The old game


I traipse up the path
trailing an ethereal scent of a wisp of a ghost of a dream
of fake, decaying romance,
with not the least intention
of filfilling any pumped up expectation.

Al sees me first.
He’s been pacing, peeking impatiently around the corner,
waiting for me to walk this way.

My guilt mingles with conceit as relief skims his face,
and he greets me with a cheeky grin.

I try not to wince at Bert’s yawning gurn
incompetently designed to charm.

I knew he – they – would be here
and a part of me wants
to walk away,
break this jagged triangle
that they painted on the bench.

While Bert doesn’t understand the maths –
doesn’t know that none of our three points can truly meet –
even he sees that our shape is not equalateral,
his angle being an acute 20, holding him at a distance,
while Al and me have 80 each,
bringing us so close I could almost reach his soul
if I so wished.

Poor Bert, grappling for attention,
with questions like hiccups that make no sense;
silently expelling a deathly stench, looking confused
telling us it wasn’t him who broke wind;
his chin unwittingly dressed with dribbles of dinner
as he wonders where he went wrong.

Like a young child imitating the big boys in school
he bunglingly apes Al’s innocently clever play,
competitively grabbing for my attention,
like a fictional insect that swells with every sting
as with each ill-placed step he hopes he has gained an inch,
too green to see the futility of his wishes.

Bile rises, battling with my natural compassion

Al holds the stage
not seeing the magnitude of those differences
between him and me:

my craving to reinstate a discarded collection
of grubby dug-up jug and cup handles, because I believe
that in some way they define me
versus Al’s gold chains, his polished nick-knacks,
the list of generous gifts he has given
each with a fondly remembered and costly gift tag;

my hippy-dippy deep-thinks
versus his doubtful, hilarious tales of high jinks and nights spent in the cells

my high-faluting ethics
versus his low-flung antics.

In a moment of intimacy, Al’s arm slips around my waist
I let it rest as he whispers
I often think of you Jane.

I occasionally long for a warm touch
and no matter what I pretend,
he is attractive to a daft woman fast approaching her dotage.

I recall a scene in
an obscure Peter Sellars film about an aging Lothario
where Sellars, snuggled up against a freshly aquired housemaid
It’s alright you know – it’s not real, but it makes life less lonely.

I’ve never been at ease with
having words murmered in my ear
by amorous men wishing to exceed my desires
so I panic and get it wrong;
I’m not real, I say,

but what I mean is
like in the movie it’s just a game
which I wish I could play to
the following rules:

We live
respectably apart
in a Jane Austen novel.

I am the heroine,
dressed in white muslim sprigged with roses;
hair scraped back, modest eyes downcast, prettily framed by
a couple of artfully contrived ringlets,
bearing my genteel poverty with quiet dignity;
while he’s the rich lord with a mansion in the country,
who chose respectability over his love for me;
thereby trapping himself in
loveless marriage.
An error he will forever regret.

Most days he can be seen
riding wildly across the moor;
hoping to escape the memory
but ever failing,
while in my humble parlour
I weep demure, dry nosed tears
into an embroidered hankerchief
which never gets wet.

we will meet in cool drawing rooms
dotted with polite society,
our language limited to secret
yearning glances

should we will find ourselves alone
we shall speak carefully veiled sentences with double meanings
until control goes and words of passion burst from his lungs,
roughening his stammering voice
and making me swoon.

maybe once or twice he may
grip my shoulders as if he cannot let me go
and I will chastely slap his face
and run away, torn by the tragic waste
of his life and mine.

None of this is worth suggesting, as I know Al’s game
would go several levels beyond
my present reach of skill or desire
until it achieved close involvement with
slippery naked bits and tangled sheets,
so I’m going to stick with my logic puzzles
rather than have my PJs invaded.

and anyway
if we were the lovers, whether thwarted or sated
who would John be?

I get up from the bench and say goodnight.
With nothing left to do, Al and Bert leave too.

maybe tomorrow
I’ll move beyond this adolescent craving
to paddle in those green eyes.

so what if I noticed their piercing shade?
that doesn’t mean a thing.

