It was four days before Chris visited to say that he would support Daniel’s potential for prosperity (by enabling me to work with full reward) by taking care of his child. He was not shy about delivering his decision/choice with magnanimity. I was glad that Tracy and Phong were with him on the visit, so I knew it had been discussed.
Daniel and me in life’s ocean, a buoy cast in our direction…
I would actually be earning money from acting! I had earned erratically as an extra in TV commercials, feature films, and doing voice-overs, but this would be steady, regular acting work. My agent never put me forward for acting: I found this (and voiceover) all by myself!
AND I would be hired again and again, casually, as each influx of police recruits arrived. I saw a glimmer of the potential life has to be living joy, when you work in the field of your natural talents, bypassing the zombie hordes on trains and buses heading for those static environs.
“But”, Chris went on, as he placed on our kitchen bench a tin of stale biscuits from the Fremantle markets where he worked, “I can’t all the time.”
I knew the biscuits would be stale (once his offering was cobwebbed) for I had accepted Chris’ terms of fatherhood – that he would give “what I can when I can (so pursuing child support legally isn’t necessary)” – soon after Daniel’s birth. I had accepted his word to be of honour, because that’s how I endeavoured in life. Of course: not perfect at being am I, human.
Beyond my marriage, I had borrowed several thousand dollars from my male boss for me to travel overseas, simply on the strength of my word in a contract which he left me to write up, and he signed. He was okay for me to seal my promise of repayment by a handshake, but I know how associations can change in time and I did not want anything misunderstood. I’ve learned pieces of paper can hold truths which our memories have lapsed.
When I discovered pregnancy I put my dreams of travel away and gave my boss his money back without prompt. Kept working.
When I’d left the marriage, divorcing was not necessary because we together knew we were no longer a union and it did not matter, any Establishment’s decree. I divorced eventually only so that my son would bear my surname.
That the courts took their sweet time and Daniel was born when he was, is of little consequence to me: I provided my surname for Daniel’s birth certificate because he was my son, not the son of my marriage four years previous – and not the son of his father who had not demonstrated sufficient loyalty to the soul so imminent, and then present in our lives, to be honoured by being named as father. Pieces of paper also bear illusions which hearts have already endorsed; hence are overruled in this world so material.
I knew that to a male (“knew” from what I had been taught of men) that it would be like being let off the hook, to not be named on a child’s birth certificate. However, after long thought I still decided that Chris was not worthy to be so named, and so however it came across to the man I did not care: I was doing what was aright according to my heart.
Just as years previous a male thespian had given to my hands the money needed to leave my marriage and place bond on a bedsitter on my word that I would repay it (which doing was my first priority upon first pay cheque outside the marriage), so when Chris said he would give to his son what he could when he could, I readily accepted it, believed it: giving your word (and standing by it) was normal to me.
It was a slow and, to my heart deeply, deeply offending realization that Chris’ offerings were mere donations to Daniel not of what Daniel needed, but what patrons of the market had rejected from dawn through to dusk. And his donations, he delivered 80% of the time with a woman at side, be it his partner of two years or those he was not shy to introduce as his (latest) “friend”, on their way to dinner or the casino – his favourite outings.
I developed a habit of receiving Chris’ donations, commenting “thank you”, then rifling through them for anything worthy of, or needed by, our son. I then binned the rest.
Deepened, the blue of my eyes.
But this was good: this would be good: me working casually, and Daniel being with his father. Chris would surely fall to love Daniel, if he didn’t already. I could not tell whether Chris loved Daniel – and who was I to gauge/judge that? I thought (fancied) I saw a father trying earnestly to honour his son’s life, needs.
“What do you mean ‘not all the time’?” I asked, Daniel in my arms sedately – not struggling to be with Dadda, but keeping an eye on Dadda.
“My sister Karen take care of Daniel when I have feng shui appointment.”
“Daniel’s aunty…your sister Karen? Where does she live? Is she married? Does she have children?”
“Too many questions. I pay her $4 an hour and she willing to have my son. You don’t need a worry.”
“$4 an hour??!” (so little…)
“She take care all the kids $4 an hour,” Chris stated. “I pay, I pay: don’t worry.”
It seemed a decent arrangement that if Chris couldn’t take care of Daniel when he’d given word he would, then he pay for a carer, but…
“Why can’t you make feng shui appointments when you don’t have Daniel? And what other kids does she care for? Does she have children?”
Daniel wanted to get down, so I let him. How many of this tone of conversation had we had in front of him, how many more would we have? What did Daniel understand, I wondered. What words did he know certainly? What did he think?
“You don’t understand my work. I go when they call. I take the opportunity.”
“I understand you needing to work, but can’t you choose appointments when you don’t have Daniel, or around him at least? You’re freelance.”
“He’ll sleep with us,” Tracy offered in persuasion. Chris always seemed to bring Tracy when he had need to negotiate with me, leaving me with the distinct impression, usually, that he had in fact negotiated me.
Phong, I noticed, had taken up position in the chair at my desk. He was completely bored of all our company, of his position in life, I could see. And troubled.
“Karen teach him Chinese,” Chris said.
“Oh! That’s fantastic!” I said. “That would be fantastic! Daniel can be bilingual!”
“Yeah, yeah, see. It all work out.”
I set with Chris the times and days, and secretly hoped he would not make feng shui appointments on those days – or if he did, they would only be a few hours at the most.
Karen lived “in the sticks” – the outer suburbs, I learned – and coincidentally nearby where my ex husband David’s mother had helped us to obtain a mortgage. Having established a house and just working on a front fence, a Labrador (like he had when a kid) was what would be next before which, it was expected, “By then she should be ready to have children”…
Daniel didn’t know what was being negotiated in our little home, but by the time Chris, Tracy and Phong left, after Mum dumped the biscuits and bruised fruit into the bin, by the time we were on the floor in his toy room being together, Mum seemed happy enough. And Daniel sensed all was well with the world, today.
Life is good, when you choose well.
Copyright Noeleen&Daniel 50/50