I was given the book Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll for Christmas (no, Mr O'Driscoll didn't give me the book he wrote it). And last night as I was reading it I was given to remember my first school friend Maria. This gave me an idea for a series of poems.
Maria was very pretty and always enviably dressed in floral A-line frocks: crisp as country house napery. She had hair like Nigella Lawson, long limbs, and I wanted to be her. Our friendship didn't last. She soon deserted me for cooler girls. That was the first time I knew what loss was. I remember sitting in the playground and seeing her with her new friends running up to the sports field and wondering what went wrong. But I also remember a sense of inevitability. I wasn't the right sort.
Thirty or so years later I saw Maria again. She was the size of a small farm and I didn't recognise her. I only noticed her because she looked peculiarly happy to see me, then rather pained when I failed to return, with my forced smile, her sentiment. I had to ask my sister, once we were out of earshot, who she was. She didn't know either but later, over supper, we worked it out, and then I felt terrible.
Terrible in a 'serves her right' sort of way it's true.