Somewhere in my mid-twenties around this time my Mum got it into her head to go to England because well…she wanted to go to England. So of course we had to come along.
Neither of us were keen on the idea not because we hated it or anything but we had better things to do at that time. Games, school, our own activities – nope. Mum wants to go and so we have to go. If I recall correctly the way she got Meimei to go was to browbeat her every day, and the way she got be to go was to book the tickets and threaten to remove the money from my account if I didn’t go. I can remember being very upset about this and complaining to my Dad, who sat and listened and didn’t do anything as usual.
So we ended up going. You can already tell by the chapter title that this didn’t end well.
We were going with a bunch of my Mum’s students as well, who were actually quite a decent bunch. Boring, but decent. I made friends with one of them – a sporty girl who reminded me of a friend of my sister’s. She was fun to talk to, but most of my trip was spent taking care of Meimei.
In short, Meimei was terrified. Every single day. My mother had put the fear of God that she would have to Go On The Trip and Enjoy Herself and Be Very Cultured – which is of course the worst possible way to take a holiday. She began frightened and got worse and worse with each passing day. The plane ride was scary, the hotel was scary, the buses were scary. I can still see her small frightened face peering out of the windows and feel her hand in my memory clinging to my arm for support. Poor girl.
I think this may have been when my sister started to develop panic attacks. She was practically forced onto the plane and had previous bad experiences with travel (from some of the other disastrous family trips) The trip would just make things worse.
The constant drain of having to spend time with Mum (and her criticism and scolding) and taking care of Meimei wore me down. Badly. Meimei was failing fast and I think the only time we really had a good time on the trip and she smiled and laughed was when I was singing Totsugeki Love Heart to her in one of the motels on the way. There was a night in a particularly cheap hostel where I lay awake, unable to sleep and asked – how much more of this can I possibly take?
I wasn’t exactly having the best time of it either. Some of the sights were nice, of course – the cathedrals, the Lake District, the fields of green that dotted the English countryside. I finally understood what all the poets that I had read in my youth were talking about. Our tour guide (”Brownie”) did his level best to make things interesting and entertaining for us and I really appreciated it even though I was too stressed out to say anything. He really loved Tom Jones (and Gwyneth Paltrow) and would play “Sex Bomb” for hours on end. Graham, if we ever meet again I’ll give you that Connect 4 game and beat the pants off you too.
My favorite time during the whole trip was going to London. I left a short note with the hotel and took off via my favorite mode of transportation – walking. I walked all over the city and it was great! I can’t remember what streets I may have gone down or up, but my most distinct memory was wandering into the red-light district early in the morning and strolling into a sex shop. Everyone looked at me. I looked back and then I left. It’s not like I could buy anything back to take to Singapore, it would be seized at customs! (though I had my eyes on the Illustrated Guide to Japanese Bondage…sigh…)
The next destination of the trip was Turkey (yes it was supposed to be a two week thing) and by the time our flight arrived even my Mum’s students noted that I was wild-eyed and stressed out. If only they knew.
I broke that night in the hotel in Turkey. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I collapsed onto the floor and was about to yell the house down but Meimei knelt on the floor in front of me and asked me to please please please would I not relapse. Somehow through sheer willpower I kept it in. Because if I let it go I would wake up the entire hotel and that would not be good and people would be angry and it would be all my fault…but mainly because my sister asked me to.
The next day I was so frayed at the edges that all I can remember being was thirsty. And sleepy. So I drank water…probably too much water. For the next leg of the trip we were stuck in a bus for a while. I had to go to the bathroom very badly indeed but we had to wait for the next stop. I tried to pee into a plastic bag at the back of the bus (shame and decency be damned, I was desperate) but that wasn’t working either.
That was the last straw. Think about it – stressed to the gills, lacking sleep and now unable to void the contents of your bladder – all basic animal needs which went unfulfilled. I went completely nuts. I screamed and shouted wildly and quite literally tore my shirt in half. I saw a grown man, six foot six inches, collapse and cower on the floor of the bus in front of me, gibbering in fear. Like the Hulk, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Though as explosions went I must say this was one of the worst in my life, probably due to the sheer amount of stress I was under.
I rushed out of the bus and ran to the nearby bushes and somehow was able to relieve myself. Everyone was shocked but I think my Mum went into Full Martyr Mode and was all like I’ll take care of my sick son you guys just continue with the trip because it’s so shameful.
Somehow we made it back to the hotel. My Mum was totally black-faced for the rest of the trip and the journey home. I don’t think she even looked at us once in that time. My sister tried her best to deal with things and I can’t really remember what I did. My only clear memory of that time was going up to the hotel balcony and attempting to masturbate to at least cut out some of the pain. Hey, if it beat a suicide attempt it might work for stress relief too.
As you might expect I needed a LOT of therapy and rest to deal with the aftermath of the trip. It must have stolen six months to a year of my life at least. It’s all a blur and yes, I am quite sad to remember it.
You know what the best part was? Later when I attempted to talk to my Mum about it she said that her motivation for the trip was to show us off to her students because we were so accomplished and successful. What. The. Fuck? That was a whole new level of delusional, even for my Mum.
Meimei and I bore scars from that ordeal that would take years to heal. Every time we even so much as mentioned “The England Trip” we would both sigh and shake our heads. As much as she said that she wanted me to get better, it seemed that Mum would do practically anything to prevent me from doing so.
It was a painful and traumatic experience (which is not exactly fun to recall now) but if I learnt anything at all from it it was that my mother really did think of herself as the Empress Dowager. We existed to wait hand and foot on her and do whatever she wanted. If she had ever gone for a official assessment (not bloody likely considering how she spat and hissed at any mention of psychology) it would probably be along the lines of Narcissistic or Borderline Personality Disorder.
Writing this I am amazed, as always, that we managed to make it. But we did, much as we managed to make it all the way to this point. We weren’t going to be out in the clear for a long time more though. At that point in time it was still a matter of day to day existence, as much I hated to admit it.