Thanks to a lovely email from a reader, I remembered that I have long wanted to post some of what was deleted from This Is Shyness during the editing process. In my original manuscript, I included seven chapters told from the points of view of characters other than Wolfboy and Wildgirl, namely: Ortolan, The Kidd, Guadalupe, The Dreamer, Paul, Blake and Diana.
I wake up to find a comic book steepled on my face. I wake up like I’m waking from the dead. First I blink lazily for a few minutes, then I gradually move my mouth, my head, my fingers, my shoulders. Finally I sit up. I feel like I’ve been asleep for years and just woke up brand new. My favourite game when I was little was horses. I would tie my favourite doll on my back while I slowly crawled around on my hands and knees. Sometimes we would pretend to be foals just born, with wobbly legs and sleepy whinnies. I feel like that now.
The kerosene lamp has burnt out and the room is cold and dark. I put the comic back on the stack. My concentration is only good for comics these days, not books. I hate that, that my brain is full of holes. Holes where memories should be, and information, and feelings. Like moths have been munching on my insides.
I go to the door of the living room and all is quiet. Wolfboy and his girlfriend mustn’t be back yet. I have no idea how long I’ve been asleep for. I pad up a corridor in my socks and every room is empty. In the kitchen I search every cupboard and high up, right at the back of one I find a stash of jam. The homemade kind, in a jumble of jars with handwritten labels. I pick out a jar of plum and find a spoon. The jam is runny, with big chunks of fruit in it. I eat it by the spoonful, straight out of the jar.
I start at the front of the house, taking the jam with me.
In the front room I peek under every sheet and find a photo of Wolfboy’s family on the top of a fancy cupboard. The frame just fits into one of my leg-pockets with millimetres to spare. The furniture is nice but not interesting, like the furniture in a hotel.
Off the hallway there’s a spare room, a toilet, a study and a bedroom. The bedroom is musty, with a huge bed, bigger than any bed I’ve ever seen. I use my cigarette lighter to light my way. There’s a bathroom leading off the bedroom, and another room just for keeping clothes in. In the bathroom I find a pot of expensive-looking skin cream. I dab some cream on my scars and then the pot goes in my pocket. There are light bulbs all the way around the mirror but the switch doesn’t work. The house mustn’t be wired.
The wardrobe smells of mothballs and dust. Inside are fancy outfits, suits, and shirts and ties, and long fur coats and dresses that rustle, and rows of shoes all lined up. I put on a black tuxedo jacket and a felt hat with a tilted brim.
The kitchen is done, but I shut all of the open cupboard doors, with a tap dance routine and a series of satisfying bangs. The jam is sticky on my teeth, warm and tingly on my insides.
Upstairs there’s a room full of music stuff. I sling a guitar around my neck and run my fingers up and down the strings. I’ve seen Wolfboy’s band play at Umbra. I’m too young to go there but I snuck in the underground way. I know some tunnels from my time with the Kidds. I can still remember bits and pieces of what it was like to live in Orphanville, but there are lots of moth holes. I remembered more than I thought I would to draw that map for Wolfboy.
I lay the guitar down gently and go into the next room. This must be where Wolfboy sleeps. It’s nice. I like seeing his things lying around. I lie down on his bed and look at the roof. There are glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling. I can see some real stars out the window as well, and a chunk of moon. I pull the photo frame from my pocket and hold it up in front of my face, close enough too see in the dark.
When I look at the photo though, instead of Wolfboy’s family, I see my own. I had two mums and a house once. I can barely remember what that house looks like now, but the garden was wild and full of hiding places. I haven’t been back in years.
I should let them know that things are different now, that I’ve left the Kidds and I’m trying to get clean. But something stops me. I want to go to them when I’m completely better, when I’ve made something good of myself. And then I can say sorry to them. Sorry for all the money I stole off you, sorry for the time I punched Mum Jen, sorry for the times the police came to your door looking for me.
I turn the photo down flat on my stomach. My eyes feel strange.
I’m sorry for other things that I’m only just realising. Sorry that I made you look bad in front of other people, when some of the people in our street were just waiting for you to fail. Sorry because they already thought we had no right to be a family.
I touch my fingers to my face and there are tears running down over my cheeks. I haven’t cried in years. I put my fingers in my mouth, and the taste is salty.