4/5 by Clive Somerville
Everybody has changed, and I am just the same: Everybody is just the same, and I have changed. These two statements I made only weeks apart, each uttered during an impassioned monologue imploring my wife to understand why I felt so alone.
You see, 12w 4d into fatherhood and I’m almost sure that I left the first 33 years of my life in the delivery suite. That as Miss F. entered the world, Mr C Mk. 1 left, or was temporarily put on ice. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy, Mk. 1, too, did some kicking and screaming. It is an abrupt and awkward adjustment to make, to subdue one’s own ego and have it usurped by the third party of previously paired relationship…
Mme. et Moi find that a decent drive provides a matrix on which we can graft conversation. Mlle. usually sleeps well in the back seat of the truck, snug in her capsule. These two things combined, led the family to a circumnavigation of Maungataurtari a la Amarok, looking for late afternoon light and early enlightenment. I packed my two TLRs, the Microcord and the Rolleicord, a couple of rolls of film from the freezer and headed out into a short winter’s afternoon. Miss F. slept, I drove, and Mme. counselled.
I struggle at the best of times to get decent shots from the Microcord. The Rolleicord was given to me with the advice that the results were usually “surreal”. Most of the shots of that day are a bust, with the excuse that I was shooting into hyper-contrasts and exposing on anything in the frame left the rest black or blown. Still, a wing mirror selfie and four landscapes of increasing amounts of skyscape I’ll settle for.
…Everybody has changed, and I am just the same. I’ve felt an immense void between me and most of my friends of late. Occasionally I’ve been brave enough to venture my feelings with one or two. And I’ve only created more distance in the drifting plates that are me : them. People whom I love appear as strangers when I view them. And I have railed against their perceived absence when I needed them most. Here I was, just the same, and everyone had changed - and I wasn’t part of their new lives.
There have been times as a new father when the emotions have been frankly overwhelming. When the inability to cope with my internalised rage of inadequacy; paralysing fear of failure; unscalable mountain of love; inscrutable paranoia of err - all come crashing athwartship, it is near impossible to heave to solo, or to bear away and run alone.
Everyone is just the same, and I have changed. I’ve created a firewall resistant to incendiary cries for help. Some friends have been brave enough to ask me for console, in their own personal crises. And I’ve only looked upon them with a blank countenance and lack of any recognition. People I love I have ignored or found frustrating when they may have needed me. Here I am, changed utterly - and I don’t know how to fit people in my new life.
Whilst totally consumed by the complete and selfish focus of caring for another I find it near impossible to haul a line and help a friend past the stays.
So there is the dichotomy so delicately handled by my counsel, wife, and the mother of my child. Same / Changed.
I wonder if the longing views and overly purple cast of despair I’m picking up in those landscapes are real? And what of the obfuscation of self I see in the wing mirror? Metaphor, or manifestation.
Counting the clicks with the living dead, my eyes are red.