Caolan Blaney is a writer and private English tutor based in London, having grown up in Birmingham. He previously worked as an Editorial Assistant for Story Terrace and PORT Magazine. He writes autobiographical fiction.
She was saying how she’d never been more ashamed. How I’d disrespected women, and how I’d disrespected her and embarrassed her, how she couldn’t believe she’d raised a son who’d watch porn in school and bring shame on her as a single mother. I didn’t want to cry again. But you’ve done it now, she said, and don’t you understand how it makes me feel? Don’t you understand that I’m a woman too? That your sister is a woman? What would she think? What do you think I think? …I didn’t know what to say. She was standing beside the cooker with her arms crossed and her eyes were black. I had a glass of water in my hand, and took a long sip, and swallowed, and it sounded loud like it was between my ears. The school had phoned her, and told her what had happened. They’d decided to suspend me from school for two weeks.
There’s nothing more I can say to you, she said, I don’t know how you could do this to me. You’re not the boy that I brought up because I didn’t raise my children in this way. A tear fell down. When your dad left I said to myself that I’d look after you and your sister, and I’d do it alone. Because your dad didn’t want to do it anymore and was more than happy to see you twice a week and take you out bowling. I thought I could manage, she said, if I tried my best and devoted all of my time to you both. If I cooked your meals, took you to school, helped you with your homework, bought you nice things, worked twice as hard at work in order to provide you with whatever it was that you needed. If I made it seem like nothing had changed and I wasn’t struggling for money or anything. That I wasn’t considering selling the house that your dad had left me to pay for, which would break my heart because I wouldn’t want us to move into a smaller home. How would I be able to tell you? And the only time I have for myself anymore is an hour at the gym. One hour every week. And when I go, she said, I turn up in my running gear, and I try not to look anyone in the eye, and I’ll start walking on the treadmill, and I’ll be crying, in full view of everyone there, because it’s the only time that I have for myself anymore. So do you understand now, she said, how much you let me down?
I’d been watching porn on the school computers with Miles. During lunchtime one day we were in the computer room and there was no one else around. We locked the door. We each logged-on to a computer. We were sitting side by side, and the lights had been turned off and the window blinds closed so that the blue beams of the computer monitors were glowing hard against our faces. He accessed the porn through a cloaking website that bypassed the online security settings. We were laughing as he hovered the cursor over each of the little squares and it showed us a preview of the video, the couples having sex on beds, over tables, on couches, against walls, the girl having sex with a girl, and the white girl with the dark penis inside her mouth, and he clicked on one. It took a few seconds to load before it started playing. The video was recorded on a handheld camera, and looked down on a woman with long brown hair that rested on either side of her shoulders and between her breasts. The man wasn’t visible; only his lower torso and erection, which was thrusting fast and rhythmically, making clapping noises against her pelvis. Like a metronome. Miles then turned the sound off. But we could see that she was doing the same moans and facial expressions that porn actors always did, which seemed even more stupid without the sound, and soon I had a hard on. Miles unzipped his trousers, took out his penis and started to masturbate. He looked at me and laughed, as if to say, like, why not then? He was pumping away with his right hand, looking intensely at the screen but with a smile across his face that showed the corner of his teeth and gums. I considered doing the same. I felt my penis through my pocket. With my thumb and forefinger I rubbed the tip. Then looked over at Miles for a second.
He was short and fat, and also a bully. No one liked him but everyone was friends with him. He was funny in his own way, and was a good person to have on your side, but every so often his jokes and antics were directed at you and you’d question why he was the way he was. Why he was never loyal, why he’d embarrass you in front of big groups of people but was nice when it was just you and him, why he’d always take things too far, and get you into headlocks or push you over while you were tying up your laces. You’d remember how much you hated him. We all hated him. He was our friend. He was hunched over now with his blazer concealing his penis, and his long, straightened fringe came down across his eyes and covered them.
