Back to Mummy -- a story by Alan Keslian


Ian was only nineteen and had never broken up with anyone before, but it came as no surprise when Roger said he was leaving. They had not made love for nearly two months, rarely ate together, and except at night when they slept in the same bedroom in the two single beds in the furnished flat they rented in a big old house, they spent hardly any time with each other.

The situation had been very different when they moved in; then they had been full of new found love for each other, and they delighted in spending time together. The change had not come about because of a row, Roger had just drifted away. He became fed up with the quiet pub they used to go, with the music they used to listen to, and with the things they used to do together. Now Roger’s showed every day by his manner that he was fed up with anything that meant spending time with Ian. He had found new places to go where he did not want him tagging along, new friends and, Ian supposed, a new lover.

One evening when there was no food in the flat for dinner they could not agree on whether to buy take-away fish and chips or a kebab, and they both lost their tempers and told each other they could not bear sharing the flat any longer. They divided the household necessities they had bought between them, and Roger hired a van to move his things out. Ian had not asked him where he was going, he preferred not to know. He felt that Roger was being unfair. He had never said what had gone wrong or why he no longer wanted to be Ian’s boyfriend, denying him the chance to put things right, or at least to talk about their situation. All Roger had said was that he wanted have fun, to meet new people, and he went out to new haunts without Ian. Soon there was nothing left of their relationship except that they still shared the flat.

'You'll find someone else, no problem,' Roger told him as he was leaving. 'You're easy to live with; anyone could get on with you.'

Anyone, but not you, Ian thought. He seemed to have three choices. He could try to find another flat-mate, but he had been told awful stories from others who had done that, for instance about a new flat-mate who  seemed nice at first but who later turned out to be on drugs, or to be a thief. His second option was to could find somewhere cheaper to rent to live in on his own, but he would probably be able to afford only a small bed-sitting room. Or he could go back to living with his mother. He was not keen to go back because it would be such an admission of failure, but she would only want enough money for his food and to help with the bills. He would be able to save some money for the future, perhaps for a fresh start with someone new. When he asked her she seemed quite happy with the idea of his going back to live with her.

He had noticed that she seemed quite happy about most things recently, and he hoped she was at last getting over his father's death. When he explained that he and Roger had fallen out she said at once that, if he wanted to move back, he would find everything in his old room was just the as it was before. 'You're still so young, people think they can take advantage of you,’ she added.


On his last day in the flat, while he was packing when the phone rang. He let the answering machine take it and listened to the message as it was being recorded. 'Hi, this is Roger. We are still friends, I hope, no hard feelings? Can we meet and have a drink sometime? Give me a ring.'

Seeing Roger again would only make him feel worse. He was not sure if that meant he had hard feelings, but the boy he had hoped he would be spending his life with had walked out on him. How was he supposed to feel?

At work he had told them only that he was sharing a flat with a friend, not that he was gay and living with a lover, so there were not too many awkward questions when he said he was moving again. Even so the lady in personnel seemed to think it quite funny and said mockingly: 'Oh, so you've gone back to Mummy then?'

Life at home quickly settled into an easy and familiar routine of meal times and shared chores. When he first offered his mother the money for his week’s keep, she said, ‘You don’t have to pay me straight away if you’re short. If you’ve got things still to pay at the flat or anything, we could leave it for a week or two.’ In all sorts of little ways she seemed really glad to have him back. When he had first left, she had seemed to be in a bad mood whenever he went to see her. She always said something critical about the way he looked or in answer to something he told her, but after a few weeks she became more relaxed. He had thought she must have got used to not having him at home. Now he was grateful she did not resent him being in the house again.

He did not feel like socialising much, so he spent his spare time reading, listening to music, watching television, wandering around the neighbourhood, or riding his bike. He was not very happy, and certainly not having much fun. Once when he was in the park, a man of about thirty, who was walking a dog, started chatting to him. Ian stroked the dog as they talked, and after a few minutes the man said he lived not far away, on the other side of the park to Ian. Was he, Ian wondered, simply walking his dog and glad to have a few words with him, or might he hoping for sex? The idea would not have come into Ian’s mind before Roger had told him about men ‘cruising’ for each other in parks. However, Ian had decided he needed to spend time on his own to get over the break up with Roger, and he thought it best not to be too friendly with this stranger.

