The awkward turtle

Celebrating the failings of a successful person

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First kiss missed

Balancing at the edge of his bed I waited for the flash of his blonde hair in the doorway as he returned to the room bearing a glass of water. I had requested the refreshment moments before and he dashed out on the hunt before the words had finished escaping my mouth. His icy eyes took me in greedily as I gulped down the water. Drained, the lifeless glass lingered in my hand. He pried my last defence from my grip. I relented. I watched as the glass took refuge on the floor with only our feet for company. My eyes fixed upon the eyes of my accuser, I knew what was to come; I could feel the heat of his intensity concentrate on my mouth as if he were willing them to part voluntarily. Naturally, I tensed up.

The room dulled as his face gradually eclipsed the lights. I closed my eyes but after having waited the customary time for us to connect I reopened them to assess the room: his face was suspended in front of mine, I don’t know if it was because I had leaned away extending the initial lip-travelling distance by an awkward mile. The tension was mounting to a point of climax beyond my control as the scene which I had watched unfold was still short of ending. My limbs demanded a break out, I should have crossed my legs or flexed my fingers. I should not of laughed.

I laughed.

This was to be our first kiss, we had anticipated it for a year but the cumulation of frustration transformed into a humorous observation in my mind, akin to watching a male primate making moves on a female in captivity. He did not share my amusement. I only realised my mistake as his eyes could no longer meet mine. The damage was done. He didn’t speak to me for a year. Another year later we had our first and last kiss.

Love in earnest



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The highs of a perfume pusher

Sitting in the mall watching the shoppers fly by as I ate my lunch, I had the misfortune to be facing The Body Shop and spent the next 30 minutes bearing witness to active acts of avoidance as time and time again the perfume pusher struck out trying to promote the shop fragrance. Throughout the episode two things remained constant: me avoiding eye-contact with the sales-girl in question, and her cheerful facade which directly impressed upon me a feeling of depression. I spent the last few bites of my sandwich figuring out my exit strategy; I didn’t want to dismiss her as everyone else before me had, but I certainly did not want to be engaged. I took the coward’s way out and dashed as soon as she had fixed her attention on the nearest victims.

Like the homeless, perfume sprayers are given a wide berth in the brutal world of department store shopping. Even customers interested in their product avoid them like the plague, making bee-lines around them straight for the nectar of picking up the bottled sweetness with their own hands. The aisles are full with cheery chirps emanating from the assistants in their marked territory: “Hi there – “, “Ladies try the – “, each opening reaching an octave higher than the one before until the voices vibrate on a frequency that no longer impact our conscious minds. Background noise. Behind the glitzy perfume dust and fragranced air, the sales assistant stands, alone, among the throngs of unforgiving and relentless crowds. And when their veil drops it is a sad scene indeed. The soul-destroying experience of continuous rejection is a lot to bear and even more painful to watch. See the saleswoman shift her weight from foot to foot cursing the shoes that cushioned her feet so lovingly some hours before. See the sales-man drop his hands to his sides in resignation as yet another person looking everywhere but at him. And then they open their mouths humming a voice alien to them, to renew the cycle of silent abuse. Behold the sales assistant trying to change the world one scented spritz at a time! Like enslaved magical creatures they prance and jostle for our attention but nobody is interested in their fairy dust.

If you do one act of kindness whilst shopping this Christmas, lend a neck or a wrist to the solitary salesperson holding their allocated weapon of bottled of sex appeal/love/lust/etc, and let them douse you with their spray.

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Dear doctor, I’m not an alcoholic

Every time I return from University I have to re-register with my family doctor, and each time I am faced with the dreaded form which stirs an irresistible urge to lie. It is The Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT), which is really just a form that demands you build an inaccurate and incriminating image of your normal, healthy lifestyle. I guess I wouldn’t resent it so much if it didn’t make me look like an alcoholic, and if I did not think this was an unfair appraisal. The inherent corruption of this form can be seen thus; 1. “How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?” Score: 0 = Never, 1 = Monthly or less, 2 = 2-4 times per month, 3 = 2 -3 times per week, 4 = 4+ times per week. Now here’s my dilemma, I’m no saint so a score of 0 or 1 would be purely fictitious, 2 – 4 times per month is conceivable but depends on the events of that month, whilst 2 – 3 times a week is a bit excessive. I don’t think a small glass of wine is quantifiable.

Then there’s my objection to alcohol unit measurements. Mainly, that I don’t know how to count them. When I order a drink I don’t ask “how many units is that?”, I ask “Can I get some ice with that?”.

Fearing that my doctor may actually be bothered enough to read this, I may have lied. A little. When faced with the question “How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?”, I repressed the memory of that time I regretted making a fool out of myself with that guy, and the time I wished I hadn’t drunk so much, and maybe that time I made grand assertions about life which I certainly don’t believe in the light of day. Yes there have been many a morning when the side-effect from a heavy night out was cringing invariably for the duration of the morning with my head stuck under the duvet and emitting inhuman sounds of woe as the night before flashes before my eyes. That is worse than a hangover.

