If I ever look as if I’m experiencing an epiphany, as if I’m learning an all-important life lesson, or that I’m finally finding some much-needed clarity about a piece of universal information, let me tell you something: I’m not.
I never am.
What I’ll be learning instead is a lesson that is so incredibly small, so incredibly specific, as to render it practically useless.
To give you an example: I once walked in on two of my housemates having a pillow fight in our lounge. Without invitation, I decided to join in. I picked up a cushion from the sofa, flung it across the room at full force, and watched as the zip of that cushion caught my housemate right in the eye.
Not her eyelid. Her eye. Her eyeball. Her rapidly pinkening eyeball.
She dropped her pillow and hit the floor in a yelp of pain, clutching her face, terrified that my misjudged ambush had would now resign her to a life of reduced depth perception and Phantom Of The Opera masks.
Now, there are all manner of good lessons to take from this sort of incident. Don’t get involved in fights that aren’t your own is one. If you’re going to gatecrash, at least attempt to be discreet about it is another.
Even at a bare minimum you’d think a person might take it as evidence that their aim really isn’t as good as they (/I) think it is. But, no. The only lasting lesson I learned was: If you’re ever in a pillow fight, be sure to use a pillow.
And I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean it entirely literally. I have injured dozens of people through uninvited clumsiness and hijinx in the years since – but I have never thrown another cushion.
Or there was the time that I was so nervous about asking a girl out, I decided to have a drink to prepare myself for it. I ended up getting so shitface-drunk in advance of making that call that I’d clean forgotten all the plans we’d made seconds after hanging up.
I missed our date. I stood her up. She never took a call from me after that.
The lesson that most people would learn from that? Don’t making plans after drinking.
The lesson I learned? Don’t make plans after drinking gin and tonic.
And so it was with Nina.
Nina should have taught me a lesson. A very important lesson, wide-reaching enough that it should have informed about 80% of your consequent human interactions – but, sadly, she did no such thing.
It’s probably because it wasn’t my intention to do anything bad in the first place. Not really bad, anyway. I was acting out of love.
Fundamentally, I suppose I was trying to say Nina, I love you – but I was eight years old and I didn’t express my love through simple words. I expressed my love through flat-out cruelty.
It was just supposed to be a little bit of affectionate teasing. A well-meaning prank. For how was I, aged eight, to know that Blu-Tack got so sticky and stringy when it had been rolled around in a person’s hot palms for half an hour? Was I supposed to just guess that it would take on the consistency of chewing gum when I covertly fastened a blob of it onto her ponytail? How could I have foreseen that she’d react to this unexplained lump tapping against her neck by panicking, squishing the Blu-Tack further and further into her ponytail, catching more and more of her hair up in it?
Teacher eventually had to cut it out. Nina cried and cried. I can only imagine how much more she cried again when her mother spotted the chunk that was missing out of her hair. And then again when she had to get it all evened out at the hairdressers.
It was always my plan to admit to it. I would have done too had it not caused such a problem. Instead, I sat and watched the commotion all play out, silently thinking: Next time, don’t use Blu-Tack.
The Heart Strings – Nina And Her Very Long Hair
from “True Fly Blue Sky”