Mistaken For Strangers – James Heath

Just 18 years separate our births. You lived your life as a single feckless man for many more than that. My unexpected arrival into your life did little to change you. To become a father at 18 would shock most men into action. A period of readjustment and then at least an attempt to be a good father but you didn’t even try. And look at us now, trying to reconnect and form some semblance of a normal relationship. It’s difficult for me but the hardest thing is not knowing how this is working for you. Lines of communication between us have been stretched and stretched to breaking point on so many occasions over the last twenty years that I no longer know how to talk to you. You never talk about the stuff that has divided us and it all just festers away. An infected wound left to wreak unseen havoc on both of us.
I’m not particularly in interested in anything you have to say and I assume it’s the same for you. My stories of travel, my tedious anecdotes of all that I have seen and experienced mean nothing to you. I think my life has value simply on the basis that it is so different to yours, whereas you think my life is shallow and weak for precisely the same reasons. I have very deliberately not followed you. No violence, no unhappy relationships and no brooding silences when things get tough. Your inability to talk is the thing that has hurt me most.
I look across the crowded pub and see you slip into easy conversation with another bloke at the bar as you wait for our drinks. Occasions like this are rare, a small window of opportunity when I see how you really are. How you speak and how you interact with other people has long been a mystery to me. Your life is one of rigid compartmentalisation where everybody is boxed off from each other. I think this imposed structure must give you a feeling of control over your endlessly chaotic life but, of course, it means I don’t know anything about you. I have never met your friends, have never seen your house, your partner, your step-children, the photos you keep on your mantel piece, the food in your fridge.
And here we are, having a drink and going through the charade of catching up and building bridges. But it’s too late for all that. We both know what we really are. A father and son, so close in age and appearance but always mistaken for strangers by the other lonely drinkers in the pub.

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