Playing The Field
Mark, and suddenly Danny wasn't quite so attractive and his guitar playing went a little off-key so after a few days of quiet withdrawal and long sighs and the eventual 'I'm sorry, it's not you it's me...' I went after Mark and of course I got him, because if there's one thing I'm good at it's getting men to notice me. Mark couldn't play the guitar but he could play me and I fell smack into him for four whole weeks, properly in love, hearts and flowers, all that stuff. Then one day we were out walking in the park and at the end of a lead with a puppy attached I saw
Devon and he gave me that subtle look, even though I was with Mark, that subtle look that said, I would, would you? And I thought yes, I would, and suddenly Mark's helpful hands weren't quite so magic and I did the sighing and told him it wasn't him, it was me, and he left, almost in tears I think, and I went straight to the park. Devon and I walked the puppy round and round for hours whilst we talked until the puppy was exhausted and we sat and kissed in the shade of a sycamore tree and I thought mmm-mmm. And I fell in love, differently, all over again. The puppy grew and Devon and I travelled all over, exploring woods and streams and beaches and each other. One day though, when the puppy was now a large dog, Devon said the same thing once too often and I realised he wasn't as pretty as I'd first thought and around the same time I saw
Caroline in a cafe and Caroline smiled and the smile said, let's have a go, so we did. When I told Devon he was confused and his ego had been bruised so badly I doubted he'd be walking with any more women for a while but hey, he'd get over it. Meanwhile Caroline and I had some exploring to do and we discovered that we had a lot in common, more than we'd ever thought. Firsts; it was all about firsts, for both of us. I loved Caroline in the way you only love your first until I got tired of being the same end of a magnet and looked for my opposite once again and there, in the cinema, under a mop of hair was
Paul, who turned and saw us, saw me and smiled and Caroline saw and she knew the moment I did. I said I was sorry and told her that of course it wasn't her, it was me and I chatted to Paul the very next day when he rang me on the number I'd scribbled onto a piece of paper and slipped into his hand. Paul was a bit dangerous and a bit edgy and he lifetd me right out of my comfort zone and he would have done except I discovered he liked white lines and the white lines made him at first very loving and then the next day, when he was coming down, downright nasty. One black eye was all it took and at the police station I saw
Jez, in for shop lifting, in for a caution, younger than me and cocky and cute. I gave him a lift home and then bought him a drink and he kissed the black eye and asked for Paul's surname. Turned out he knew of a friend of his who went and warned him, something, anyway, becasue Paul was on crutches the next time I saw him and Jez became my hero, just for a few days until I recovered enough to know I didn't need saving and I walked away, into the arms of a silver fox called
Mal who was older and reminded me of the dad I'd only met once, the one an old boyfriend always said I was trying to find, by going through men like a steamroller. His words. Mal was married, which I only found out after his wife banged on my door when I was banging her husband upstairs so he got the boot and I was alone for a whole week until the new guy in the warehouse at work suddenly introduced himself as
Andy and said I was beautiful and would I? Of course I would; I wasn't sleeping as there were no arms around me and I craved the warmth in the middle of the cold black night and the company in those small hours, lying awake. Andy treated me like a queen and bought me things and whispered in my ear at all the right times. I decided I loved him and I gave him myself in all kinds of energetic ways that he demanded and I learnt a lot about football and music and curry. For three whole months I cheerd and clapped and ate mango chutney in a variety of places until one of the waiters gave me a wink with his deep brown eyes and I went back there the following night and discovered what the rooms above the restaurant were like. Enclosed in those brown arms he whispered that his name was
Ali and he was new to the UK and would I show him around? Of course I would, I said and I told Andy I was sorry and that it wasn't him, it was me, amongst deep sighs and a pushed out tear to make him feel better. I got Ali's name wrong, just once, and he couldn't forgive me, he said, and I would have to leave, after only three weeks and I was alone again, not sleeping and scared of the night until I met
Tim in the pub and he wasn't nice but dim, he was solid and real and he fell for me right away he said, but he knew I needed help.
What? I asked him.
He repeated, you need help. And he asked me some questions and listened, and by the end of our conversation I thought, maybe he's right.
He held me during the long night and I cried and I felt the precipice coming closer. Tim held me every night and said he loved me and that he wanted to help me.
Help me? I asked. And I began to be suspicious and the precipice fell away as I drew back until I was safely in the green green field away from the edge and I left Tim's one night and went to a club and met
Jamal who was sweet and sexy and a perfect balm for all that seriousness. Of course I didn't need bloody help. I was fine, all I was doing was playing the field and having fun. Jamal and I started to work our way through the Karma Sutra and we got to about page 96 before I knew what was coming every time and noticed a guy in the supermarket called
'Ben, here to help' and he grinned and touched my hand accidentally whilst packing my shopping. I wrote Jamal a letter, feeling that I really didn't want to have to explain, all over again. It wasn't him, it was me, I wrote. Ben and I went camping a lot and made love under the stars and it was all going well until I missed my period and I told Ben and he ran a mile, literally, ran a mile.
