CONFESSION: I Luv’d Adam Kozlowski

I always got on better with boys. Boys were not nasty. They were not evil. If you said a thing to a boy, he tended to believe you. First confession – Walter Wheeler, if you’re reading this, I told you in the playground that day that I was an Indian Princess: you believed me, and you have no idea how affectionate I have always felt towards you because of it. I said you could tell Indian Princesses because they were given little coloured dots to wear in the middle of their foreheads. I had probably seen a picture in Odhams Encyclopaedia, which I read as avidly as Charles, my boy detective, reads Wikipedia (A Study in Cerise 1/7 to 7/7). The item almost in the middle of my forehead was a boring, bog-standard mole, of course, but then, logically, someone would have had to get the boring brown one.

That wasn’t actually true, dear little Walter Wheeler, and I do hope you have not gone through your whole life believing that you went to school with an Indian Princess. It was the first lie I can ever remember telling and it didn’t seem like actually a lie at the time, know what I mean? It was what I wanted to be. It was how I imagined myself. I was just accidentally letting you in on my dreams. PS, Walter Wheeler. I also remember that you were the only one faster than me at Spelling. Respect! Also better at Maths, but then so was the whole class.

But the real Luv of my life was Adam Kozlowski. I was reminded of him by my previous post, Secrets and Lies, when I mentioned the Polish community in my town as I was growing up.

Adam Kozlowski was simply beautiful. The moment I first saw him, at five and three-quarters, I could see that. Adam Kozlowski was an angel come to life and I lusted after Adam Kozlowski in a weird, five and three-quarters way that I still don’t, and would honestly rather not, understand. He had white-blonde hair and pale brown, freckly skin and he was full of confidence – a real boys’ boy. Most of the time he ignored me. He liked playing Cowboys and Indians, which was a boys’ game. It involved a lot of galloping around on imaginary palominos and shouting Bang Bang You’re Dead and I’ll Tie You To That Tree, You Varmint.

Occasionally he would condescend to play Doctors and Nurses with me behind the canteen. On one memorable occasion he demanded that I show him Mine if he showed me His. He did show me His, but I can’t remember what it looked like – apart from small and pink. I chickened out and things started going downhill after that.

I suppose as time went by, being ignored whilst worshipping from afar wasn’t quite enough. I don’t know why I did it. I’d never done anything like it before and of course, never since. I carved I LUV ADAM KOZLOWSKI on the inside of one of the girls’ toilet doors. I even remember what I carved it with – a penny coin. It just seemed – as far as I remember – that I had to memorialise it.

Now, I was under the impression that no one but me knew that I Luv’d Adam Kozlowski but as it turned out, they did. A pair of scratty, self-important little girls (I can see them now – they were never seen apart) immediately went to one of the teachers and ‘reported’ that it must have been me wot dunnit, because I was only the one who Luv’d Adam Kozlowski.

No doubt I was shamed and embarrassed by my one and only act of vandalism. I got into trouble, which of course I deserved, but I can’t remember what the punishment was. It wasn’t important. The real punishment was knowing that everybody knew I Luv’d Adam Kozlowski.

Also Adam Kozlowski coming up to me in the playground the next day and jeering ‘I hear you Luv me, tee hee hee!’ before running off sniggering for yet another game of Cowboys and Indians.

Secrets and lies

I’ve lived a long time, though not nearly as long as my mother who this afternoon informed me (for the umpteenth time) and her doctor (for the first but probably not the last time) that she was nearly a hundred and had been through four World Wars. Also that her ancient cat had been eating the giant slugs that live and multiply under the house, and the slugs are growing inside her. Also that… oh, I could write several thousand words of Also that’s. None of it is true, of course.

All my life I seem to have attracted secrets and lies of one sort or another. I must be the human equivalent of the pots of marmalade-and-water people used to put out to drown wasps in the summertime – paper over the top held with an elastic band, and holes punched in it. Once in, the wasps swam around desperately for what seemed like hours, slowly, slowly drowning. It was considered a kind of picnic entertainment. I think the War must have coarsened people.

Me, I’m post-War, so I let wasps out. I let everything out – birds, ants, flies, butterflies, spiders; they all get shunted onto slips of paper, caught in wine glasses, cradled in paper tissues or gently encouraged towards the gap at the window’s edge. My mother (when she still remembered things) once reminded me of an incident from my youth. On one of our Sunday drive-abouts in the car, she, Dad and I had stopped at a roadside café, where there were picnic tables. My Dad bought us one of those polystyrene cups of coffee each and we were sitting at the tables with them.

‘A wasp landed in yours,’ she said, ‘and do you know what, you tipped the whole cup of coffee away into the grass just to save the wasp!’ And I’m thinking – you mean, you wouldn’t have? You’d have watched him drown to death in steaming hot liquid?

But where was I? Lost the plot again. Oh yes, secrets and lies. You sometimes end up thinking in a demented kind of way when you’ve spent an afternoon trying to decode the conversation someone who has it – and then it lingers!

Secrets, for example. Shall I tell you the saddest secret anybody ever told me? As a young teenager I would walk up the road every day to catch the train to school with one of my classmates. Another of my classmates came from a different direction and tended to walk up the road on the opposite side, not speaking to us. Both had what sounded to me like German surnames. This didn’t strike me as strange. Our particular small town was full of Polish people – perhaps soldiers who had fought with us then stayed, imported their families or married local girls. So I just assumed there had been a few German people stranded too.

Then one day these two girls had a fight – a verbal fight, but a violent one. They chased each other up the road, screaming abuse from one pavement to the other. I remember their high-pitched voices echoing off the shop windows, off the walls, it seemed.

Afterwards I asked the one I usually walked with, what was that all about? She was obviously shaken, still. She looked around her carefully and, when she could be absolutely sure no one could hear, whispered ‘I’m Jewish.’ I was mystified. It sounded like some sort of disease. When I got home I asked my parents what exactly Jewish was, and why someone should be so ashamed of being it.

Now for a lie.

When I was at infants school the yo-yo was all the rage. I had been given an orange and yellow one for Christmas and was very pleased with it. I liked the colour combination – like sweeties – I liked the magical way you could flick the string and the yo-yo went up and down (easily pleased) and most of all I liked the fact that I could walk around the playground looking pleasantly occupied – having fun in my solitary, weird-kid way – which meant teachers would be less likely to swoop on me and place me in the middle of terrifying rings of children engaged in some game or other. As soon as the teacher’s eye was off them, the rings of children would expel me, or I would wriggle out and run off. Then one lunch hour I got hauled by the collar to see the headmistress, who told me another girl had accused me of stealing her orange and yellow yo-yo. I think I made a big, terrible fuss. She’s not having my yo-yo. My Daddy bought it for me for a present, it’s mine and so ad infinitum. They had probably expected a stuttering, shame-faced admission and what they got was a major hissy fit. They let me go, but traumatised, scarred for life.

Oh yes, credulous teachers. Oh yes, evil-lying-little-girl whose orange and yellow yo-yo my yo-yo was not, I’ve got your numbers. It’s all written down in my little black book.