I sat at my laptop, trying to think of an idea for the word ‘Retrospective’. History, nostalgia, art exhibitions? Nothing seemed right for today’s Daily Prompt. All of a sudden, I was distracted by a ‘bing!’ from my phone. I glanced at it – expecting it to be yet another GDPR email – and was surprised to find I had a message on Tinder. I opened the app with some trepidation (that chap who claimed to be the reincarnation of Judy Garland was still pretty fresh in my mind), wondering who it could be. Would this finally be the 6’4″, guitar-playing, book-loving, tea-drinking man I’d been searching for?
“u wearin tights?”
This blog post is dedicated to Santhosh 🙂
I place my tiles carefully on the board, trying to contain my glee. First the J, then the U – X – T, and finally the A, which I line up onto that coveted sky-blue square with utmost precision. He’d thought he had me. He had been so proud of himself for turning ‘posit’ into ‘position’ that he hadn’t stopped to consider that I might have the audacity to go one better. Granted, it had taken a while for me to put this plan into action – carefully saving up my valuable tiles over umpteen nothing-much turns, lulling him into a false sense of security as his lead slowly grew. But now, as I carefully adjusted that final A, moving it a millimetre to the left, I see the realisation slowly dawn on him. My comeback is swift, my victory complete. Eighty four points, and the game is mine.
“Don’t stand on ceremony!” she’d said when I arrived, ushering me into her home.
Perhaps I overstepped the mark, I think, as I stand over her smashed TV, shoe in hand, arm outstretched.
I never was very good at social situations.
“What would you do if you were famous for a day?” Dad asked. We were in the car, driving from Gran’s house (in London) all the way back up to Liverpool. By Birmingham we’d already exhausted every topic of conversation and there was nothing on the radio, so we’d moved on to random questions.
“I think I’d see how much free stuff I could get, so that when I’m not famous anymore I can sell it all and go on holiday or something. What am I famous for though? Did I do something cool?”
“You won the world record for the most tuba players you could fit into a Mini. Don’t you remember?” Dad replied with a grin.
“And that was enough to make me famous for a day? Must have been a lot of tubas.”
“It was 17. You managed to squeeze one in through the sun roof to beat the previous chap’s record. Caused a right old controversy because he’d not had a Mini with a sun roof, you see, and claimed it was against the rules.”
“Wow, that does sound dramatic. So, what would you do if you were famous for a day?”
“Pull Donald Trump’s human costume off on live TV: expose him for the lizard that he is!” He cackled to himself at the thought of it.
“I’m not sure you’d necessarily need to be famous to do that…”
Believe it or not, it was these memories I always cherished about my time with Dad. Not the big, important occasions like graduation or birthdays, but the little moments, the ones when it was just us joking around and being silly. It’s weird, the way mortality affects you. I expected to feel sad that he wasn’t there for my wedding, and I did, but nothing prepared me for the sense of loss I’d feel for the small, everyday things that I took for granted. I don’t think anything ever can.
“Funny name for a snail,” they always respond, when I tell them my name. “Ironic, is it?”
See, the thing is, everyone thinks that snails are slow. We’re not – mostly, we just like to be careful. We can move quickly if we want, but it’s pretty risky when you’ve got your entire house on your back, so we take our time. That way we can make sure everything stays in one piece. Slugs, though, they’ve got no excuse. Maybe they’re just too lazy to move any faster. If I was a slug, I’d be taking full advantage of not having a shell to lug about. See, when I was a kid, I loved speed. My mum had real trouble trying to get me to slow down. I even broke my shell a couple of times. The first time, I was sliding down a drainpipe and hit a rock. That wasn’t too bad, just a little chip. But the second time… I was gliding around an iced-over puddle with my friend Max. I coasted right off the puddle and fell over a branch lying next to it. Cracked my shell in two places. The doctors weren’t sure if I’d ever fully recover – for a while they thought I’d have to have my shell removed completely, and mum was distraught, but luckily it healed OK in the end. I was young, so I think that helped. I still have scars on my shell where the cracks were, but other than that I’m right as rain. After that I pretty much got the message that I needed to slow down and take better care of myself, but I still miss zooming along in my trail, feeling the wind on my face. There’s nothing like it. I used to think about jacking it all in and joining the local sprint derby, but I’ve got the kids to think about now so it wouldn’t be fair to take unnecessary risks.
I consider explaining all this to the inquisitive insect sitting opposite me – my misadventures as a youngster that had earned me my peculiar nickname – but decided against it; too long a story.
“Yes,” I reply, “It’s ironic.”
I smile, they laugh, and the conversation moves on.
I follow the trickling, muddy rivulet as it weaves its way down the hillside, wanting nothing more than to see where it leads. I wonder, if I stick with it for long enough, will it eventually guide me to the ocean? What a journey that would be.
Does anyone ever truly feel authentic? Maybe it’s just me. I always feel like I’m waiting for someone to catch me out, call me a fraud, tell me I never belonged here. And I’d believe them. It wouldn’t be a surprise to me. I’d accept it – say OK, I understand, and walk straight out of there… Feel relief that finally I’d been found out. No more pretending. Phew. Leave the important jobs to the ‘proper’ people, the one’s who are self-assured, confident and not constantly looking over their shoulder. How do they do it?