Writer, researcher, music lover, cancer survivor with CMMRD ("double" Lynch syndrome)

Tag: stories

I am ten years old

I am ten years old and it’s late afternoon one day in 1998. My mum is pottering around the kitchen part of our small kitchen-diner. My dad is taking a photo of me and I’m grinning. I’m wearing a baggy green camouflage-pattern t-shirt that used to belong to my older cousin, and black Adidas tracksuit bottoms (with three stripes going down the sides of the legs, which is always better than two, because it means I can run two of my fingers down my leg in between those three raised white stripes instead of just one finger between two stripes, which feels much better somehow). To top off my ensemble I’m wearing a hot pink hat which is soft with a furry rim, which is a slightly lighter pink to the rest of the hat but no less garish. I am surely the most stylish ten-year-old in Northamptonshire. Who needs matching clothes anyway?

Oh, and I’m singing into a banana. Obviously, because I’m playing my favourite new compilation album on the hi-fi, which is Now Forty-something-or-other. I’m probably listening to Perfect Ten by Beautiful South, or Horny, by whoever that was by, because that was on the album, and as a ten year old I have no idea what the word horny means, so I sing along as loudly as possible. I don’t know why this woman has horns on her head. Is she a devil or a unicorn? Who knows.

There are pictures on the fridge that I drew in felt tip or paints. This room is my art gallery as well as my concert hall. I stand on a dining chair because that’s all part of the routine – I have to stand on a chair. I’m an exhibitionist. My forefinger and index finger on my left hand sit between those Adidas stripes on my leg while I clutch my makeshift microphone with the other hand. I watch myself singing and dancing in the mirror hanging above the table. I’ve got moves. I am awesome.

The Scarf

The first time my partner saw it he asked me why I was wearing a curtain, but I loved it anyway. It was huge – long and wide like a pashmina, but thin, and it was such great quality. It had a patchwork of different coloured squares with pattern overlay, shiny and silky on one side and matt on the other. Blues, reds, greens, oranges, yellows. Maybe that was the start of a love affair with multi-coloured things. A time when I stopped declaring blue or purple or red as my favourite colour (I can’t even remember what my favourite colour was), and started loving all colours in equal measure, and all at once. 

That scarf was special. I loved it like I had never loved any other scarf, and I’ll probably never find a true replacement for it. I could gather it up and use it like a regular scarf, or wrap it around my shoulders, fold my arms into it and get lost inside that rainbow of comfort. It was like a blanket I could take with me anywhere. So in January 2010 when I wasn’t well and had to go to the doctors, I wore it.

I remember standing in my bedroom wondering if I should take it or not – I can so vividly remember the spot I was standing in, looking down at the heap of clothes on the floor, and debating on whether or not to wear it. I really wish I had decided not to.

But I did take it. Which meant when the doctor told me to go to A&E, I was wearing it. And when I was taken up to a bed on the ward, I had it. And when my parents took some of my things to the car out of the way, they had it. And then they didn’t have it. It wasn’t in the car, in the A&E ward, or anywhere in between.

Calls to the hospital afterwards yielded nothing. Nothing in the lost and found. I looked on the internet for another one but the shop didn’t sell them anymore. It was from Tie Rack. I even emailed them to ask if there was any hope of getting another one somehow. I sent them a picture: Have you seen this scarf? Can you help me get another one? Nothing.

There are similar ones out there, and I have one sitting somewhere at my parents’ house. It’s nice. But it’s nowhere near the same. It feels like a cheap copy. And I haven’t felt the same way about another scarf since.

Sure, there is my winter USA scarf  – stars on one side, stripes on the other. Stars and stripes and hopes and home. And my cosy red snood I got from my Secret Santa at work last year. But nothing else feels the same as that multi-coloured scarf did.

I’m beginning to think that scarf holds some kind of metaphorical meaning. And maybe if I did somehow become reunited with it after the five years it’s been missing, I still wouldn’t feel the same. Even if it was the very one I lost, it still wouldn’t make up for all the time in between. Because so much has changed.

I don’t even know why I still think about it sometimes, but I always seem to go back to thinking about that damn scarf.


The Party

I didn’t want to go to the party, but Tommy made me. Tommy makes me do a lot of things and I don’t always like them, but sometimes I do. I can’t believe how many things he has forced me to do in such a short space of time. Though forced is such a strong word – it sounds bad. It sounds like abuse, and having no choice. I always have a choice. I don’t believe it when people say they don’t have a choice. You can always run away from something. You can always just do nothing. Unless someone has you tied up in a room somewhere so you can’t move. But even then you have a choice – you can try, or not try, to escape. I have never wanted to escape from Tommy.

Tommy wrote a list. He wrote a list of all the things he wanted to do, and he said that I could help him. He said it would be fun. Sometimes I trusted him. Sometimes I wanted to tell someone else about what we were doing, but he made me promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone anything about us. The things we did.

The night of the party, we were drunk. So very, very drunk. He found out about the party through a friend, and we were drunk before we got there. We didn’t realise how drunk we were until it hurt the morning after. It was a birthday party, I think. I can’t be sure. It could have been a christening, but I’m not certain. It was so late at night. We showed up late. People were sprawled on the floor, people were upstairs, downstairs in the kitchen, the bathroom, the garden. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many people crammed into such a tiny house. Tommy headed straight for the punch bowl and I followed him. I followed him everywhere when I was with him because I didn’t know anyone in the places he would take me. He was a bad guy, people used to say. They don’t say that anymore. Nobody says anything to us anymore. Not after the party.

We stayed for a long time. Nothing really happened for the first few hours. Some people left. Some crashed out on the couches, nestling their faces in the crevices of each other’s bodies – the nape of the neck. Armpits. Top-and-tailing. Anywhere where they could get a space. If they hadn’t passed out they were doing something else entirely different in whatever dark corner they could find. Or not. Tommy said we should do it too, but not tonight. I said it was my first house party, and he told me not to worry, that there would be more.

I believed him. I believed everything that came out of his mouth – those thin lips, usually cradling a cigarette, much like the one he dropped in the bedroom at that house. The one I forgot to mention to him right after he dropped it because I was so drunk. Then when he started fumbling in the dark, I saw the spark out of the corner of my eye, but I still didn’t realise what was happening. The orange glow on the floor disappeared as we slid under the duvet. But as soon as we came up for air we saw and we turned and we ran. We ran so quickly. The house was ablaze with all those people inside but we didn’t stay to find out if they all got out. I believed everything Tommy said. He said one day we would forget about all of this. I believe that, too.

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