Playground Twist (in stereo)
With friends like his, who needs extra-terrestrials? As for me, my surrogate friends are determined by the exigencies of my newly adopted life. NCT and pregnant yoga communards. Playgroup, nursery and now school parents. While the former drift away into their own private but supple hells, the latter I spend my time politicking and diplomacying among. In order to get them to like my children. Monitoring whispers of swapped telephone numbers. Watching for furtive exchanges of party invites. The stakes are very high. The defence of the realm of my daughter’s development no less. She may be responsible for electing who her playmates are inside. But here, out in the carpark, favoured grace determines whom are players and whom are not.
The little faces register nothing of the subterfuge occurring above their heads. But they cotton on. They are innately programmed to pick up and respond. For how could they fail not to? Their mothers with expressions like defeated Oscar nominees at awards time. To discover we, that is both Suzanne and I, didn’t merit an accolade. Of course, it’s who you know darling. That bitch! I don’t care that it was the first week of term and her little spawn of Beelzebub didn’t know any of the new kids. It should have been the whole class invited round to fingerpaint on her wallpaper, with chocolate birthday cake melted by hot little hands.
Yeah? Well you should have had the school calendar in mind when you were procreating missus! You and your asinine black-hand gang! With your prissy manicures concealed inside leather gloves against the autumn chill. And the rayburns, hardly harbouring milky eyes from the rheumy sun? More likely to filter out the wavelength of us wheyfaced women, even as you to cast disdainful darts from behind their embrasure. Walkman earphones for women who never go anywhere on foot, (save the gym treadmill), in order to blot out our background chatter. Since you can’t bear to fall in behind our bromidic hum.
Who do you take your direction from I wonder? I half-expect you to whisper down the cuff of your blouse, to receive the holy orders of your mothers superior clique. The updated aloof gesture from your moisturised handlers. The latest affectation mandate from your Fashionista wranglers. But then I realise how ridiculous you are in your black clad sensory deprivation. Don’t you realise the stark gloved contrast, lights up the white envelopes like a searchlight beam? There are people who do real secret agent stuff in this land and they’re dying for it. If I was petty enough, I’d utilise black envelopes. Blend in unseen against the coven’s uniform. You wouldn’t have a clue it was even taking place, if I chose not to invite you and your brat. Or maybe I’d flaunt it. Rub it in your face. Wear white gloves like some photographic inversion of everything you are. Embossed black invites for a kids’ party, how apposite!
Caught myself at it again today. Been trailing here long enough now, to put the names to the faces, the faces to the aspects of the mothers. Traced the parabolas of shed scales, as children cast themselves from the line snaked behind the teacher, and puff and distend themselves into a paroxysm of burst relief. I follow the fall-out, trace the trajectories of unleashed ground-to-air arms flung out for a hug. I plot the tear-streaked cheeks, to the eczematous worry-beads of maternal fingers. I match a fresh-faced, ruddy-cheeked visage, to the cracked-veined, bucolic alcoholic, rather than the emulsified rouge-prominence and beacon-red lipstick, of the mother flushed with Church-mongering sociability. Hers is the pigtailed, pierced-eared princess, hewn from head-girl material. Hard on the heels of the girl with tight braids and minature briefcase, demurely marching up towards her own spruced mother, to receive another dose of middle-management incentives and exhortations. I almost overlook the bland formlessless of a mother and daughter who describe one another fully, in their inimitable non-descriptiveness. The pair who seemingly didn’t feel it necessary to comment on school, one another, or even life itself as they trudge mutely off. Their plastic soles kiss-sucking the playground tarmac as redundant punctuation. And so it goes on. Won’t prejudge my daughters, but sure as hell will anybody else’s. It’s not big or clever, but it does answer a few queries. Without me having to undergo the unpleasantries of actually talking to any of these women.