Some men are wild and dangerous and untamed by life's beating. You can spot such men miles away. They have a look, something distant and animal in the eyes, something that lacks reason or emotion or knowledge of consequence. They snarl and lash out at pain rather than learn to cower from it. Such men cannot be governed with Good Boy Drops, and if they do ever tow the line it is never in defeat but through craftiness and cunning. Such men live in a state or permanent violence, the capability of it wriggling through their skin and movements and words. They are men who become dominant without making any attempt to be so. They over-power and strike fear into others with nothing more than their presence of being. They are men capable of honest murder. Lloyd, a tall, lean, scarred and violent Jamaican drunk, beaten like an animal for the first fifteen years of life, was one such man.
My mother met Lloyd in a filthy drinking den in West London called The Blackhouse. Lloyd was shacked up there with a half-crazed Northern Irish drunk called Bridget. The two ran the house, a place without gas, electricity, or hot water, renting out floor space for beer to local dossers and junkies. The group, some days twenty strong, lived in the single main room, flopped out on old sofas, in rotting armchairs, or on cushions on the floor, with Lloyd and Bridget sharing a decomposing bed up against the near end wall. The room was permanently in darkness, the only light coming from the makeshift fire in the old grate, kept going with anything that would burn, the smoke and fumes snowing down and covering everything in a thick layer of black soot.
At 40 years old Lloyd had been hardened and sculpted by a savage existence . Unwashed in years, marinated in piss and sweat, tribal marks across his cheeks, his body tagged and scarred like a lover's tree, he spent his days sat on the edge of the bed, drinking and smoking, the orange flares from the fire lighting up glimpses of his foreboding presence, brooding in the dark of his own shadow. His dress was meagre, a filthy string vest and a pair of soiled grey suit pants, the leg swinging a good inch above his ankle, the waist flush to his firm stomach, the zipper broken giving sight, now and again, of his large limp cock which he'd whip at out at turns and fill cartons and bottles with urine. Lloyd was the first of my mother's lovers who taught me that there were reasons other than love or lust why two people may shack up together, that cosmopolitan hadn't won outright. That sometimes, still, sexual partners are chosen on a more base level, the match up not always coming down to external or even internal beauty. But I only understood that years later. At the time, I couldn't for my life fathom why my mother would give herself to such a flayed and cross-hatched soul as he.
There were three important events which led to the announcement of my mother's affair with Lloyd, and their subsequent running away together. The first was Lloyd one evening boasting:
> My Wood's as long and as thick as a can of Special Brew!
The other West-Indian drunks hissed and cacked laughter, strange shapes sprawled around helpless in the firelight. My mother didn't laugh. Rather she kinda stifled a giggle, and in a drunk voice,barely audible, somewhere between sarcasm and admiration, she said:
> Yeah, alright Lloyd... I'd have to see that one to believe it, eh!
The second stirring of a great change was when Lloyd one day pulled the blankets back on Bridget, revealing a bruised and wasted sack of human bones, deathly white and soiled through, her anorexic legs splayed by drunkenness and serial rape, her cunt a black hole of stench and filth, teeming with life.
> Dis Irish pussy is rank, he said. She no good no more. NO GOOD NO MORE! If you want a little Wardog come and take some scraps! Lloyd sucked his lips and flicked a hand out in disgust. Wardog, his erect cock poking out the fly of his pants, crawled in the bed and on top of Bridget. There was no struggle, no words, just Wardog moving about and Lloyd, his head cocked back, laughing and gargling throatfuls of extra strong beer. Up until then no man could or would have touched Lloyd's woman. It was a no go hole; something Lloyd guarded over with murderous protection. But Lloyd had eyes in another direction: my mother, and she wasn't missing a beat.
The final thing to pass was a repetition of the first, Lloyd exclaiming again how his cock was as thick and as long as a can of Brew. This time my mother remained quiet. Not a peep. She lowered her head and sat there with the shy, embarrassed smirk of a school girl, the spotlight of silence lighting her up. I knew then, everyone knew, she had fucked Lloyd. That same night my mother encroached further on Bridget's man, joining the squalor of the bed, the three of them sleeping and living in it together, being perfumed by a common stench.
In the gloomy, dustbeam days of The Blackhouse, Mum would now sit, cross-legged, on the edge of the bed, alongside Lloyd, no tights or underwear, Lloyds left hand never much coming out from under her short skirt. Bridget lay behind, wrapped up in a mound of filthy blankets, drinking away with dirty tears leaking out and curling around her ears. No matter the drunk she was, she still suffered the pain of losing someone, of coming around to pangs of loneliness and tears in the moments between oblivion. It was a bizarre thing, Bridget, somehow terrified of my mother yet fearless of Lloyd, instinctively hissing insults at him as she made her brief cameos from unconsciousness. More often than not Lloyd would help her back to nowhere with a vicious backhander. From that point on Lloyd was with my mother and Bridget became a kind of living fuck hole for all and sundry... a place for every dosser to unload into, whenever and however they pleased.
It was not long after that, that one day my mother turned on Bridget and slapped her one in the mouth. Bridget, a woman kicked and beaten through a thousand loves, broke down and bawled like a lifetime of hurt was pouring out of her. It was as if she had finally gave up. That slap seemed to knock her entire metabolism into freefall. In the course of a week she underwent startling physical changes: aging beyond her years; losing her teeth; her hair thinning and turning grey; the skin on her face sagging away from the bone. She became feeble and weak, and if she was already a chronic alcoholic now she was bed-ridden too, not rising for the last few months we were present in the Blackhouse.
