During the holidays I played out on the streets for most
of the afternoon. There was a girl who sat at her 5th
floor window from the moment her mum left for work at
8 until the moment she got back at 5. I was supposed to
do more or less the same but I never did. I had Lego
and Roald Dahl and Timmy Mallet and Shinobi but no
key to the door that kept me prisoner from the inside.
By noon, my solitary confinement eroded my judgment
and parental consent was long out of the window, as I
crossed the risky boundary to the outside world where boys
were boys and I was one of them. I locked myself out
calculating the hours to mum’s return. Her shift was 6
to 3 and my dinner was at 4, after her hot soak in the
bath because her back and feet hurt.
I played football with the other boys and they always
chose me to be goalie because I was pretty good. Every
once in a while the ball got by me and I wasn’t used
to that feeling. To escape those moments of torment I
would look up at the girl on the 5th floor. She would
look away quickly as if something in another direction
had caught her eye and she hadn’t witnessed my shame.
One day after her mum left for work, I knocked at her
door. She let me in and we watched the boys playing
football together. They looked small. She got into her
mum’s bed and asked me to go to the kitchen and get
her the peanut butter sandwich left wrapped up for her.
I did what she asked. When I got back she pretended to
be asleep so I played along and woke her up for her
sandwich. She sat up and smacked the plate clean out
of my hands and onto the floor then demanded I
apologise and clean up the mess. I wasn’t angry. I said
sorry and bent down to clean up the mess.