YOU PRESS PLAY

And watch as the reels turn, the thin brown tape feeding from one reel to the other, the crickle-crackle sound of little autumn leaves being trod on by little feet, and the reels turn like robot eyes, and you see a robot’s face in the tape machine, its big white buttons toothing an evil robot grin, and then you hear your mum’s voice singing from inside the robot’s head... Yummy yummy yummy, I got luv in my tummy, and I feel like luving you... You watch the robot eyes turn and listen to the baby laughing and the mother laughing and you understand that this baby is you... Billy bay-bee, Billy bay-bee... Say Mumumum... And then there you are again, a soft-curled gurgle, a word that isn’t a word, your baby voice sounding back to your mum. This seems strange because you don’t remember this. It’s like it never happened, but you understand that it did happen because you’re hearing it from the tape machine, and yet this still doesn’t make sense because you just don’t remember it. You press stop, and lie back on your bed, looking up at the moon peeping its big white eye through the attic window... How can something have happened if you don’t remember it?... And now you remember feeling this way before, when you looked at those photographs with Nannan, her saying Look Billy, there’s you in your pram, and Look Billy, that’s you having a bath... and you remember feeling strange, like you didn’t believe it was you in the photographs because you didn’t remember being there, and looking like that, and someone taking your picture there, but at the same time you had to believe it was you, because Nannan told you it was, and besides, why would Nannan fib?... There was something else you felt too when you looked at these photographs. You remember feeling like you wanted to cover them up, to hide yourself, to put something over your bare body, and you wanted to tell whoever it was that took these photographs that they were naughty, and that they shouldn’t have done it, and you remember feeling that the whole world was looking at you. You remember it was the same kind of funny tummy feeling you had when you came back from cousin Raymond’s house when he’d played that game with you, where he was Batman and you were a baddy, and he had to catch you and trap you on the floor, saying he was good at catching baddies which is why he was going to be a policeman... You sit up, and pull the eyes off the robot’s head. The thin brown tape squeaks then crickle-crackles as you snap and stretch and pull and break until there is no more tape left in the robot’s eyes. You look at the curly brown pile on your bed and you remember the hairs on the girl next-door as Nannan shouts up that the film’s on... You like films. It’s like you’re in a place where bad things can happen but when the film ends they’re gone.

 

8. Their mum and dad would scream at each other

6. He’d only seen them on the telly before

 
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