‘You’re not a rabid Tory, are you?’ he asked out the blue.
Why would he think that? Why would he care? Would he take back his welcome if I replied in the affirmative. Of course, he couldn’t see my face. We were on a phone call.
I was always told, from the age of eighteen, to tell no one whose box I ticked at the voting polls. It’s a secret. I never did tell. One of the many secrets I’ve kept in life. It’s as if my head is a trinket box, full of cute little whispers, big brassy surreptitious sniggers, clandestine chains, shrouded brooches. Some charms have slipped through the cracks in the jewellery box, lost forever in the realms of forgotten memory, some cradled in my secret haven, but some undisclosed and proudly displayed. If the eyes are the window to the soul, how can folk not see my secrets simply by looking at me? Or can they? What do they see? If only I could see what they see, especially if it’s as much fun as the things I see.
‘I’m surrounded by rabid feminists,’ I said another day, to a group I’m in, smiling over at them.
‘Ah, an interesting word,’ one said. I owned up to stealing it from someone, just a few days before.
‘Do you not believe in equal rights for women then?’ the woman asked.
‘Of course, I do.’
‘Then you’re a feminist,’ said our leader. ‘It’s plain you’re a feminist, it shows in your writing. I’m one too, and I’m a man,’ he said.
‘But I’m not actively so,’ I said.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said to my passive boot, which was waggling, close to the coffee table, as if trying to speak.
‘Let me speak,’ it said. ‘I have something to say. I have a secret to tell.’ But the boot was tightly zipped, and words were left unsaid, wound up with all my other words, unsaid.
Laughter broke out from the woman next to me.
‘I thought you said you were surrounded by rabbits,’ she said, the reading we’d just analysed having a snippet in it about rabbits. At it like rabbits was how the snippet read, to be precise. Three minutes later, an echo.
‘I thought you said you were surrounded by rabbits,’ the woman opposite said.
More laughter. It was as if she was an alien on another planet. But maybe I was. Surrounded by rabbits. Surrounded by rabid rabbit Tory feminists. Where am I going with this? What is the theme? Is there more than one? Do I even know?
Is it about secrets? Is it about being asked questions I wasn’t happy to answer? I think those go hand in hand. Two parts of the same foul. So, the question is, what did I answer? You know, the rabid Tory question. I body swerved it but didn’t quite body swerve it enough.
‘Well, I’m not an SNP follower,’ I said, which only left three other parties.
The name Boris was mentioned a couple of times, the elderly often living in the past, and then there was silence on the phone line. He was waiting on an answer. It was as if he had the white light of inquisition on me. I shook with fear, I curled in my fingernails, walked up and down the small bedroom, the one I go to for privacy during phone calls. I don’t like my phone calls being overheard, being judged. This may be the traumatic after affect of having worked in an industry where calls were taped for training purposes. Ha. Not only am I left with a weakness in my ears, (I wore a headset at work) the little hammer inside fused and inactive, but I’m left with a fear of being spied on. Big brother is out to get me.
‘Get on with it,’ I hear you all saying, but things must be mulled over, thought about, properly ingested before one can answer such leading questions, and the double yoked egg I’d had for breakfast didn’t help. It was as if it had congealed, two yokes acting together, around my brain stem, shutting off the power of thought, stealing my words, stiffening my furry tongue. The silence grew more alarming. Was he still there? Had he dropped dead with boredom? Had he nipped out to join a protest group in the area? In those situations, of large pregnant pauses, I become uncomfortable, and I did this day too. He was waiting on an answer.
‘I’m not a rabid Tory,’ I said, putting the emphasis on the word rabid, hoping he would realise the ambiguity.
‘That’s good,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you next week and we can chat some more.’