Flynn has been asking me when I’m going to take him to school; I know I must and I know everyone thinks I should but the thought of it so far has been unpalatable. Today I suck it up and head out into the trenches, wearing a face I keep in a jar by the door. I nip in and out of his school without so much as a pitiful stare or head tilt, back to my car, to blissful safety. I nudge out into the busy cul-de-sac and am faced with a very large man in a very tiny car who looks like he has swallowed anger whole for breakfast; By the look of him he, is the incarnation of Joseph Fritzl, as I live and breathe.
He refuses to place his huge body and tiny car in a massive parking space; instead he prefers to plough on until I am reversing backwards into a mosh-pit of school mums.
My car transforms into a large glass box where the head tilts are closing in as are the stares, mainly because Joseph Fritzl is launching a tirade of abuse at me (probably in German), I can’t make it out.
So I freeze. Unfortunately this means so does my car and doesn’t move. I am in the middle of I’d say twenty cars and I’m sobbing, wondering why I thought this was a good idea and because my car is a glass box everyone can see.
Frizzle retreats and looks vaguely moved at my sobbing. I smile at him but later think better of it, as he most likely has a young girl tied up in the boot of his tiny, weird car.
Now time to take Celeste to her school. I get her out and notice a group of mums I semi know and so I busy my brain for ways to look busy and focused: intellectual whistling. Like: How many streets can bin trucks do before they have to empty their load? And whoever came up with a Spork? And why did littlefinger suddenly develop a thick Irish accent in season three of Game Of Thrones when it was entirely absent in the other two and why did nobody comment on this? And was Lauren Hill really a racist?
I realise that this pair have stopped talking as I approach and only resume their chatting when I have passed. Then it hits me: I’m THAT person. I drop my head and quicken my steps to make this situation better for all involved and wonder is it possible that what I am feeling is ……shame? If it’s not then it’s pretty close. It’s the scarlet letter. Except instead of a giant A pinned to my chest, it’s a W, so much worse by all accounts. I realise that people are uncomfortable in some way by my very presence, as if it’s contagious. To my knowledge it is not.
There is one woman who crosses the street every time she sees me. It’s bizarre. And I can’t say I blame them really. I have grief dripping off me and I make puddles of it when I enter any room and nobody wants soggy carpets. Especially in Chiswick.
For Josie who really has True Grit