At home he relieved his sexual urges with soft pornography, and comforted himself with his hands so that he could sleep at night. After a few weeks his mother said to him 'You ought not to spend so much time on your own. Don't worry, I'm not going to try to persuade you to try a girlfriend again, I know you don't want that, but you ought to have someone, if it’s only a friend to go with to the pub or somewhere once a week.'

She had always been so good to him. He was all she had since his father had died. He knew that nothing would please her more than for him to marry and give her grandchildren. He had tried to be straight by going out with a girl, but when the time came for kissing and cuddling he knew that for him it was just pretence; he could not make his life into a sham, however much he wanted to please his mother.

What he could do for her now that he was living with her again was to fix various things around the house. He unblocked a drain, fixed a dripping tap, screwed back a shelf which had come down, and re-painted two ceilings which had gone rather yellow from cigarette smoke. Once, when he was putting out the rubbish, he noticed she had thrown away a half full bottle of tablets labelled 'hypericum'. He knew the name, a weird kid at school had tried to sell him some once; they were anti-depressants that were sold in health food shops. Were they the reason his mother had seemed less irritable a few weeks after he had left to live with Roger? If that was true, then she might become depressed again if he went away a second time.

Ian himself was less miserable than he had been in the last days of the flat share. He had been thinking about his future, and whether to try for a better job, or to go part time so he could study at a college, or even with the Open University. He though it could be quite a long time before he was ready to try to find a boyfriend again.


The next day when he left work to go home, he was startled to see Roger waiting outside in the street for him. 'Hello, how's it going?' he asked. Ian shrugged his shoulders, looked away and walked on towards the station.

'Aren't you speaking to me? We can still be friends. Come and have a drink, just one, there's a pub over there.'

He told Roger that he had to go back home, that his mother would have a meal waiting for him. As the words came out he realised how weak and immature he must have sounded, and he wished he could have made up something clever to say to Roger, or that he had just told him to go away and leave him alone.

'Meet me another night, then, any night, you say when. I got some great stuff in this really cool club I’ve been going to, it gives you a fantastic high. Defadrine, they call it.'

Defadrine? Doesn’t make you go deaf does it?’

‘Don’t be silly. “Make you go deaf” — what are you like?’

'I expect you're very busy, you won't have time another night.'

Roger hurried ahead and turned to face him so that he had to stop. 'What’s the matter with you? Don’t you want to have a good time? Give me a chance, this is the second time I've waited for you outside work. I hung around for ages yesterday, I must have missed you. Say you'll come for a drink with me, you chose when.'

Ian let himself be persuaded. Roger, who had a car now, said he would call for Ian at his mother's house at half past eight. They went to the same quiet pub they had used sometimes when they shared the flat, and brought each other up to date, though Ian did not have much that he could say. Then Roger brought out the defadrine tablets and offered one to him, moving up very close and putting his hand on Ian's arm. 'I’m really glad to see you again,' he said, 'have one of these. It will soon cheer you up and we’ll have fun just like we used to.’

'But it all finished between us. The last two months we had the flat you didn't even look at me.'

'I know, but moving in together was a mistake, you were too young. If you’re gay the most important thing is to have fun, that’s what being gay means, isn’t it, having fun? Don’t go all serious about things on me.'

Ian wondered if Roger had been different, and spoken to him about wanting - at least - to be a good friend, he might have weakened and agreed they could start afresh. The trouble was that if what he wanted was to have fun with aid of his defadrine, he could do that with anyone. The two of them would not be special to each other. This time he was more experienced, and though he was unhappy to, he turned Roger down and went home.

Later, in his room he finished his bedtime drink, put out the light, and settled down to sleep, knowing that in the morning his mother would give him his breakfast as usual. He wished that he could please her by getting married and having children, so that she would always be happy without having to take pills; and he wished too that he could share a flat with a boyfriend again, and sleep in the same bed with him, and make love to him every night. Would he ever be experienced enough, and strong and clever enough, to do both?