I was born with an extraordinarily horrid case of bad luck. Now, I know what you
e thinking: ”Ah, cmon, mate – we can all say that from time to time. ” And its true; every inhabitant of this mortal coil can say he or she has had terrible luck at one point or another. Sometimes a person can lay claim to constant little spurts of bad luck, the way a sporadic headache may return every so often. Some people are just clumsy; others, just not very punctual. I envy these people. My bad luck: its a chronic case. Never wavering, never vacationing. And yes, it literally began when I was born. How do I know, you ask? Thats a legitimate question if Ive ever heard one, because, honestly, who can remember something from their birth? I don have to remember it; Im reminded every day. My mother named me Theodore.
After my unfortunate christening, other unlucky things began to happen (or just become apparent, depending on what they were). The first thing I honestly remember (my own memory, not one my nutter of a mum told me) was the kid who lived next door to us in Ilford, Bobby – which is such a lovely, normal name – telling me I looked like a fish.
”How so? ” I asked, certain this must be a bad thing. Fish were only good for watching and deep frying.
”Your eyes are practically poppin out of their sockets!
” Bobby told me.
e all round and googley! And your ears are stuck straight back against the sides of your head – like gills! Tha tain normal. ”
He was very perceptive about outward appearances for a five-year-old, and I, also being five, was very self conscious. Mortified, I proceeded to run into the house to my mother (who had been strangely single since my birth). My narrative accompanied by wild hand gestures, I told her what Bobby had said. My mother insisted that he was just envious of me in some way, and therefore had to make me feel bad about myself so that he could feel better about himself. This made no sense at all.
”He was telling the truth! ” I sobbed. ”I do look like a fish! Some blokes going to mistake me someday and fry me up for dinner! ”
”Don be silly, ” my mum scolded. ”Thats a pile of rubbish. ”
”And how come Bobby gets to have a normal name and I don ? ”
This frustrated my mother to no end: the complaints about my name.
”Theodore Homeward Parker Banner! ” she shouted at me. My mouth clamped itself shut. ”You are named after each of the three men who might have been your father! Two of them were very good people! Don you ever complain to me about that name again! If it bothers you so terribly, go by Ted. ”
Then she stormed from the room, which was her common practice.
”Ted, ” I said aloud to the empty room. ”Hello, my name is Ted. ” Not too shabby. At least I would have some alternate name for the other children to call me when I started primary school the next month.
In preparation for school, I discovered that I was left-handed.
* * *
Things in my life didn get a whole lot better as time went on. My rule of thumb became: when things have gone just about as far as they can possibly go, and the situation has gotten about as bad as it can reasonably get, something more or less good will happen. For example, I never received the grant money I was supposed to have received to attend the university, so it took me six years to accomplish two years worth of classes. At least I received my degree at long last. True, not in anything, but the places I went to apply for jobs never looked that closely anyway. The point was, the degree existed.
When I was twenty-seven, my mother started begging me to move out of the house. It wasn that I didn want to; money was scant and my ”jobs ” never got me anywhere. Then one fateful day, eight years too late, my university grant appeared in the postbox with a letter of apology saying it had accidentally been placed at the bottom of a stack of bills and had only now been rediscovered. Ironically enough, the letter concluded with the words: ”…we couldn believe the luck. ”
Nor could I. I moved out of my mothers house (and, indeed, across the Atlantic Ocean) two weeks later. I moved into a cheap and wonderful studio flat in up-state New York, and my mother has been happily married (three times) since I left. (She also heard, a few years prior, that Homeward was killed in a car crash, Theodore had been outed as gay by a jaded ex-spouse, and yes, Parker was still in prison. None of my name-sakes had proven very lucky.)
My flat was actually quite nice, until one unfortunate night when my neighbor decided to kill himself by setting fire to his unit. Naturally, all the other units in that wing caught fire too, and by the end of the night, I was standing out on the front lawn with seven other people who felt just as unlucky as I, watching the firefighters put out the last of the burning embers. For whatever reason, my toaster simply would not stop burning.
All my earthly possessions destroyed, I looked for an even smaller studio flat closer to New York City. I found one right in the heart of Brooklyn (which was far too expensive and had a rat problem), and I moved in. I got a job at a hotel two blocks away – a shanty little hole in the wall with only seven floors and still sporting the original red carpet from the 1950s. The manager there did more illegal drug smuggling and holding than legitimate business, but it was a job.
At present, Ive been the hotels front desk clerk for three years. Thirty-two years old, and Ive never had a promotion or a girlfriend. And just to turn the knife in that unsuccessful wound, every time I write someones name down in the guest registry, my left hand runs through the wet ink, smudging my skin and the paper. How I love being left-handed.
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