Tights (or Any Five Minutes)
Where have all the tights gone? I just brought her five new pairs, and expensive ones too, Marks & Spencer. More than I’d spend on tights for myself. Not that I would ever attempt to get into a pair of tights these days. The horror of that shimmy, the sound of elastic resisting the challenge. The bit where they get stuck. The panic that this is your life now. Half woman, half weird nylon mermaid.
Ah, here’s a pair, with holes in. Oh, and another pair. Holes in the same place. Why, why? Are holes in one thigh fashionable now? Hold on…was this done on purpose? Was she running away from someone? The school bully? Did they hold her down and do this to her? Leave her scrabbling on the hard floor of some generic toilet.
“Next time it will be your face.”
The sound of big boots stomping away. The door slamming. Her lying there, a fish out of water on mildew-scented, stained tiles. I may be bleeding a memory of my own swimming lessons into this scene. The other children in the pool. Me on the side, breast stroking the ground. Laughter like knives.
I try and think if she’s seemed different at all these last few days. Hard to tell, she’s like water in my hands. There and gone. Our conversations a cold splash on my cheeks.
“Wait, did you, are you…?”
The sound of her door closing. Me flicking on the kettle. Mummy will make you a nice cup of tea. No, not mummy, mum. Mother, ma - whatever! It’s cool with me! Here’s a brew, bro. Oh, God. It’s official. I am a terrible mother and have just wasted fifteen minutes looking at a pair of tights with a hole in and wondering what it means. Now I need to go and get more tights.
But I don’t want to because what if she’s not being bullied? What if she just wants to rip her tights? I mean, I get it. I enjoy throwing the out-of-date eggs out, smashing them in my clenched fist, as much as the next rage filled female. But tights cost money. As sure as eggs is eggs they do.
I didn’t think it would be like this. I think I pushed out more than just my placenta with these kids. Some essential part of me fell out too. I’m sure I used to be certain of things, like what day of the week it was, how I felt about shoes without socks and that pop music was ear bleach. Now I’m wearing crocs with tiny donuts on them (and contemplating those Shrek ear charms), telling everyone it’s Tuesday when it is Wednesday (so the bins are out a day late) and I’m singing along to Justin Bieber. I don’t get my peaches from Georgia; I get them tinned from Aldi. Nor do I get my weed from California. I grow my own in the garden. Dandelions, dock leaves and nettles.
Oh, that reminds me, I need to pick up the dog poo. I like to play this cool game I made up. Basically, I get one point for a normal poo, but two points if the poo has a paw print in it. I am always the winner of this game and all I get for winning is a bag of dog poo. I used to have friends and we used to do stuff. I can’t remember what because it was so long ago. Now when I do catch up with people, we take it in turns to moan and sigh and sob, clutch each other like we are heading back to war after shore leave and don’t speak again for weeks. We moan about housework, kids, husbands, dogs, other people and what the hell happened to the skin on our thighs. This jolts me back to those tights. Am I making too big a deal out the whole ripping thing? Am I just jealous because I can’t wear ripped tights?
I don’t trust my own brain anymore. I eat a normal sized dinner that represents all the basic food groups and finish it hungrier than when I started. I have morphed into my Labrador. I have developed a specific gene mutation that means I do not know when I am full. I am never full. Also, I’ve started shedding. Hair and dead skin from the soles of my feet. When I drain the bath, it feels like I left a lot of me in it. And a lot of the bath in me, if you know what I mean. Another reason I never want to wear tights again.
God, I really need to move on from this tights business. I have a to do list as long as the hair coming out my chin. I sniff the tights thoughtfully. A dangerous hobby. A bit like those jellybean mixes you can buy. I normally get the foul ones. I was saying to my Dad on the phone the other day, when I was telling him about my blocked drains, (“sorry, Dad were you eating? Backed up, the plumber told me. Solid. And there was me blaming the dogs for the stench. India was going to be running low in incense with the way we were burning it. The house looked like a Prince pop video.”)
Wouldn’t it be good if you could send a smell like a text message? A scratch and sniff. By WhatSniff, maybe. I could have saved the scent of my aunt’s hand cream. I mean, I could still buy it. Atrixo, that small round pot with the flower on, but it doesn’t smell right if it’s not actually on her hands. I’d have to add dish soap and Marmite and a warm flannel just off a dusty radiator.
I spend a long time thinking about other smells I wish I could have saved. The school library at lunchtime on Friday when the smell of fish and chips was added into the mix. The stuff that you paint on horse hooves, mixed with a very cold frost and straw. The end of the firework displays our local pub held each year, Catherine wheel and burger relish and Silk Cut cigarettes. My first boyfriend’s hair shampoo. My Nan’s roast dinners and her Blue Grass perfume. My children’s newborn heads. Burned matches and that strawberry shampoo that came with a My Little Pony set I once got… and hot tarmac and wet bark… and pine needles and tomato soup.
I want to sniff the last forty-two years. Inhale every memory. Suck the past back in great gulps.
Oh look, I’m crying again. I wipe my eyes on the tights. I don’t sniff the pants left inside them.