Day 6: One a day: Head
I have to turn it around whenever I have a bath or a shower. I can just about stand it when I have a piss. Dad hates it too, but Mum has the final say on the decor of the house. While me and Dad have the final say about what goes on the box, come 6pm. I reckon this arrangement is the same for pretty much every family in the British Isles. Once, when I was a kid, Mam left me for a few minutes by myself in the bath and I’m sure its lips started to move. I was shivering, naked on the landing when she came up the stairs with a new bottle of bubblebath. I remember telling her what was wrong and she made me go back in there, wrap myself in a towel and speak to it. Speak to the sculpture of a head.
“What do you think Andy love?” I don’t want to look up from my macaroni cheese. It’s like I have an orgy with Californian babes smothered in cheddar and breadcrumbs going on in my mouth. It’s a new blusher, one that brings out her cheekbones even more than they already are. She’s obsessed with her cheekbones. Obsessed. Sometimes I hear her talk to her majesty in the bathroom, when she’s wiping down the tiles or pouring Stardrops down the bog. She’s tried to track down the artist who created it, but she’s yet to have any luck, and in a way I’m glad. She probably would have asked him to create a new face for her. Things have started to go a bit downhill for mum recently, and tonight she has something that she wants to announce to me and Dad.
“How long is this going to take love?” Dad asks, ringing a programme in the Radio Times. Mum touches her face. She’s been touching it a lot recently. She never used to. She used to warn me about the spread of germs and such like.
“I have face cancer.” Dad doesn’t look up.
“It’s not considered an April Fool’s if it’s after midday, love.”
“It’s not an April Fool’s. And anyway, it’s the second.” Mum never shares anything with us about doctors or illness, so I know she’s serious. She even puts her used sanitary towels in the outside bin when she is on her period.
“What’s going to happen?” I sound like a little kid. Her reply comes out and for a couple of minutes it is as though we are exchanging nightmares.
Mum’s first operation involved removing an eye. She has the most incredible endurance when things are going wrong.
“You know one of the things I miss most?” She says to me. “The smell of a big, juicy garlic plait.” She places a bulb, the size of a small child’s hand on a wooden chopping board, and cracks it with her fist to loosen the cloves. “I miss the smell of sliced onions cooking in really good butter.” Mum loses most of her head. The relationship with the sculpted head in the bathroom disintegrates. She talks harshly to it now. I always listen outside the door, just in case she collapses. We have taken the lock off. From the sounds of things, she is holding the head up to the mirror. I hear it crack against the bath then the floor tiles. Mum starts to sob. When Dad gets home from collecting her medication he says we can have a new bath.