“Has a relative or friend, doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested that you cut down?” Answer: Yes. My mum. Surely whilst everything my mother tells me is wise and with love, I’m not convinced her worrying reflects a true image of my life, rather it is a clear indication that I share too much with her.

Then there is the question, “Have you or somebody else been injured as a result of your drinking?”. Answer: Yes. I can see this is looking bad for me but it’s not as bad as it looks. I cannot help but recall with a bemused smile Christmas Eve 2005; I was 15 and I had my first Bicardi Breezer. It was orange. So excited that I had in hand the privilege of adulthood, I spent the next 20 minutes whizzing around my aunty’s house on what I now know to be a placebo-effect high. Needless to say my slippery socks and my aunt’s laminate flooring brought me to a crashing climax as I fell to the ground putting my hand through my mum’s glass of Baileys on the floor. There was blood. Lots of it. I had sliced the tendon of my writing hand, spent the next week in surgery, had to cancel my school ski trip, and to this day I have a firm lump of scar tissue in the palm of my hand. Fast forward 7 years and I have found myself another bit of glass to drunkenly collide with. This time it was during a party I threw in Buenos Aires. I was such an efficient hostess that seeing a spillage on the floor I bounded up to the roof-top to fetch a mop, forgetting that I had purposely closed the glass door for noise control. Thus I ran straight into the door shattering the glass pane. Even after slicing open above and under my knee, and blood rushing from the wounds, I was adamant that everyone stay and have a good time. I didn’t want my injury to inconvenience their fun in any way. I believe I said “Just put some ice on it I’m fine”.

Drink sensibly, laugh lots, and have fun your own way.  When you can honestly respond to the questions,  “How often during the last year have you failed to do what is expected from you because of drinking?”, and “How often have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy night drinking?” with a resounding No and Never, you are no alcoholic. Whilst, solipsistically I do feel this form is specifically designed with the view of humiliating me, I also think it is important to take a step back to view your life through an objective lens once in a while. If what you see doesn’t drive you straight to drink I think you’re in safe waters.

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Dog walks turtle

Saturdays are dog walking days and my dog knows when it’s my turn because he will be waiting patiently outside my bedroom door ready to pounce as soon as I grab a coat.

I love my dog. I hate walking him. Firstly, there is that distinct feeling I will never be a good walker because I can’t whistle. I’ve tried many times, and infuriated many a maestro with my blowing spittle. Due to my inability to acquire this essential life skill my dog mocks me during our walks by pretending he can’t hear every other noise I can think to make.

Then there is the eternal battle we have called ‘Who’s the boss?’. It goes a little like this: “No Mambo I’m in front”, “No Mambo we are not standing by this old person’s leg whilst you decide whether to hump it or pee on it”, “No Mambo please don’t eat that shit!”. He always wants to be in front, and I rely on his need to lead to know he will eventually come running up beside me when he’s off the leash.

Mambo marking his territory

All those romantic notions I had of having a dog and him being my dependable companion have been irreversibly shattered. He refuses to play fetch! I look on with envy when I see other dogs actively cooperate with their owners. I’ve tried with discarded tree branches, flashy balls, anything. The size makes no difference, even toys he is completely obsessed about indoors he pretends he can’t see when we’re outside.  I am the proud owner of a hyper-active Jack Russell with the attention span of a demented gold fish, but I prefer to think he’s just too intelligent for that simpleton’s game.

What I hope for most on a dog walk is to not bump into any other dogs. This means there are witnesses to Mambo’s insubordination, and he inevitably will want to say hello. Mambo is so friendly, perhaps too friendly. During the times when I am welcomed into the respectable dog-walker club, which is initiated when two dogs greet and fawn over each other allowing for the respective owners to make comments about the weather and admire each other’s pets, Mambo will suddenly disappear under the other dog. I will try to remain unnerved and continue on with the dog-walker exchange but I know what Mambo is up to down there. You see he likes to lick willies and it when it happens the conversation takes a notable pause as the other owner looks down to see my dog getting too fixated on a particular member. We say our goodbyes and I visibly strain to get Mambo away.

I am protective like a proud parent, a stranger’s comment about my dog can elate or deflate me, leaving me to silently curse them as they leave. It is usually something dismissive about him being a small dog, and they might even chuck in a condescending chuckle. The best part about dog walks is that people talk to you when you have a dog. They will stop to stroke him and their hearts melt as he walks up to them beckoning their hands. I become not a isolatory member of today’s youth but someone old people wish “Good day” and “Lovely to have met you” to. Today, a lady in her electric chair stopped to point out a bird in the tree that she said must have been blown off route from Northern Spain, she apologised, “You can tell I don’t get out much” but I was more than happy to listen.
There are many things I do not understand about my dog; like how he could stand for half an hour sniffing out one leaf (he doesn’t because I can’t stand for half an hour watching him), how he will cock his leg to mark something new every 5 metres and still have enough wee by the end of the walk, how a small animal, bonded to me by a leash around his neck, can be so strong and out-do me in stubbornness, and how he will literally throw himself at the front door and wet himself with excitement just at the sight of the lead in my hand.  Despite the humiliation I experience chasing him around trees trying to get his lead on. I love my dog.

What I imagine the world looks like to Mambo as he picks up a million and one smells and sounds