The Boy Who Was Not Sad

Appeared in In The Red Magazine 2013

In the first moments of Edgar’s life, Clarissa Thompson stopped screaming, all of a sudden. Robert Thompson, the father, looked on. There was a strong antiseptic smell around them. There was a mist on a window. A nurse wiped Clarissa’s forehead. She tried to thank the nurse but then Edgar came out. Edgar cried instinctively as he was brought into the world, cold and shivering and this was the first time it happened, this moment when he was being born, when no one noticed him crying.

No one could, at first, discover why the baby didn’t cry in the first moments of its own birth. The reason being, everyone had been asleep at the time. They woke up but didn’t realise they had slept having got all excited over the new baby sat in the doctor’s arms who had sat slumped on the floor, snoring through vast nostrils as Edgar looked on, no longer crying, thinking What’s all this about?

When they brought little Edgar home for the first time they put him in a wicker basket with white lambswool blankets and watched his tired face look back at them, the colour of oatmeal and milk. Speaking of which Edgar was soon hungry and had only the first instinct to cry for his feeding. His parents vanished from his sight. He cried some more. He cried and cried for his mum and dad whom he could not see past the wicker basket, and soon he stopped crying because he was all alone. Soon, after his sobs vanished from the room, two faces appeared, tired and disoriented. Clarissa fed him with bags under her eyes. Robert scratched his head.

Edgar grew up. He was soon walking around and then running around like a normal little boy. One day his mother took him out shopping. She bought him new clothes which he wasn’t interested in and when she was paying for them he wandered away. He soon realised he was on his own. Even when he went back to the clothes shop, she wasn’t there. Everyone seemed so big to him. Giants stepping over canyons. He was scared. He began to cry. Suddenly everyone fell to the ground, asleep. Their giant snores echoed. He looked around at the sleeping massacre. He stepped over a man still holding an umbrella. Over a woman clutching her bags, from which two oranges rolled out. Everything was quiet except for a few whimpers from him now and again. He saw his mother sat slumped against a wall. He stopped crying. She woke up. He guessed, at this age, that his crying had something to do with people falling asleep.

It was a little difficult for Edgar during his teenage years. Although he had learned not to cry, now just being sad caused people to automatically slump, head-first, over a table or steering wheel or whatever they were in front of at the time. A girl named Anna broke up with him. He was devastated. Broken-hearted. No one spoke to him. His father’s head was nose-deep in a bowl of porridge. Edgar had to pull his father out of the porridge to save him from drowning.

Sometimes Edgar thought about Anna just so everyone would sleep and he could get some privacy. Sometimes he’d think about Anna and he’d go and watch her sleep through her window. Only once did he stand over her dead-like body, sleeping silently, the only sounds in the world her breathing and a ticking clock.

When Edgar was older, in his twenties, things weren’t so bad. The only problem, he thought, was that no one actually knew about the whole people-falling-asleep-when-he-cried thing. He tried telling people but they thought he was making it up. He’d ask them why they sometimes fell to certain symptoms of narcolepcy and they’d reply that they were tired.

His mother was one of them. She was getting tired. Edgar liked to make himself sad so his mother could sleep. One day his mother said to him, ‘Edgar, you’re a wonderful boy. Always happy. You never bear the weight of anything. I love you for that.’

‘Thanks mum,’ he said.

‘No, I mean it. I’ve not seen you upset in twenty-five years. I hope you’re not bottling it up. But you seem so happy whenever I see you.’

‘That’s because I am happy, mum,’ he said.

‘Good,’ she said. ‘I’m glad.’

A year later, when Edgar was twenty-six, his father died. Robert Thompson had a heart attack at the age of forty-nine. He was a good man. Edgar never actually loved his father. He adored how his mother loved his father and his father loved his mother. That was his favourite thing about the two. But when he died no one slept. His mother fell into a depression and couldn’t sleep at all.

‘Oh why can’t I sleep?’ she’d say. ‘I’ve not slept since your father died. I wish he was here.’

‘Take some sleeping pills,’ Edgar said to his mother. He got her some sleeping pills and watched his mother sleep.

She couldn’t come out of it. The depression. She was truly hurt by her husband’s death. After a couple of weeks Edgar decided to think of his father. It hurt to think of him. He didn’t know if he loved him or not. He never found out if he loved him. But he did miss him. He missed him so painfully that he cried. His mother collapsed to the ground and slept.

After that Edgar thought of his dead father every night and made himself sad just so his mother could sleep. Listening to his mother’s throaty snores in the other room, he watched people sleeping in the street. No one knew how sad he was. They thought he handled his father’s death pretty well.


© Michael Holloway