“Is that wallpaper?” She is leaning forward in that way she does, stooping down to take a look as though she is a very tall person, when in fact she doesn’t come up to my shoulder. She has put her glasses, the ones that dangle annoyingly on a slim chain around her neck, on to scrutinise it.
“No,” I try, and fail, to keep the irritation out of my voice, instantly a teenager again. “It’s glass. It’s a sliding door covered in engraved laminated glass. It’s an installation, really.”
“I see.” The interest has gone from her voice. “I thought it was wallpaper.”
My mother is interested in art, but not in my work. She tries, I mean she’s not heartless, but she doesn’t understand it.
It’s really weird for me because only ten minutes before she arrived I had to chuck the New York Times’ photographer out of here. He was taking a moody image of me to go with an interview I did while I was half-cut in an expensive bar and a bad suit. When mum arrives though, my rockstar persona just shrivels and rolls into the corner, crying.
Later I hear her on the phone to one of her friends. “It’s very….industrial. Not proper pieces. I mean he’s made a fortune, but it’s nothing you’d want in your home.”
And here we arrive at the crux of the thing. I am the school dropout, the one who didn’t make it to university despite all the money she spent on the private tuition my siblings didn’t need, the last unmarried child well into my thirties, the one whose bedroom still looks like it did as a teenager and whose idea of nice dinner out is eating a takeaway pizza in the park. But I am the millionaire and she cannot work out how it happened.
I’ve always been a puzzle to her, and she to me. I saw a shrink once who suggested I drove myself to these giddy heights to win her approval, but he couldn’t have been further from hitting the nail on the head: I thought becoming an artist, a terrible, penniless one would be the way I could shrug off trying to win her approval for ever by plumbing the depths. But it all went horribly wrong.