My son is a horsefucker

My son was a fine man. He always made me proud.

His first school sports day, 1992. I can still remember that beautiful day, the endless blue sky, the small oasis of green in endless acres of grey, busy city. The rows of chairs that were too small for us parents, but were adorable to look at and that we were expected to sit on anyway. 4 years old, he was. I was just as overwhelmed with his smallness as he was with my size. I used to try to put my feet in his shoes, too.

Anyway, school sports day. Egg and spoon race, with golf balls in place of eggs. Kevin there, in his stripy shorts and Ninja Turtles t-shirt, with one hand gripping the spoon, making a steady beeline for the finishing post. Dropping his golf ball, again and again, and bending down, picking it up, putting it back on the spoon, and patiently continuing on his short journey. The other competitors were furlongs ahead, but Kevin didn’t even seem fazed, immersed in his own journey and pleased enough with his effort. Eventually reaching the end, last by miles, handing his spoon and golf ball to the headmaster with a careless smile and sitting back on the grass, next to his friends, peering over his scabby knees and chatting away, not giving a damn about his failure. I know this might sound stupid, but at that moment I could’ve cried.

And that was always the way he was. Happy with being a loser, which was so admirable. Content in himself, focused on his own journey through life and reaching his own goals, without concerning himself with impressing anyone else, or with anyone else’s stifling complaints. Like when I saw his art teacher, who was bagging about how he would never complete any of his work in class time, or his English teacher who told me he’d never finished a story; he’d usually hand in two paragraphs that were mainly crossings-out. It was like he was a perfectionist, but he couldn’t give a damn if the anyone found out.

I never tried to discipline this behaviour out of him. I loved that about him. I had never wanted to raise some insecure conformist as a kid, and here I was with the most confident, content young boy you could ever imagine. It would’ve felt like sacrilege to have told him to get his bloody work done at the class’s speed or he’d always suck at education.

When he was a little older, he fell in love with nature. We used to stroll down the tree-lined streets, go down to the parks, walk through the wood, and he would look around, wide-eyed, commenting on how beautiful the blossom was, pointing out birds and talking about their plumage, fishing with a net in the river, and throwing his catches back. He really wanted a pet dog, and I didn’t allow it – it would have ruined the carpets. But whenever the neighbour’s cat came over, he would stroke it and play with it and treat it like it was the best thing ever, and it wasn’t long until it was over at our house more than theirs. To be honest, I hated the mangy bastard, but Kevin loved it – he’d buy tins of tuna out of his pocket money and he even bought a food tray for it when I told him off for using our breakfast cereal bowls.

He just loved the world. He said it was overpowering. He said he used to lie on the grass, arms outstretched, and hug the Earth. He was fascinating, I would adore our walks around nature; he was like talking to Jesus. It was impossible to know Kevin and not eventually share this deep and gorgeous infatuation.

When he was about 17, he got this new bunch of friends. They used to all go to this ranch, and it wasn’t long before they’d got a job there. I was always bursting with pride for him, and his new job seemed perfect. He wasn’t the most athletic or academic kid in the world, but he had character, and he loved nature, and he loved animals too, and a ranch was ideal. He was becoming a real man, confident, deep, passionate, and ruggedly good-looking. I used to think he saw a bit of himself in the cowboys there, but obviously it was in the horses.

I never even noticed the signs. Like when I’d pick them all up, they’d all be red-faced, out of breath, and they’d be walking funny and bow-legged, and I’d put it all down to horse-riding. In retrospect, I wish I’d never driven them down and picked them up. Like, people ask me, “do you not feel let down?” and I only feel let down that he made me an unwilling accessory to his deviant shenanigans. I’ll always feel partially responsible for his death, solely because of those bloody lifts.

He started to get a bit of money, and when he was 20 he had his own place near the ranch, with all of his friends. He would still visit me often, take me down there and show me his horses, or any new horses they’d gotten, ride them around the dramatic landscapes he was spending his life in, and he’d tell me how happy he was, how perfect his life was. He seemed to be on the up-and-up. He was looking healthy, his life seemed to be going well; my only complaint was that he hadn’t found a girlfriend, ever – to be honest, I always thought he just wasn’t interested. But we were always really close. I would’ve liked to have thought he could have told me anything. But I understand.

I remember the day he died. 23 years old, and dead. I got a phone call from the hospital. I don’t remember what they said at all. I remember standing in the kitchen, crying, retching over the sink, sitting on the floor in silence with my head in my hands, the phone swinging back and forth like a pendulum, wailing the ‘call ended’ tone like the shrieks of the banshee. My brain had suddenly stopped working. This new piece of information seemed to make no sense. I remember repeating it to myself over and over, the realisation hitting me, sprawling over the linoleum floor, emptying my soul of tears, pounding the floor with fists until my hands bled. No words can describe losing your son; my little boy with the scabby knees and the carefree smile, so full of life, brimming with confidence, larger than life, he couldn’t possibly be dead.

Stricken with misery and choking back tears, I eventually phoned the hospital back. “How did he die,” I asked.

“They’re still doing autopsy reports. We’ll tell you as soon as possible.” I hung up believing them, but they were probably just trying to spare a grieving parent’s feelings.

When I found out the truth, which was a respectful and agonising length of time following, I didn’t care at all. He was still just as perfect. I winced at the details, but it took me no time to realise that he thought it was amazing. So he liked to be fucked by horses; big deal. At least he died doing what he loved.