Friday, 14 October 2016

The N Word




Diary of Lance Manley, aged 16. May 4th 1987

Three days ago, my mum spoke to me for the first time in a week. We had a blazing row last Saturday night and at lunchtime the following Saturday she finally spoke to me again.

You see I used the N word.

I’d never used the N word before. Well, at least not to mum. I was trained and told and made to believe that using the N word was something I should never, ever do. And I’d used it. 

Just after I used it I offered to take it back. I had the phone, I was dialling the number and she stormed down the stairs and with the words “Just forget it Lance!!!” snatched the phone out of my hand, hurting my fingers.

I tried to take it back but she elbowed me in the face (the bruise was small, high up on my cheekbone under my right eye) and she phoned another number, cancelling her planned dinner with her friends and making certain that her, my father and those friends would now have their evening spoiled.

And all because I'd used the N word.

I could hear her on the phone, using her politest voice, apologising profusely to her friend but saying they couldn’t come because I had committed the unforgivable sin of using the N word. 

I heard what she was saying, my plate of sausage and chips on a tray on my lap and I shouted back “I’ve just offered to put this right, don’t you bloody blame it all on me!!!”

I then heard her say to her friend, “He’s shouting at me now, can you hear him?”

The next day was Mothers’ Day and when I brought her her breakfast in bed on a tray (orange juice, toast, cereal, tea) and her present too….she wouldn’t even look at me, let alone speak to me.

Because I had used the N word.

For the next 6 days she ignored me. It was horrible. At dinner she wouldn’t look at me and if I tried to include her in a conversation she would just blank me.

My father spoke to me in quiet tones on about day 3, saying that while they both still loved me, my mother absolutely didn’t like me any more. I had hurt her. She had cried just after she had made that phone call to her friend to cancel dinner.

Because I had used the N word.

I felt terrible. I had upset my mum so badly that she wouldn’t talk to me, look at me or acknowledge me. 

Finally on the following Saturday she spoke to me again. She came into the DIY shop I worked part time in and made an offhand remark about the apron my boss got me to wear to keep sawdust and grime off my clothes. When I got home she gave me a hug and said “You’re horrible you are” but the incident was far from forgotten.

In the following days she refused to do anything for me, saying “You weren’t very nice last week so I don’t feel like being nice to you”. In the middle of a conversation about school, she suddenly remembered that incident again and glared at me, seething “You killed something last week”.

Because I had used the N word.

Later that week she said at dinner that she had spoke to her colleagues at work and they had all said that she should have stood her ground and said to me “You will not use the N word, you will not!!!” I pointed out that I had offered to retract the N word and she had forcibly taken the phone off me and elbowed me in the face when I tried to take it back again. She simply glared at me again and seethed “It was too late then!”

After all, I had used the N word.

In time this was consigned to memory but I never forgot the shame, anger and frustration she made me feel for this. She was angry for a week to the point where she wouldn’t speak to me and had cried, consulted her friends and most of all…had hit me in the face to prevent me from putting the situation right at the time.


And all because, when she asked me to stay in to look after my 13 year old brother…I had said “No”.

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