Beautiful Game

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.