remember it like it was yesterday. I turned left out of the library, walked past her like I had a hundred times before and suddenly felt something that was just awful. The best way I can describe it is like being electrocuted and simultaneously having all of the blood removed from your body. That feeling of weakness, paralysis is something I will never, ever forget as long as I live. Is this what everyone goes through and, if so, why is it so utterly fucking painful? It would take me years to discover the answer to that question. Why do you freeze/tighten up every time this girl is within eighteen yards of you? Should you perhaps see a doctor about the faintness, nausea and chest pains you've been experiencing? Maybe you should just fuck school off for a while until all of this is out of your system.
Bless her heart, she's utterly blameless and I feel rough as a badger's arse for her (unlike a certain someone from my early 20s), but leaving this out would essentially constitute a direct lie. Had I turned right instead of left, I would have run into someone else and felt entirely the same thing, no question. The course of history would have been altered, but only marginally. Limerence is a fucking nightmare, particularly when you've no relative experience to fall back on. My confidence had already been shredded by years of negativity and nastiness at home, so I was ripe for a constant feeling of subservience, which is what limerence basically is. As far as my fucked up and diseased mind was concerned, she was a goddess, incapable of wrong.
I would quite literally have crawled across broken glass for her.
All that said...deep down I hated these feelings that had chosen me and not the other way around. I want to be as rational and sane as I can, so resent anything that compromises this in a meaningful way. I was desperate to wake up liberated from it all, not because she wasn't gorgeous and bright (she was both), but because I wanted to take back ownership of my own life. I assessed the terrain and concluded that the chances of success were slim to none, so my next mission was one of damage limitation. Being someone who had enemies who would have happily humiliated him, I got this better than most. Fortunately, I received some help from unlikely sources who had no idea.
Tell you what – I'll share those stories tomorrow. See ya soon.