And my body began to change.
Soon I was two people. In the night, I could hold this new version of me, place my hands over its growing, kicking form and I wouldn't feel afraid. The kicks grew stronger and I withdrew into a world of baby equipment and focus and I grew huge, expanded with a whole new personality. When the pains began I called myself an ambulance because I was alone at home and it came and took me to a safe white world where I welcomed into being a tiny warm bundle who I named
And it turned out I didn't need help, after all, I just needed to stop running for a while. I held Jack and stayed still and all the rushing thoughts I had calmed down as he fed and my world shrank and I was glad of it. My body grew soft and I felt ugly, but I felt Amazonian at the same time, a strong beauty was inside me and I simply didn't care about the surface stuff. Jack grew and I bloomed as a mother, into a flower I'd never imagined before. Jack and I existed in a perfect little world, in my council flat, happy, content, sleeping well. He lay tucked in beside me every night; my dreams were all about him and all the adventures we'd have as he grew.
One day there was a
at my door and I opened it and there stood
Ben, terror in his eyes, a bunch of flowers and a wooden truck in his hands. Jack crawled out from the living room, into the hall and Ben's face softened and he bent down and held out his hands. And Jack, who wasn't great at going to people, stretched up to be picked up. They had the same eyes. Ben's filled with tears as he turned to me and said, I'm sorry - it wasn't you, it was me. Can we go out for a walk?
I thought for a while and said that yes, we could. And Ben held the door for me and helped Jack with his coat and off we went, down to the playing fields, where I took a deep breath and started explaining about how I'd played the field myself, for all these years. And Ben listened and explained that he was really quite similar and that perhaps, two people who were similar might understand each other quite well?
I looked around the park, saw a cute bloke jog past who gave me an appraising look that said, mmm-mmm, how about it? And whilst a part of me leapt to answer, oh, yes please, a greater part of me turned away, turned back to my son and his father and said yes. Yes, you're probably right.
I think I'd quite like to be understood.
'You'll never be a player son,'
she smiled and held me close,
but I blushed, when she said
in front of everyone,
'you'll never be a player son'
and it hurt when they laughed
at all the school tournaments,
when I was picked last.
Dad won every trophy going
playing on the park,
I heard he picked up trophies
training after dark.
'You'll never be a player son,
though you've got your father's feet.'
I shrugged. Dad played so much,
we rarely got to meet.
We invented it, you know, we're the Baby Boomers, we're the ones with the money, the time and apparently the wherewithal. We are the children of the 60s, the ones that learnt to have it all, indeed, to expect to deserve it all.
Every field I have sat in front of, I have played. I have played the feminist field; the best job, best family, immaculate house field. I have exhausted myself and every possibility. But its only now that I have really even begun to understand what I have to play for.
In my head I have lived a life of hedonism, a Machiavellian life of freedom, pop and opportunity, Facing now the reality, I have lived a humdrum existence of work, disappointment and resolute determinism. They (who is the nebulous 'they' of whom we speak so often?) say that everything comes to those who wait. Well, waited I have. I have waited through children, through marriages and through affairs. I have waited through deaths and redundancies, promises and betrayals: and now my time has come.
I no longer care what you think of me, I care little of how you look at my hips and think that I could be slimmer, my breasts and think they could be perter. I no longer care what you or anyone else thinks because I am free. Free from the judgements that have kept me down. Really free to play, to love and to laugh..
Those social norms that have hemmed me in no longer bother me, no longer restrain. They are there but I no longer care. Your death set me free. For so long we obeyed commands, you had this scan, that blood test, that drug. For so long you were 'observed', questioned, cajoled and loved. But in the end the regime overwhelmed, the disease won, the battle was lost and I was free, free to play in a way I'd never played before.
No appointments to keep, no results to wait for, no side effects to battle with. No tears to mop and no sense of impending doom to combat. The fight is over, the battle lost. What tosh. It was never a battle, it was only ever a game, the disease always the victor; simply letting you get in a few runs before bowling you out forever.
And now I can begin. I thought I knew what playing the field was but maybe that was only because I had viewed it through the myopia of respectability and general expectation. Now I see the field in technicolour, multi layered, like a pop art dress I had in the 60s, swirling, patterned and unstructured.
Everyday I have a choice; get up / stay in bed; eat / not eat. Phone that man from the dating site / not bother. Phone that woman, make an effort. Live softly and gently / live loud and outrageous. My field to play is large, is limitless, the rules are soft, the gate is wide. I need only to push and go through. The gate is open, the field is wide, let the games begin.