When we were all children, my parents had a policy: they would help anyone in the family who was drinking.
It had to be explained to me what ‘drinking’ meant,.. not water, not tea, not coffee.
One holiday, a cousin comes to stay.
He is in a bad way. He spends all day at the pub.
One night, he comes home.
I was the reader. So I was awake, with a book.
He is hungry, and wants some food.
Usually, My Mum deals with all this, but she is asleep.
So I begin to make him tea and sandwiches.
That is when I see it.
I turn from the larder, and he is watching me.
He smirks, and it is in his eyes:
You will be my servant for the evening.
That was the first time.
This happened again.
Every time, my parents were away, he would insult me or the other children.
So we complained.
My parents shrugged it off. They claimed that we were jealous, because our cousin was getting so much attention.
When my cousin was with my parents, he would wax eloquent about how lovely we were,
how proud our parents must be.
But when alone, he would tease us, only to recollect himself suddenly when my parents appeared.
It was almost comical to watch his facial expression change to a benign expression as he gazed as us with a real brotherly love.
That was my first experience of duality. Someone will behave differently when there is an audience. I did not understand it then, I was too young. But I have experienced this many times.
People will do it around children, or in my case, in front of me because it is known I have a mental health history.
Their logic is no-one will believe me, and they are probably right.
So I have watched people drop the mask, be themselves and smirk at me.
I stand there silently and watch.
We both know there is little I can do.
I must be believed first, and the truth is they keep the mask on at all other times.