Posted for The Sandbox Writing Challenge: Games

Β©Jane Paterson Basil



22 thoughts on “The old game

    1. I’m going to have to back off – poor ‘Bert’ is very needy and I’m getting decidedly uncomfortable (he also has that effect on men) whilst ‘Al’ is beginning to make me forget how unpleasant it is to be involved with the opposite sex.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes – though Al is currently finding the friendship trying. Bert’s special needs make him overwhelming – needy. Al and Bert are pseudonyms, I expect you can imagine why – although neither of them will ever read the poem.


    1. Thank you πŸ˜€
      Last night was hysterical. A sent B off to dispose of his trash, just so he could have a few minutes alone with me. B came back after about two minutes and said he couldn’t unlock B’s door, so A had to help him. But he got B to take the trash to the skip, which gave me the opportunity to establish a couple of ground rules with A – the first one being NO phyisical contact in front of B, as B copies whatever A does. A said he’d noticed, and already decided not to touch me again.
      BUT then he mentioned that he hadn’t shaved, so B said he hadn’t either. So A said “Feel how rough my chin is, Jane,” and I did. Then B said.. So I had to rub my fist on the remains of his supper.
      I can’t explain why it’s all so funny. I wish I could video it. I spend half the time with my head thrown back, laughing like a drain, while B (on the right) looks confused, but kinda happy, and A (on the left) feels like a king.
      A’s got this weird natural charm, and even at 61 I’m a sucker for it. I must pull myself together πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The question is, will I break the rules? It’s obvious that there is a certain frisson between A and me. You can read the body language from a mile off. Laura’s so drugged up that she hardly sees anything, but she showed up outside the other night, and the moment she spotted us she said “Hi mum, it’s nice to see you flirting with a man.” I almost said I wasn’t, but the words didn’t come out, and as if she’d read my mind, she smile and said “Yes you are, and it’s great.”
          My stupid, rebellious body is having thoughts that have lain dormant for years, and I wanted them to stay dormant. If this is happening to me, you can bet that what’s going on inside A’s body is far more pressing. Am I going to be sensible, or will I do the usual? It remains to be seen.
          a. I don’t want to get tied up in a relationship.
          b. Even if I did, he’s unsuitable.
          c. Even if he wasn’t, he has peculiar baggage that he would deal with if he got involved with a woman, but he needs to do it before that happens.
          Last night, as we were parting, I put my hand out and brushed his shoulder. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. It’s a small thing, but you can’t do that to a man whose head is crowded with thoughts of you.
          I’m in crisis, and the worst of it is, I’m loving it:)

          Liked by 1 person

            1. If I do the right thing I’ll be bored, and if I do the wrong thing I’ll regret it. Isn’t this great? Just like being sixteen again.
              I’m off now – I have to climb on the roof of the Nat West bank and drop water-bombs on passers by. Then I’m going to Graffiti “I WOS HERE BUT NOW I’M GONE across the outside of the cemetary chapel. Leter me an’ my homies are meeting up to neck tubes of lager and shout abuse at the traffic πŸ™‚
              I really did climb on the roof of the Nat West bank once – I think I was drunk at the time, but I didn’t do any of the other stuff πŸ™‚

              Liked by 1 person

                1. I spent a lot of time showing off to boys – climbing scaffolding, walking along narrow fences 100m above the ground, hanging upside down from trees… But then it’s what I did all through childhood, and it impressed everyone back then. It was all I knew – AND it worked, I mean I REALLY worked. They’d never seen anything like me. πŸ™‚
                  Girls hated me. They’d always thought me weird, and yet now the boys couldn’t get enough of me. They couldn’t understand it.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. I bet they just wanted your secret to succcess. And the boys wanted the secret to how you could do all those daring things that they wanted to do but were too scared !! You sound like you were a delightful child πŸ™‚

                    Liked by 1 person

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