The girl who raped me had a really nice mum.
Her name was Karen.
She loved menthol cigarettes
and wore Iron Maiden t-shirts.
I liked her very much.
Karen had a filthy motorbike and a teardrop tattoo.
When the pubs closed, we would go to her place
to drink white lightning
until a fight broke out.
Karen shared a house
with her sister, Debbie, their bedroom windows
boarded up and covered with graffiti.
Debbie had been to prison for killing a woman
in a drunken fight over a fake fur coat.
Debbie would collapse on the floor and curse God
while Karen danced and burned the pizzas.
It was great.
I enjoyed being around people
as emotionally unstable as I was.
One night, after everyone else had gone,
Karen begged me to pretend to be her late husband.
She wanted me to wear his old work clothes.
His blue jeans, lovingly folded
over the armchair he would pass out in,
She kept his scruffy boots by the front door,
and whenever I passed them
I felt a real sense of dread, like they resented me,
and I would dream about their laces
during my worst hangovers.
My diet was poor back then.
I lived on chips and beans.
I thought growing up in small houses
foggy with thick cigarette smoke
somehow fucked up my taste buds.
But Karen introduced me to spaghetti Bolognese.
She giggled when I burped
so, of course, I would belch
as deep and loud as I could,
to make her happy.
Sometimes I went too far and made myself sick.
My mates found it funny when I told them what happened
with Karen’s daughter, like when I told them
about Terry in the cornfield,
or Jamie the babysitter,
or Carl’s dad with his vice-like grip: they said
Why are people so fucking weird around you?
I told them Karen’s daughter smelled like a seagull.
I told them she dripped
the sea all over me.
Ten years later, I saw Karen’s daughter
smoking outside the local supermarket,
blowing neat smoke rings
just like her lovely mum used to.
‘Hey! Remember me?’ She said. ‘I fucked you
at Gary’s birthday party.’ I smiled,
stumbled inside, and had a full-blown panic attack
in front of the cheese.
It wasn’t so much the memory of what she did,
to be honest it was all of them,
and all the things they did.
I couldn’t figure out what it was
that made me such a victim.
either too close to my skin or too far away,
I was outside my body watching myself
grabbing as much cheese off the shelves
as I could. Filling my coat pockets
with big blocks of cheddar, shoving bags
of grated mozzarella up my shirt and down my pants.
It was everywhere, stuffed inside
my trouser legs and packed into the arms
of my long black thief coat.
I cleared that fridge of anything remotely cheese-related.
The security camera was pointed right at me.
I knew the staff were watching, I didn’t care,
it felt like the right thing to do.
By the time the manager and his assistant came over
I was carrying so much cheese
they just grabbed each other,
laughing and wheezing.
They said I had to pay for the cheese,
especially since some of it was down my pants.
They escorted me out of the building and told me
not to come back.
Thankfully, Karen’s daughter was gone.
The pavement was littered with pink,
lipstick-stained butts. She even left a cigarette
on the window ledge, still burning
despite the wind and rain.
God knows, I was poor enough
and desperate enough to pick it up and finish it.
I sucked it right down to the soggy butt,
thinking ‘Oh, fuck you, you fucking seagull.’
In the top window of the new flats
opposite the derelict bakery,
a woman and her baby waved at me.
When I waved back,
she shut the curtains and turned out the lights.
Two men came sprinting from behind
the dodgy pizza place
as a posh white car exploded.
I watched it burn
until the police arrived
and when they pulled up beside me
and asked me what I saw
I told them everything.
BOBBY PARKER‘s latest poetry collection is Working Class Voodoo (Offord Road Books). This poem is from his new book Daddy in the Dark, which he is currently working on.