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25th February 1976
I am watching my son turn into something I never envisaged. I don’t know what to do or what to think. As a parent I know what I should do. I should stand by him. But I can’t, I just can’t. During the past few months I haven’t stopped writing my new book. I have been stuck in my room typing or travelling around the country researching the development of architecture in Renaissance England, and I have realised that I have been missing my son grow up. Simon is now eighteen and I have noticed he has more confidence in himself, he is more self-assured and a smile cracks his beautiful subtly shaped face more readily. I came home yesterday after a month of staying in London and I found a small plain looking box of tablets on the coffee table. Printed in bold black letters on the front of the box was the name ‘citalopram’ or something similar. I asked Susannah and she sat me down and told me that Simon is taking anti-depressants and that my own son asked his mother not to tell his father about it. He was afraid of my reaction towards him, Susannah said, because apparently I have a tendency to over-react and get aggressive. What a joke. We are supposed to be a family. What sort of family is it where news is pushed out of other people’s way? Apparently, he has been seeing a therapist for over a month now. But that isn’t the worst news. While I was in London he told Susannah he was gay. I’m ashamed at how I reacted. But I can’t help it. It’s how I was bought up. Storming out of the house wasn’t the best thing I could have done, but I had a sudden rush of anger that overflowed in me like the froth of boiling milk on the hob. I didn’t expect things to ever turn out in this way.
25th March 1976
Ever since I found out something odd has started to happen to me. I am starting to feel disgust for Simon. People like him have always disgusted me. Every time I think of him these feelings of disgust hit me in a massive wave and a great splinter of pain ruptures up my spine. Why can’t he see what a stupid choice he has made to be gay. He doesn’t think of the effect it has on other people. I have been writing at an increased rate recently to take my mind off of it, and I have nearly finished. My book launch will be at Cambridge University in a few months which is giving me something to look forward to. Since I’ve been writing more, I have noticed I have developed a bit of a hunchback. I went to the doctor the other day and he seemed a bit confused by it, but he told me to do a few exercises to loosen it all up. But it doesn’t seem to be working. I am beginning to stoop over more and more. I am in the most pain when the recent news of Simon is troubling me. I can’t help but notice my feelings of disgust for what Simon has become coincides with moments of severe physical pain. The pain in my spine is excruciating. I can’t help yelling out sometimes just to release the pain this is causing me. Some days I notice that by the end of the day, I am hunched over even more than I was at the beginning. It is getting to the point where I can’t leave my bedroom. I’m hunched over my writing desk like a kid desperately trying to hide his school work from others. I haven’t just lost control of my son, I have lost control of myself.
2nd April 1976
While lying in bed last night I was thinking about my own upbringing and how my own father treated me. I remember spending nights in my room scared to go downstairs after he had shouted at me as I came back from school a bit too late. In the corner of the living room was a dark brown cane that he used sometimes. After he had punished me I often found it difficult to walk, and I would limp down the stairs to find dinner out on the table with my father sitting there with a smile on his face, welcoming me. After which, he would ask me about my day with a kind of calmness that suggested that he had not just wrapped a wooden stick around my ankles ten times. My mind would be a numb frenzy of thoughts buzzing around my head at such a speed that I could not understand what I was thinking. I don’t know what has become of my relationship with my own son. When Simon was born I remember thinking I wanted to be a better father than mine had been to me. After my father passed away two months before Simon was born, I was given added determination to do so. I wanted to be someone he could look up to and someone I could be proud of. Sitting in the hospital the day Simon was born, next to a sleeping Susannah after a particularly long labour, was my healthy newborn son and I remember telling myself that I was going to be a good Dad. I can’t help but think I have let him down over the past couple of months and that I have failed in my quest to be a better father which I promised to myself. But how can I suddenly accept something that has been drilled into me as wrong throughout my own upbringing? I can’t. That’s the truth of it. To do so would cause me as much pain as I am in now. I am betraying a love that should never be broken.
7th July 1976
I don’t recognise myself in the mirror anymore. The bone structure of my face is changing day by day. My brow line has become more defined and my nose has flared outwards and my mouth has widened considerably. I was eating dinner with Simon and Susannah yesterday as the pain in my back had eased off which meant I could just about make it down the stairs. Halfway through dinner I suddenly felt the worst pain I have ever felt, worse than my back even. It felt like a foot long nail was being hit by a sledgehammer through the side of my head and out the other side. It lasted for about ten minutes. All thoughts in my head became numb and I was reduced to a shaking wreck of a man. Lo and behold, the next day I look in the mirror and my brow line above my eyes has lurched forward. I’m scared to go to the doctor again. It cannot be a coincidence that these moments of anguish and transformation happen when I am around Simon, or at least thinking about him. Is this what happens for standing up for what I believe is right? I’m frightened that I am slowly being reduced in stature so that I won’t exist at all.
7th August 1976
For all I know this might be my last diary entry. I’m in intensive care. I am in complete isolation and I am being observed by scientists twenty-four hours a day. The doctors are amazed at what is happening to me. I have created such an enormous amount of media interest. More interest than I could have ever managed for one of my bloody books. This morning I met an archaeologist from New Zealand. He actually travelled all that way to see me. His expression when he first laid eyes on me was one of sheer disbelief. It looked like he was going to collapse. He shook my hand and immediately looked down at it to find the amount of hair that has grown on the backs of them over the past month. He is the leading archaeologist in the world and he confirmed what was widely speculated. He studied my bone structure. He was pressing his hands all over my body. He was constantly making notes on his observations. The rate of his note-taking was quite alarming. I asked for a newspaper this morning, and if it is ever possible to comprehend a situation such as mine, I am well on my way to doing so after seeing the front page:
“EVOLUTION IN REVERSE: NEANDERTHAL MAN EXPOSED”
The sub-headline said “death imminent.” Below this was a picture of me in this hospital bed. My hair was strewn across my forehead. My eyebrows bushy and my jawline so radically redefined. My eyes look startled and you can look straight through them as if I am dead already. Even thinking about Simon causes inevitable pain through my spine, and now down my legs and into the tips of my feet. It is too much to handle so I have asked not to see Simon. I wish I could though. Lying on my death bed, I feel an overwhelming urge to be accepted by him. I want to see his smile directed towards me. I haven’t seen that happen for months. His face has been nothing but despondent towards me and his eyes are glazed over like they have been numbed towards the sight of me. It’s like he has lost all belief in the world and I feel like I am responsible. Susannah is worried because he has stopped taking his anti-depressants. Apparently yesterday he stormed out of the house crying after she caught him throwing the tablets down the sink. I can’t live with the knowledge of what I have left behind. He knows what I have been thinking of him the past few months, but I am desperate to see my son and be accepted by him before I take my last breath and my straining heart takes its last beat.
Simon stood at the cemetery in the evening sun looking at the new gravestone for his father. The sun was at such an angle that the shadows of the trees and gravestones around them merged into one big patchwork of light and dark. Simon grasped the hand next to him and tried to suppress a tear to no avail. His boyfriend's hand clutched his tighter and they stood in silence looking down at the fertile soil under which his father was buried.