I see her about fifty times a day. Only about two of those with my eyes. And all the rest are better. It’s these autumn mornings. They feel even more like life is starting again than the start of spring is meant to. It’s probably because of school. Those first days back, the bright days, maybe a couple of warm ones left over from the summer. It’s like I’m back at Primary, ready to meet new friends, new teachers. Scary, exciting.
I mean, all those years I felt so afraid. Too shy to talk, to say things, to laugh, to get involved. I wanted to want to play football, but I hated it. Pity it’s the national sport. And measure of manhood. So I would be picked last and then try to look like I knew what I was doing, avoiding the ball any time it came near – looking at the jet contrails and the hills in the distance.
Shit! The ball! Kick! See the disappointed faces, the sneers twist, then all the eyes are off me again, as they throw the ball back in from where it went over the line, and rolled towards the crispy browning leaves of the hedges.
If I’d have liked football, I’d have been normal. But I wanted to do something different. I wanted instead to play netball with the girls. I liked them better. They were nice. Apparently that was “gay.”
Maybe it would be easier if I was. Maybe I would know how another man’s mind works a little better? Probably not, though. I never understood why, (and we’re talking from that primary right up to university) why the boys thought farting and burping both hilarious and the measure of a man. Could you ever really get to know another person? How many questions and answers would give you a good hold on how they will act under any given situation? You need this information as you tentatively plan what your next move will be.
You observe and examine, look and listen, see all they do. And, like looking at a scene, whatever scene, industrial, pastoral, whatever – it increases in beauty and significance, until it all seems to be shivering with meaning, like each movement of the head reveals a little more about the trees, the warehouses, the changing light that falls upon them… or their hands, nails bitten down, grown again, polished, red, green, changing.
Go to any lengths to see the thin white wrists, the blue veins beneath… gentle warmth. It’s about all I can take, the whole will take a lifetime of contemplation, and I will never really get to the end of it. Isn’t that fantastic though? When I’m enjoying a book, I feel sad as the portion of it in my right hand starts diminishing.
(As I write, I remember that when I changed schools, went to a distant Secondary, I thought “This is my chance to reinvent myself – be someone they like!” So I pretended I liked football, went on about Luton Town FC… and was met with silence. This was a posher school. They liked rugby, not football. On the outside again.)
Anyway, I asked her what her New School Year’s Resolutions are. My idea of a joke. Any reason to talk to her, while my mind screams “Hold her hand!” and my hand trembles and hides behind my back.
“Mine is to start taking control so that I don’t always accept things. I have a bad habit of coasting along when I know something isn’t right, particularly in relationships. In fact I am at the moment.”
Oh shit. No no no! I can’t believe she thinks that this isn’t right. But on the plus side, she did say we were in a relationship… I’ve been wandering around, looking over bridges, seeing my reflection in puddles, listening to bleak music that says stuff like:
I was wrong, I will cry
I will love you till the day I die
You were all, you alone and no one else
You were meant for me
And when I eventually tire myself out and crash into bed, boots still on, face feeling painfully downturned, I at least have one thing to look forward to:
I go to sleep, sleep
And imagine that you’re there with me
And morning comes again, where I drift and summon your face, try to imagine it, try to make it seep into my dreams, and I discuss our future together, you laugh, you look in my eyes, I feel no doubt or fear, and I realize that I’m just being myself in my dreams… Not like the jagged fearful fucking character that tries to impress you in the day. Trying to be someone I’m not.
OK, now, dear readers. Discount all I say – do not be yourself. That is a grave error, especially if you are like me. I should have stayed too shy to talk. This is what I had to text her this morning:
“I hope what I said on the riverside wasn’t too strange. I must have been on completely the wrong frequency! You can tell I’m a neurotic-romantic. Anyway, it was nice to have someone so beautiful and different to think and dream of. But what’s meant to be will never pass one by.”
And what she wrote back:
“I don’t think what you said was strange, if anything I should have mentioned Stephen earlier but I suppose I don’t naturally chat about him. I’m sorry about that. If you would still like to meet up as friends, check out some galleries etc. that would be great as I really enjoy spending time with you. X”
I can’t believe I got my first “X” from her with that message. And, fool that I am it repaired the damage that had been done to my heart that night, like a cross of sticking plasters you see in a comic strip character who has been hit on the head by a rock. Or ten-ton weight.
Wait! She said that her relationship wasn’t right! She didn’t mean me! She meant him!
So I continue, hearkening to her call, looking out for signals, drifting as timeless and weightless as a satellite, orbiting her world.