He sat under the Eucalyptus tree at the bottom of our communal garden. He was intensely focused on his fingernails, his breath was slow and his gaze did not wander. He forcefully pressed the nail cuticle into his mouth, biting hard on the skin. His gaze focused forward, not looking at anything in particular but concentrated on this surprisingly mesmerising nail biting activity. I’m sure he’s going to make his fingers bleed.
I too had red and puffy skin around my cuticles from picking my fingers so I was very aware of the satisfaction this self-harming habit brought on. He continued to nibble at the same spot on his finger for longer than was comfortable to watch but I continued to stare at him out of my kitchen window all the same. He then went on to bite his fingernails. Then he moved onto picking the dry skin from the bottom of his feet.
Boys are so unapologetic about their primal grooming behaviours. I live with my Aunt Gene and her pruning habits are pretty disgusting but at least she attempts to hide them behind the bathroom door, although I always find toenail clippings and blunt, hair infested razors on the side of the bath.
Boys are so proud of how smelly their poops are at school. If a girl spends longer than a minute in the cubicle… “Gross, she must be doing a shit, couldn’t she wait until she got home?!”
I’ve never seen this boy before, I don’t recognise him from school and he doesn’t live in any of the four flats in our London townhouse. His clothes are really odd too. He’s wearing a pair of brown shorts, they look like leather but then the heat of this summer’s day may be affecting my eyesight. Who wears leather shorts in mid August in a heat wave, actually who wears leather shorts, full stop? His chest was bare apart from what looked like a piece of thick string draping from his shoulder to his hip, it could have been a bag strap but boys don’t wear bags.
I consciously make an effort to lesson my judgements of others (I think it’s impossible to make no judgement as I would never willingly approach a naked man walking around the supermarket unless I was carrying a spare pair of mans pants but that’s not something I often keep in my jean pocket). Plenty of judgemental comments are catapulted my way at school, as I don’t own any matching socks and my white school shirts get washed with the darks. Aunt Gene shows no colour prejudice when it comes to putting a wash on. Her choice of only wearing black comes from her belief that it’s the only colour to compliment her complexion and she doesn’t have to worry about choosing what to wear in the morning. Of course it’s my fault that school enforces such strict uniform policies. Its my fault that she can’t afford two washing cycles to accommodate whites as if she wasn’t lumbered with me after my mum died and my dad bought a Barge and disappeared, she’d be living the life of riley. So, consequently I have grey shirts and I’ve picked at the seam of the bottom of my trousers to hide one sock black and one sock grey.
The boy is still picking at his feet and I’m still staring at him out of my window. The decision I make at this very moment could be life changing. My options are as follows:
- I approach the boy with a plate of digestive biscuits, offer him counsel should he seek it.
- I approach the boy with a plate of digestive biscuits and he kills me with the knife he’s hiding in his man bag.
- I just ignore him.
- I don’t take him any biscuits and shout at him from the comfort of my window. I tell him he’s sat on our property illegally and if it were legal for me to own a gun, I’d be within my rights to shoot him. (I wouldn’t shoot him. Last time I accidently killed a spider I was so mortified I wrapped it up in one of Aunt G’s black socks and had a little spider funeral in the garden. No one questions a missing sock)
I didn’t partake in any of the above although I did stay at the window and shout down, I decided not to mention a gun.
“Hey, are you ok?”
Boys don’t like complicated questions.
He stopped picking his feet and looked up.
His teeth are perfect.
“It’s a nice day, why don’t you come down and join me under the tree?”
Scenario 2 could become a reality; he’s inviting me down to kill me. I go anyway.
I’d highly recommend sitting under a Eucalyptus tree in the sunshine, it’s a very pleasurable place to be. His name is Josh and he’s two years older than me. He doesn’t seem like the murdering type and he smelt of lavender, which struck me as bizarre as boys don’t smell of flowers. When a boy does smell of a botanical garden it’s very comforting and deadens the anxiety of being slaughtered by a carving knife.
He told me he’d come here to see me.
There are many instances in my life when I believe myself to be going mad, especially as living with Aunt G is so unpredictable and her behaviour often makes me question my own. The insanity in our flat pours outside the four walls, flooding my thoughts as I attempt to merge with society. Merging doesn’t seem to be my forte. I’m a walking breakdown waiting to happen. Aunt G’s insular take on life and her OCD tendencies are infesting the air that I breathe each day. It’s too late, that toxic oxygen has invaded my blood and all I can do is observe her murky force pumping around my body. When a boy you don’t know tells you he’s sat under a tree in your garden because he’s waiting to see you, well this is one of those bite-me-on-the-butt-insane moments that you knew would encroach your existence at some point or another.
“Would you like to come in for a digestive biscuit?”
“I don’t think I like digestive biscuits and I like sitting under this tree with you”
Well colour me happy, I was glad of his response and if I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I like digestive biscuits either.