First it was a passing name thown into a mix amongst others. A name not really warranting a "who she?". Then a few more times a name was posted as being part of the group, one of the gang, then she was mentioned in despatches to the parents, she shared the joke, name-checked in the fun. Then the name was written down on a birthday card, then there was "gift", the gift was cuddly. Then there was the "tell", she was no-one when asked. I reverted to type and sarcasm and ill timed jokes. I'm that kind of Daddy riot style of tear it down, without thinking, as long as its loud and funny. That was some weeks ago....
Tonight I am called upon on a Saturday night to collect a son from a friend's house - a group DVD-er all-evening-er......I am without my poorly person excuse of creaky bones needing a good hot bath to get out of paternal duties of the chauffeur.
So tonight my alcohol intake is zeroed, a liver is happy, kidneys relax a tad, the sacrifices I make.
Tonight I drive to a strange place downtown, I have SatNav as my true-est friend. She has saved me many times, rescued me when a family has let me down, when I have faced near-death in inner city congestion. Bar for obvious inner body experiences not had, she is up there as marriage material.
"Sat" takes me a stranger router than imagined. Sat knows better. Sat takes me on motorways, bearing me right when things look straighter straight-on. The darkness, insufficient non vandalised lamp-posts and a drizzle was not helpful to my wellbeing and I was beginning to have trust issues with Sat.
I should trust Sat as if she is a Jedi night that guides its Padewan to a destiny that she knows and I can only imagine. But trust is based on not wetting my pants at a traffic light turning a greeny amber at an entrance to a multiple choice exit. Sat is not talking to me. I drive straight on as blurry green is still green, concentration is focused and I find straight on is not a wall...hoorah....but a gap ... a hole that an outlaw may have seen, but I am not an outlaw and I start to consider Sat's past.
One-way systems were suddenly upon me like a maze. I was walled in by cars that are parked in unwieldly fashions of desperation designed to faze the novice. Smart cars prove they are smarter than the average car by butt-ending out of parked cars, wanting bigger cars to play dodgems.
I am manouvring here, bearing right there, avoiding more stationary car accidents than I - a grown man - should be subjected to without anti depressants. I am crossing sleeping policemen that need to be awake, this is so higgledy that I am afraid of the next street's piggledy is going to get me. A mind readies the insurance claim. I am so slow, I am the leader of a pack and caught in the glare of leading the pack because I am slow. The other cars that know where they are going, just like Sat, but not me. The other cars hate me, I am slow car.
Sat announces that I have arrived, after a path...a route that probably could well double as a runic sign. I am suspicious that Sat has a virus based on witchcraft and she should be called Merlina. But we have arrived and after a daring reverse and park that causes the traffic only momentarily to stop and threaten to gently touch their horns, but instead I think they are now clapping.
I am having a "moment" of celebrating my parking skills euphoria to virtual shouts of "Done it in One Bro".
A boy is picked-up and I set the return path into the SatNav. I push my internal buttons of car discipline - focus, mirror, concentrate, wipers, look, signal, arch a neck and I again trust the Jedi warrior that is Sat. I am a Padewan again.
Sat declares straight on, but there is a choice staring me in the face of a slip road or another road slightly off to the right. I make the call, a driving management call. I make an error that the curved arrow means bear right now...NOW!, whereas she ...Sat knows she meant bear right in some distance or roghly translated as NOT NOW.
I am for a moment lost, there is cold white fear of terror of a re-routing SatNav leaving me to decide on my own on where is my home. This is terror to the extreme on a dark cold night. This is bungee jumping for the middle aged.
But to cut a long story short and a long road is straight, I am not called upon into rash calls. The Gods are with me. Sat re-routes and I take a new path home.
Gradually the buildings seem familiar at least from the shadows and shop window brightness, then I am back in the familiar, where Sat becomes a background voice and I can relax to a CD beat and talk to the boy.
A confession he says....it can wait...... I am driver, who seeks to live longer than this Saturday night, a confession waits until this junction is crossed and I have avoided the other Satellite navigation-lead drivers, who do not realise that this turn is sharper than "to bear left" would suggest, success ......we are still alive.
A confession is to be made......
He says....he pauses...he says he was not with the boys tearing up through shlock-horror gore movies. He says, he was with her. He was with her that was the name on a birthday gift. He was on a date.
He wanted to avoid my irony, my sarcasm, the glare of Dadarazzi tabloid humour. He wanted to avoid an embarrassing dad, as much as a Guernsey based bank accounts wants to avoid tax, as well as a campaign of naming and shaming.
I consider, I pause thoughtfully and regretfully I advise him that he must give her up. The relationship is doomed as long as I am his father. He looks at me as if I am mad. I feel the need to explain the dark secret on this cold dark night. I slowly stutteringly let him know the truth that, that was a bloody awful traffic congestion, traffic routing, traffic re-routing and an unnecessary stress-peaking, blood-sugar-cholesterol dipping nightmare outside a B Movie Horror flick for an old fella ...and that this Dad cannot risk another near heart attack because of a teenage romance. He laughs.
The boys are back in town, the boys are home, thanks to Sat and Saturday nights allright for driving.