Have you noticed me yet?
I move in to your steps as they caress
the pavement that you tread
on the way to the 45 bus.
Have you found what I left
in your brown leather bag,
something which wasn’t
there before, which if you
understand it belongs there now?
Have you closed your blinds?
Your form makes shadow puppets
for me as I watch your bed routine
tracing your outline with my finger on my knee.
Have you smelt me when I sit
behind on the bus wearing
eau de cologne, cooling to the skin,
distinct covering the musk that
is as close as your neck.
Have you remembered me yet?
I sat next to you once the driver
was new, a novices ride,
kept getting thrown to each other,
that’s when I knew as my leg touched your thigh.
I got off just behind, with enough distance to…
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We hide underneath my slide, with a tartan blanket creating cover, my spaceman and me. Just fresh from his jelly and icecream party, I’m dressed as a Spanish dancer, complete with headdress and castanets. We have run away from his auntie’s and mum’s friends to my garden, to sit and play rockets. I pretend to push buttons, whilst he adjusts his visor, all steamed up from his breath.
I think of his mummy who I am sure admits a holy glow, I wonder why he would want to hide from an angel, with the wonderful halo of curly hair, whose house has one of those string and nail pictures on the wall, which I want really badly, but my dad thinks are naff.
My spaceman looks me in the eye and then counts in a suitably deep voice “ten, nine, eight, seven, six,” I join in for the last bit and we hold hands until we shout “blast off” and then lift our arms, trying to stand but we can’t and instead give each other a peck kiss.
Daddy carries me up the last bit, “We will have a picnic with a view” he jumps over a stream, from which a lone, black- faced sheep is drinking. Mummy is ahead, finding her way through the heathery path, as we climb higher and higher up the Scottish mountain. “We won’t look down yet, wait until we get to the top, there will be views of that loch we passed”. Daddy nearly looses his balance as his foot makes contact with loose rocks, but he steadies and keeps me even, I hardly feel it. I desperately need a wee though, but daren’t say anything because we are so nearly there. We can see the tops of three other mountains. One has a cloud cutting it through the middle, I wonder if cloud people are having a picnic up there.
At last I am put down, I sit on a nicely rounded stone and stare at the loch down bellow, like a shiny scar. We are in a place where all the sound is swallowed up. I wonder what that is reaching from our mountain to the one with the cloud, 3 ropes, one above the other, attaching the mountains. Are they to make sure one mountain doesn’t run away? “What are those ropes for Daddy?” “It’s for hikers to get from one to the other, so they don’t have to climb”. “Do we have to do that Daddy?. I look at the ropes and imagine trapezing across, or holding on with my feet, like a chimp and gripping tightly with my hands. I look back at him quizzically. Mummy just smiles and hands me a Boveril and cucumber sandwich.
A curtain that doesn’t let in light, a window that allows nothing but dust trails to penetrate the dark places, where unpacked crates and suitcases lie on a bare wooden floor. Single unmade-up bed, in the corner with pink blankets, neatly piled on the end, the only colour in this stark white room. not like the oranges, purples and browns in the rest of the cottage.
I try the light, it flickers then goes off permanently. The darkness seems to want to get in me, cold, damp, seeming to eat up the walls. I step carefully to the window, trying not to interrupt the dust, holding my small hand in the patterns, wanting to catch them. I have to stand on a box to look out, it’s still raining. my tractor trailer is filling up and I see I have left one of my books outside, “Molly, Mandy and Tim” I loose my footing, as I am at full stretch on tip toes, falling I see inside the crate. There is one of my old teddies, I am not sure what that is doing here. I feel cross and lift teddy out to give him a cuddle. “Mummy has been naughty hiding you in here.” I see a toy car and go to pick that up, but notice something else, letters a whole bunch of them. I pick up the first one. I know I shouldn’t, but some of the words I recognise and maybe Mummy will feel proud of me. I read them out loud, “I’m sorry” then “the loss of your girl” and then ” 6 months.”
I put everything down, even my teddy and run downstairs, through the kitchen door, Mummy shouting after me. “Marie, it’s” I don’t hear her, I run outside to rescue my book and bring it inside to dry in front of the range,
Dipping their toes in, letting the waves go over their toes, jumping over the nursery waves and then lying on their tummies in the shallows as they almost, then do reach them, filling their costumes up with sand. Running over to their mummy to gobble up melting 99s and pushing the flake to the bottom of the cornet. Afterwards, again into the waves, now a little bit more fierce. Mummy pulls her wide brimmed hat over her eyes, to shelter them from the sun, as she settles down to read her book, nodding off in the heat.The girls laughter aiding her sleep, a seagull screeches, nobody notices the wave.
I look up at the black and white screen waiting for the local news to finish, the newsman’s words becoming further away. I move out of the farm cottage and am with the wave, as it takes my friends, whilst their mother sleeps, Samantha 5 and Jane 4, far out with it to sea, cradling them, taking them. I lstening as the newsman says. “The bodies of the two girls were found two miles down the coast”. He adds “their parents said you couldn’t have asked for two nicer girls”.
