How I Wrote ‘Gone’ – James Lawless

James Lawless discusses his short story, ‘Gone’, featured in Issue Seven of The Lonely Crowd.

My story ‘Gone’ is about transience, about an old world and a new world, the monochrome and homogenous town of my mother’s generation and the multiethnic, modern metropolis of the present day as captured in the microcosm of a city Green. It’s about generational change, about life performing its full circle: the little boy being pushed by his mother in a pram, and now the debt has to be repaid with him as an adult steering her aged and debilitated self in a wheelchair as she reverts to a childlike state. It is the turn of the son now to point out the wonders of the world to her just as she had done for him when he was a child. But in hindsight one is tempted to enquire if the wonders she had pointed out were contained and proscribed to fit into her own agenda.

The story is also a reflection on parental possessiveness, on the powerful, emotional bind that a mother can hold over her child. If, as Roland Barthes claimed, writing is playing with the body of the mother, then there is great scope here for a creative artist. What are the responsibilities of a parent towards a child? What is your responsibility towards something you helped to create? We, as writers, all have different ways of dealing with this umbilical bond which can be a spur for inspiration but can also carry the potentiality for destructiveness in the shackling of a developing life. This story is about the inner dialogue of love and selfishness as integral and intricate patterns deep inside a person as exemplified in the perhaps unwitting egocentricity of a mother in never wanting her child to fly away from the nest. And this is achieved, not through an abundance of love, but in a form of suffocation. It is a mother’s way of investing to protect herself in old age, regardless that such action can block the autonomous growth of her own offspring. And so is it any wonder, on the part of the son, that feelings of filial love and duty torment him and ultimately give way to resentment?

With his mother’s death, he reflects on the missed opportunities of his life: the new world which he only sees now opening up before him, the chances for love as he beholds the pubescent girls on the lawns and the blossoming shrubs and the kicked ball, which he cannot reach out to because age has caught up with him now. How brief the time, how fleeting it all was, and a panic seizes him as he sees the sun setting and he heads away trapped in his childhood past. What has he to show for his life? The chains that bound him are released now. But it is too late. It is all gone now like the little immigrant girl Zoe as she disappears with her mother over the humpbacked bridge of the Green of his youth.

James Lawless’ poetry and prose have won many awards, including the Scintilla Welsh Open Poetry Competition, the WOW award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award and a Hennessey award nomination for emerging fiction. His work has been broadcast on radio and appeared in the Fish and The Stinging Fly’s anthologies, and two of his stories were shortlisted for the Willesden (2007) and Bridport prizes (2014). He is the author of six well-received novels, a book of children’s stories, a poetry collection Rus in Urbe, and a study of modern poetry Clearing the Tangled Wood: Poetry as a Way of Seeing the World for which he received an arts bursary.

© James Lawless, 2017. Image © Jo Mazelis, 2017.