The funeral

Anyone who pretends to write should resist the urge to write about events while they’re living them: that’s a devilish urge. Often what makes you write is something unexpected that sticks in your craw after the event. That said, sometimes life gets urgent and you have to write something down to sort your thoughts out. It’s hardly literature.

It was my father’s funeral today. As the Son, one is on display: everyone looks at you. I shook hands with old diplomats I recognised from when I was a child in various countries, and who didn’t recognise me, middle-aged and bald as I am.

Afterwards in the restaurant I ended up sat opposite his brother, who’s even better at pinpointing your shortcomings than my father was. Did he seek me out, in my vulnerable state? I knew he’d find me in any case and go for my throat: there’s something soft in me that he wants to kill. My hands were shaking when I walked to the church.

Despite myself I ended up laughing and getting swept up in his words. I’m used to sarcastic banter, but it’s something else with people like that. I’m a grownup now, I’ve been around, as much as him, but I still wasn’t strong enough to resist. They are too powerful, people like them, they have an answer for everything and make you feel like a child.

The funeral was nothing to him: this was a chance to assert himself like any other social gathering. He wasted no time telling us about the boards he sits on, about his villa and his Maserati, and how puny my work is. No one could get a word in edgeways, and if they did, he found their weak points straight away.

I often saw him and my father do that to normal people, saw their reactions and thought, Get away while you can. Sometimes I was almost proud of them: they could make people do anything.

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