“Under the sea she sits, on a golden throne, as her mermaids brush out her golden hair, with combs made of oyster’s pearl, where seahorses sing long and forgotten songs of the love of fishermen”. “Princess Marie, what would you like me to do for you now?” “I would like you to make me a bracelet made from the coral, from the deepest part of the ocean.” The girls dressed in school pinafores and straw boaters pick long stem daisies and thread them together to form a “coral” chain and then tie the bracelet around their little pet’s wrist. “Golden coral flowers to match the colour of your hair” Janet says. “Lets play ponies now. Ruth go onto all fours, so Marie can ride.” Ruth “We don’t have a saddle though.”. “Doesn’t matter, Marie let me lift you up.”. I bounce on the back of Ruth and Janet gives me a stick to hold and shouts.”faster pony” I pretend to hit Ruth with the stick and then slide off her back. The bell rings, playtime is over.
Granny Penn shouts, “Gunner has left a brace of pheasants Tricia, do you want me to get plucking them, they soon start to smell?” James and I are playing with worms putting them into my white tractor trailer and building stick dens for them infront of the back door. Granny Penn shouts to us from the cottage “did you see Gunner” I answer “Just saw him from the back Granny Penn, saw his cloth hat” “He is a funny one.” she shouts back. “Time for tea soon, make sure you wash up after playing with those horrible worms”. James comes over carrying a big fat one, he likes to see it curl up on it’self before he drops it in to the twigs. “Careful don’t hurt him”, I say worriedly. James just laughs “they are only worms’.
James and I are sitting eating bread and jam and drinking orange squash in the kitchen infront of the range, Mummy is making Granny Penn a cup of tea and Granny Penn sits peeling runner beans, when the door opens and in rushes Daddy, standing in the doorway in his wellies. “That daft dog has run off again, what’s that smell?” “Pheasant” Granny Penn says.”Thank goodness it tastes better than when it is plucked “. Mummy goes out of the door shouting for the dog. “Rover, rover” and does a bad attempt at a whistle.
Everyone is in the lounge watching Andy Pandy. James is playing with a red dinky lorry and I am watching Luby loo make Andy Pandy a cup of tea, he says “it is too hot” and she says “you have to be patient”. I find the program a bit boring and prefer Magic Roundabout, which is on tomorrow. I look over at James he has gone very white and I see that he has cut his finger, very quickly he is covered in blood, his hand looking like a teapot covered in crazy paving, Mummy rushes over with a tea cloth, the only thing she has to hand. I look down at my hand and even though James is right across the room, the blood has spread all over mine. I watch it spread with fascinating horror. The music for the six o’clock news starts. Daddy says “Last we will see of that dog, I’l watch the headlines then I will be ready for my tea.” I look down again at my hand, the blood has all disappeared.
I try the door handle again, it’s no use it won’t work, I’m stuck with the smell of burnt toffee and foisty swimming costumes, in the caravan site’s toilet block. I shout “mummy” again, I don’t know why she can’t hear me. She said that, that smell was the smell of gas, which is coming from the canisters next to the sink. I thought gas was dangerous, can’t it go bang? “Mummy” I shout louder, someone must be able to hear me, I must be doing it wrong. I look at the handle and try and work it out, I am usually good at working things out. It looks like it should slide up, I try it again, up then down, it won’t budge. I shouldn’t have locked the door, but I don’t want strangers to walk in, Daddy says I should be careful of strangers. I try pressing it, hitting it and then sliding the handle to the right and left. It’s no use, nothing works at all.
I am crying now, I hate crying, only babies cry, at least I have toilet paper to wipe my eyes. I put the tissue in the toilet, flush and put the lid down again. I try standing on the toilet seat, it’s no good I can’t even see over. I shout again as loud as I can ‘Mum…my”, I don’t want to shout help, I don’t want a stranger to help me, I want my Mummy. Where is she? I get off the toilet and slump to the floor. I should have told them that I wanted a wee, they might be worrying about me. I wonder if I will get told off. I look under the gap under the door and stick ,my hand under, it’s largish, I wonder if I can? I don’t think so, but maybe? I lie myself flat on the ground and edge myself towards the gap under the door, I keep my bottom flat and also my head so that my mouth is nearly touching the floor, it’s yucky. I move like my worms do, wiggle but keeping very flat until half of me is under. I don’t think my bottom will fit, I try breathing in, trying to become smaller, taking in an extra mouthful of gas, making me feel headachy and sick. A last push and then amazingly, I’m out, I almost want to cheer, but don’t, I stand up and run out into the bright Scottish sunshine, shouting out “Mummy, Daddy I’m here”.
Chess board floor, green 50s kitchen with forrmica topped surfaces. I stand under a kitchen table full of cups of tea and fairy cakes and wonder how the people all dressed in hats manage not to trip over the cat bowl. My mummy looks beautiful, she is my Auntie’s maid of honor and is dressed in Victorian white silk and lace like me. I really love my dress, it is something I might dress my doll Kathy in, rows of intricate beads and flowing material, which I think looks lovely with my white hair. I am not sure about my pantaloons though, they look silly, none of the other bridesmaids are wearing frilly victorian knickers. My mummy is standing next to me and is talking to a lady with overly big, purple glasses. She pears down at me, I try to smile in return, but I just end up pulling a face. Mummy goes back to talking, I tug on her dress. She does her impatient smile and then ignores me again. I give up and try to find daddy but can’t see him anywhere. I pull harder on mummy’s dress.”mummy” I say loudly, she is now looking at me with concern, but it’s too late. I feel a warm sensation and realise with horror what is about to happen. Warm, then wet, yellow, acrid smelling wee covers the bottom half of me and then the floor bellow. I don’t look at anyone, if they are staring at me, I don’t want to see it. I cry holding my arms to be picked up.