OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
On New Year’s Eve many moons ago I went to a cocktail party hosted by supreme beings. They had the right sofa, the right cushions, the right scented candle (Diptyque’s Tubéreuse if I recall) and the right shade of Bone on their sitting room walls. The canapés were amusing, the champagne crisp, everything about this couple shouted “We’ve Won!” From her bouncy blonde ringlets and perfect bottom to his beard, so soft I wanted to nest in it, just as I wanted to dive into the Solomon pools of his eyes, eyes that twinkled with the satisfaction of a man who has never queued, not for a bus, nor for a Giro.
Their adorable seven year old twins, Edgar and Mildred, looked as if they’d been cast in the role of adorable seven year old twins. “Pleased to meet you” they chanted, offering their soft little hands to be shaken by each ecstatic guest. What hope did they have these kids, I mused, with their mini Boden pajamas and Ralph Laurenbedroom slippers, but a lifetime of ennui and rehab.
The words “Oh God” slipped out of my mouth as Mildred showed me the octopus she’d crocheted for her parents who beamed with pride to see the fruits of their investment in Teeny Tiny Numbskulls or whatever extortionately priced primary school they’d opted for.
I wanted to pull my dress over my head and shout “STOP IT!”
Why? Because I couldn’t quite accept that some people have everything. Or perhaps they don’t. Perhaps the abundance of Graham & Greene scatter cushions was compensating for the fact that they hadn’t had sex since the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.
Whatever it was, something stank.
I side-eyed my fellow guests. Did anyone else feel this way? Nope. They were too busy standing around in little circles with a bubbly flute in one hand and a locally reared sausage in the other, listening to a fellow guest muse over their Cockadoodle’s menstrual cycle.
I tried to get into it. Perhaps the minor bird in me would learn something new – a weirdly placed vocal timbre perhaps or why some people tickle trout – but when the conversation skirted towards contested traffic calming measures in the village my toes began to curl. “Excuse me” I said “I’ve just got to..” This phrase is like a magic carpet. You simply point somewhere and leave, because no one on earth cares where you go let’s face it. I chose the library with its Bird with Pomegranatewallpaper, Conran Shop rug and witty curios in bell jars: a leather pineapple; a skull made of Licorice Allsorts; a Haitian voodoo doll.
Fuuuuuuuck! I roared onto the velvet sofa, hating myself for wanting what I didn’t have, when suddenly I heard a door click, and the following dialogue:
“What the fuck is this?”
“When was this taken?”
“What are you doing in my phone?”
“Never the fuck you mind what I was doing in your phone. Where were you?”
“I don’t know, it was after work”
“Why is she looking at you like that? That is NOT the face a PA makes to her boss.”
I froze. Who were these people and why did they sound like children? I slithered like a lungfish up the face of the sofa, peered over the summit, and there, in her finest pink pyjamas, stood Mildred, head thrust forward, hands on hips, glowering at Edgar, whose chin scraped his chest in shame.
Mesmerised, I dropped back down, arresting my breath. Was this a game? A TV show? A family therapy role play assignment?
“MATTHEW!!!” she shouted.
“What?!” mumbled Edgar.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
“I AM looking at you!”
And then the penny dropped. With both hands clamped over my mouth I listened to the unfolding drama, thrilled and horrified to be privy to my hosts’ marital battle, played out by their own children.
Mildred took a step closer to her brother. “Is this why we don’t have sex anymore?” This proved too much for Edgar who bellowed “OH FOR GODS SAKE LAYLA GET OFF MY BACK!”
Naturally, this was the moment to declare my presence, because whatever I thought of these pampered poppets, eavesdropping is a dastardly thing. But just as I made a little cough and waved my hand in a Lawrence of Arabia show of surrender, both parents charged in, grabbed each child by the arm and shook them into silence.
Before I could slither back down again, I felt my host’s eyes on me. These were not the tranquil pools that had invited me in less than an hour before. These eyes were narrowed and flinty and wanted me gone. “Get to bed. NOW!” growled Matthew, shoving and shocking his quivering twins back to their rooms to think about what they’d done.
It took seconds for the three of us to decide what to do with our faces. Me, a life long truth hound and closet healer wondered if some good might come from this. “Listen” I could have said “I too have struggled in my marriage and I know just the person to help you” and I would have pinged them Rachel’s number – warm, whip-smart Rachel who glued us back together when our love lay bleeding.
But…no. There they were again, the catalogue smiles, beaming down at me like search lights, making it clear that I was to speak next. “Sorry I slipped away” I said “I I just er..” (Just what? Thought I’d snoop around your house and listen to your kids recant the darkest scene of your marriage?) a geological era passed before I found the words. “I just needed a bit of a snooze.”
“Oh please!” said Layla, darting to the sideboard “Snuggle up in this. It’s a Hammacher Schlemmer” and she swaddled me in a fleece throw as if she were about to lay me in a manger. Then, offering me one final beatific smile, she took her Don Draper of a husband by the hand, and left the room.
On the drive home, I felt incredibly sad. For those poor kids who’d blame themselves as all kids do, for Layla whose lovely bottom was not lovely enough for Matthew, but mostly for the P.A. all alone in a flat with knocking pipes and single glazing, listening to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect and dreaming of a day that will never come.
Rose Wadham X © 2021