Wednesday, July 17, 2013


When I was eight or nine years old I was, like many girls of my age, obsessed with horses. I took horseriding lessons every weekend with my friend Kym and after school we would either play with our various toy horses - fastening and unfastening mini plastic saddles and "grooming" scratchy fake manes - or read the latest installment in the Saddle Club book series. (It was a good read, that series, although I'm still a bit disappointed to this day that they never outed Stevie. Who did they think they were kidding? I mean, sure, she got a boyfriend somewhere along the line but I like to think, even then, I knew he was just a beard).

I digress. As part of my obsession I loved to draw horses and, because I had very little talent in the drawing department, I also loved to trace far superior drawings of horses done by people who could actually draw and imagine it was my handiwork. I should stress that it could not have been more obvious, looking at the traced drawings, that they had been traced and not drawn freehand. For starters they were streets and miles ahead of what I could actually do by myself. Moreover they just looked...  well, very very traced. There was nothing natural about them, they looked exactly like what they were: the work of a half-arsed nine-year-old fraudster.

I don't remember whether I tried to pass the traced pictures off as my own explicitly or just hoped people would assume I'd done them but I do remember, very clearly, the day on which I was confronted by a classmate called Holly M. We were sitting outside the classroom - it must have been recess or lunch, I don't remember that part - and for some reason I had a pile of my "drawings" on my lap. I was probably showing them off. Because I was a little shit.

At some point in the proceedings Holly looked at the drawings, looked at me and said something like: "Are these traced?"

A long pause in which I must have summed up my options: tell the truth or lie. 

Ridiculously, stupidly, I went for the lie. I'm not a great liar now and I can't imagine I was much better back then.

Two decades and change later I still don't really know why I lied. I mean, I guess I wanted Holly to think I was really good at drawing horses or something but why, exactly, did I care? We weren't friends. More importantly, how did I plan to carry on that lie when I couldn't draw for shit unless I was alone in my room with my horse books and, you know, some tracing paper? It was a poorly thought out plan and, even at that young age, I feel like I should have known better.

What I still remember, many years later was the overwhelmingly ache of regret the moment I lied. I didn't want to lie. I didn't want to try and carry off the lie. The lie had been instinctive and I knew, looking at Holly's face, that she didn't believe me. I was embarrassed. My face must have been fleshed. I couldn't have looked more guilty if a sheaf of tracing paper had suddenly slid out of my school jumper.

I recount this story now not because it has anything to do with anything but because I had a flashback yesterday to that little incident when I told a very stupid lie and experienced the same ache of regret at my work gym.

I am, I must point out, now 30. Not eight or nine. I am an adult. I should be better than this. I am not.

First, some back story to fill you in on the basics. The work gym is very small - it's basically just a little room with some so-so gym equipment in it. Also, the day before the incident I'm about to relate occurred I had been to the gym before work and afterwards left my gym clothes balled up in my gym bag for future use. That ball of clothes included - and this part I have to stress - the knickers I'd been wearing at the time.

Okay, you're filled in and we're ready to go on. 

So, I finished work yesterday with an hour to kill before I had to meet some friends and decided, hey, my gym clothes are still here from the previous day - I should go to the gym. Not having too much time to spare I dressed as quickly as I could, grabbed my book and iPod and walked into the gym. At this point something important happened, although I didn't realise it was happening. The knickers I'd been wearing the previous day, which had been balled up with my gym pants, had somehow ended up in the leg of my gym pants without me noticing (I WAS IN A HURRY). The act of walking into the gym, however, had dislodged said knickers from their resting position, sending them sliding down my leg, past my foot and landing on the floor beside me. In the gym. In front of the other two people that were working out in it.

I didn't notice.

Instead, I wandered over to dump my swipe card on the nearest bench and settled myself onto an exercise bike with my Lawrence Sanders novel. The iPod connected to my ears meant I didn't hear anything when the guy on the treadmill tried to get my attention. It was up to the girl on the bike beside me to alert me to the fact that he was pointing. At me. And then at the knickers. I removed an earbud to hear what he was saying.

"Is that yours?" he panted, still running on the treadmill and pointing.

I climbed down from the exercise bike and walked over to where he was pointing. Beside the entrance to the gym sat a sad pair of knickers. They were white and pink. They had flowers. They were, um, fairly big. They were my knickers.

I straightened up. "No," I said.

He knew I was lying. I knew that he knew I was lying - the way the treadmill was positioned meant he almost certainly saw them drop out of my pants. At the very least he would have known that the knickers were not there before I arrived but mysteriously appeared when I did. I knew all this. And yet still I lied.

Why did I lie? I don't really know - it was instinct. The mature thing - laugh it off and retrieve my knickers - only occurred to me after the childish lie was out there. I cursed my stupidity but it was too late to either retrieve either my lie or my knickers. The silver lining was that there was really nothing my accuser could say either and so we exercised on in silence. If my face burned red I blamed it on the exercise. 

I waited until the others had gone, risking being late for dinner by staying on the exercise bike until the gym was empty. Only once I was alone on the bike did I retrieve my knickers, seen my nobody except my own shame. I looked at the flowery symbols of my disgrace and chucked them into the bin. It seemed like the only thing I could do.

1 comment:

Linz said...

I love this story. LOVE. Sorry hon. It's just so....awesomely embarrassment x