The worst part about the whole debacle was having to endure the barrage of well-meaning enquiry from friends and family in the aftermath.

The earnest concern, the tender worry, the open faced pity, the blatant love and support– it was unrelenting. These gentle interrogations were enough to send a fella over the edge.

I sat at the kitchen table warming my hands around a mug of tea. The refrigerator hum, the Jesus clock above the door ticking away, and the dead bell ringing of tinnitus in both my ears – and now the sound of my mother preparing to speak. Her breath being drawn in, gathering in her belly for consideration, catching again as it tries to escape out her mouth.

I closed my eyes, steeling myself against the pitched need in her voice.

‘How are you today, pet? How are you feeling?’

Well, Mam, I feel like there’s nothing going on in my head and nothing going on in my heart. I feel like shit and concrete and old fucking paint all mixed together and paper mached into the idea of a human man by the inmates of a Victorian mental asylum. I’ve had enough, to be honest, Mam. I can’t bear another fucking second of it. That’s how I am, Mam. That’s how I’m doing. Thanks for fucking asking. But of course, I didn’t say it.

Instead, I said, ‘Fine, Mam, much better now. You don’t have to be worrying like. I promise, I’m much better.’

But Mams being Mams can’t help themselves.  She said, ‘And you will tell us, won’t you? If you ever feel like things are going dark again? You won’t try it again will you, pet? You swear you’ll tell us, Shane. You swear it?’

And because she was my Mam, and because she loved me more than anyone else in the world, and because I was a worthless cunt, I said, ‘Mam! Please, I’m not going to say it again. I’m fine. I’m much better, can you just let me move on. And if you ask me one more fucking time how I am–I swear ta fuck!’  She flinched as I slammed my fist onto the table.

Funny how Mams always end up taking the brunt of it. Sponging up all our spat out  frustrations as a matter of course.

But sure lookit, what did I think was going to happen? 

© Sean Tanner
[This piece was selected by Sara Crowley. Read Sean’s interview]