All of a sudden the video stopped, the screen froze, the internet window closed down, and his account was logged off from the computer. Miles stood up from his chair, stuck his penis back inside his trousers, ran to the blinds and opened them up. I stood up too. The sunlight spread across the room. It was a clear winter’s day. I could see the frost on the rooftops, and a pale blue sky with just a few streaks of thin cloud. The sun in the corner, and, behind the rooftops, the upper branches of a tree that had lost its leaves, shaking in the breeze. We left the room, headed down two flights of stairs to the bottom of the building, and outside, and over to the school field where we joined in with the others. They were bunched together beside the fence at the bottom of the field. Some were eating crisps. No way, they said. Ha ha ha. You’re gonna get fucked… And I knew that Miles was nervous too. I could see it in his cheeks. He’d told me on the way down not to tell anyone. Then straight away he’d told them all himself.
The school found out a week later. Mr Collier, the deputy headteacher, had taken Miles down first, and then myself. He called me into his office. He was sitting behind his desk with one leg over the other. His chair was swivelled over to the side. Do you know why you’re here? He looked me in the eyes; they were cold and blue. He was appalled, he said. He spread out a piece of printed paper on the desk. Written on it was the internet history for the date marked 12/02/08, and the pornhub URLs highlighted in blue. I tried to explain to him why we’d done it, but couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse. We thought it would be funny, Sir. No—but it wasn’t funny. I knew that it wasn’t. I felt like a freak. And my mum had never seemed so ashamed.
When I saw her before bed that night. When I’d finished brushing my teeth, spat the toothpaste and saliva out into the basin, splashed water on my face, looked myself in the eye, turned off the tap, and she poked her head through the doorway. She said that she still loved me but she couldn’t go easy on me with this. She said that she’d asked the school to send her all the work that I’d be missing, including homework, and she’d make sure that I finished it. You’re going to your dad’s this weekend too, she said, and I want you to tell him what you did.
Ok, I said, yeah, that’s fine. I’m sorry. And we hugged. We were the same height then. Everyone always said how we looked the same. We had the same smile, same brown eyes, same dark hair. But her body now felt much smaller. Inside my arms she felt like a girl and not a mother. Her body was very slender. Much weaker than mine. Her hair smelt of warm shampoo. She rested her chin on my shoulder and patted my back. We said goodnight. And let go. She turned away and went downstairs. I wandered across the landing to my room, turned off the light, pulled off my T shirt, opened back the covers and got into bed. The inside was cold. I prayed to God that night. I didn’t believe in him anymore, but I still prayed sometimes when I was feeling down. I folded into the duvet. Thinking how I know that I said that I didn’t believe in you, but please God, who art in heaven, please don’t let them find out about anything else, because nobody knows how he had his cock out, and please make sure that I never do anything like that again, even though I don’t really care about it anymore, because who cares, who honestly cares anymore. Because I’m not gonna be able to sleep now. No way. Because my heart is beating really fast.
The curtains were closed. The dark seemed dense. Like I was sinking inside it. The cars rolled by softly. The wind blew, and whistled. My face sunk into the pillow. My toes curled in and out like they were breathing. The curtains were so ripply. The far wall was much darker than the other walls, so black it looked deep. I felt thirsty. I got out of bed, wandered back to the bathroom and drank some water from the tap. Wiped my face. Went back to my room and into bed. I lay there for a while, very still, heart still thumping, and felt my penis through my pyjamas once again until it became erect. Because there could be a girl beside me if I thought about it hard enough and used my imagination. Lying beside me with her arm against my chest. She could have big eyes and long ginger hair. She could be on top of me. She could have big lips. A small face. Her name is Sophie. And I could see the white teeth through the red lips, and half her face was in the shadow. She was resting on my hips. My eyes were wide open. She could bend down and kiss me on the skin beside my earlobe. My body convulsed, and I felt the familiar feeling coming over me, filling up my lower body with heat, then draining away with the sperm.
I lay there for a few minutes, not thinking, and staring up at the shadow in the corner of the room, before taking a step out of bed, taking a sock off the floor and wiping myself with it. I dropped the sock. Then slipped back into bed. I closed my eyes. I breathed in deeply. I stayed awake for a while longer. I wanted to know what everyone must think of me. How they all must see me. My left leg reached around for the cold. It was all around the edges and felt like stone.