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:
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
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
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.
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.
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
©Jane Paterson Basil