But the end of the Blackhouse wasn't the end of my mother and Lloyd. It was the prologue to what was to come. Everyone knew it, but somehow my mother couldn't see, that how we left Bridget is how she would become. So, in one of my mother's most incomprehensible decisions, she went solo with Lloyd, moving into a hell hole of drink and poverty in London's Elephant & Castle.
As Mum stuffed bin-liners full of clothes and shoes, and Lloyd took them downtairs and dumped them into a supermarket trolley, I understood a little of what mum saw in him, why it had come to this. It was a progression – the ultimate battered woman's trap: for my mother to have a lover, one she could have around the house, could walk the streets freely with, could advertise to the world, he needed to be stronger and meaner than the threat she was leaving behind. I saw it that day, my step-father, a man of purported violence himself, hiding out downstairs, afraid, as Lloyd strolled through his house, sucking his teeth, a black psychotic history of hate and violence, all too ready to unload. With him my mother could live without fear of reprisals; woman of the most savage man in town. Only, of course, it wasn't any kind of real freedom at all, she had done nothing more than move into an even stricter, tougher prison.
I don't know the full hell of which my mother lived that year of her life but I know it was hell. It was a time of horrendous sexual and physical abuse. She was locked naked in a first floor flat, supplied with gallons of extra strong beer and vodka, and when Lloyd wasn't there was guarded over by another man. For eight months she lived like that, until one day, during a visit to the unemployment office after her welfare never arrived, she slipped to freedom leaving Lloyd high and dry – without drink nor fuck and just himself for consolation. Home alone from school there was a buzzing and hammering on the front door. Peeping from the upstairs window I saw someone vaguely familiar standing down in the yard. It was a woman with medium length, greasy blond hair, a swollen misshapen face, dressed up like a whore and screeching in Jamaican patois. I stared in disbelief, something forgotten registering in me. Somehow, by instinct or luck, she stepped back and looked up, her sad, drunk eyes finding mine.
> Shane, it's me, she screeched, Mum! Let me in... QUICK! I've left that cunt and he'll be around 'ere any minute. He's gonna fucking kill me!
Lloyd never did show up that day, nor the next, or the next. After a week my mother's swollen face had gone down and she was back to something of the woman I remembered. Then, after a moment of calm, she became restless once more, drinking herself silly and spending her time looking out the back window, pissed off at something, drunk and nodding away with a menacing look about her. Then she was gone. Willingly, for whatever reason, she'd left to return to Lloyd, to take her beating and live another bout of booze and violence.
The second time she escaped from Lloyd it was serious. She'd jumped out from a first floor window after Lloyd had found out she'd been fucking the man guarding over her. He, Jacob, had fled for his life, leaving mum to take a whirlwind of violence which passed by in a deluge of fists and boots. It culminated in a full can of beer being hurled in her face, cracking her cheekbone and splitting her left ear in two. Locked in the bathroom she somehow squeezed out the small top window and dropped to freedom, scrambling off to A&E where the doctors initially thought she had suffered a fractured skull. In fear of her life, scared Lloyd would somehow track her down, my mother snuck out the hospital after being treated and bedded, and made her way home. She arrived late that night, her blond hair caked in dried blood, no make-up, no tights, no shoes, and the entire left side of her body kicked into the colours of a beautiful autumn. She could barely move. For two days she hardly spoke a word, just drank neat vodka to dull the pain and hid out in the back room, constantly asking if the front door was double bolted. But again, Lloyd never came looking.
When mum recovered she told me about Jacob, a Nigerian lodger charged with preventing her escape. He did that pretty well, but unfortunately for Lloyd the two fell for each other and began fucking right under his nose. But it wasn't that which was my mother's great fear, she'd already taken the beating for that crime. Rather, it was Lloyd's boast: No woman leave Lloyd three times! And he meant it. This was my mother's second time, and we all knew she'd end up dead if she ever went back for another round. As drunk and as stupid as she was, she never did.
It was some months later when mum came back from the off-licence, stuck her head in the door, and said:
> Er, there's someone 'ere to see ya!
I looked out the door, and there, to my horror, was Lloyd. He was once again living in the Blackhouse, back together with Bridget, and had invited Mum around to drink as if none of the past year had ever happened. It was weird sitting around there. Lloyd back in the bed with Bridget, Mum back in the chair across from them, from where it had all started, giggling at his boasts which were the only jokes he had. For anyone entering the house there was no hint of the history which had unfolded between them; between anyone.
Little did anyone know at the time but this was the tail-end of the Blackhouse and the end of Lloyd and Bridget. Three months later Lloyd was arrested for the attempted murder of a junkie named Rodney (one of my mother's multiple lovers from that period). Lloyd had put his chest through with a mallet after Rodney had called him a 'black cunt'. Found not guilty, Lloyd was set free to unleash his violence one last time, beating Bridget to death in a frenzied attack over nothing anyone present understood. At the age of 43, Bridget, mother of two, suffered a fatal stroke while being relentlessly punched and kicked. This time Lloyd was charged with manslaughter and taken away. He was sentenced to an unspecified amount of time in a psychiatric hospital. Just over four years later he was judged 'cured' and set free. In that freedom we never saw or heard from him. At first there were apparent sightings of him, and then the myths and rumours started up. But whatever the truth, Lloyd was never of the flesh, just a vexed, psychotic, soul in time, as much a victim of history and circumstance as anybody else...