We went to a place yesterday. Where human whales flopped over beach chairs, sunburnt tourists fanned themselves with Daily Mail up-turned cones and bright beams of light fell from the sky. I so desperately wanted to be the Beach Boys’ surfer girl, tousled dirty blonde hair falling all over a speckled back and shiny shoulder blades, wading into the water’s waves and knocking them sideways with my board. But of course, I didn’t dare rent a board. Oh no, anxiety would not allow it. Think of all those people who will watch and stare as you mount, fall and wrestle with the wind when trying to transport said item from shop to shore. The beady eyes upon you, eyeing up your belly fat, your thigh wobbles, your hunched shoulders and your worried pupils darting from sand to sky from sand to sky in a super-tense flurry. Instead I watched the others paddle with all their might and come crashing down beneath the slippery surf foam, colliding with kiddies occasionally, muffling apologies and eyes turning red from their salty playground. I tried it for about ten minutes, but was knocked off and pulled under the weight of the board. Anxiety crept up and choked me, I wondered who had seen, whether they’d laughed, cracked a smile or simply not cared. I assumed the former, not the latter, and returned the board to the others, too nervous and self-conscious to continue. Unable to practise, do, say or try something new, anxiety’s grip seems to have turned into more of a strangle, and this frightens me more than the cowardly beast herself.
His dad came downstairs in a cowboy hat and candy-coloured pink trousers. Cardigan dangling from his neck without a care, threads meeting in the centre of his chest with a weary shrug, the eyes behind the glasses studied me like the label of a fine wine. Oh, that bulbous brain must be bloated with theories and wisdom. Pierced easily with a toothpick, his thoughts could come tumbling down and spill to the floor like marbles at any moment. How fortunate they are to have a dad so poised, affectionate, generous. In the middle of the night at the darkest hour, I start weeping uncontrollably about how he isn’t mine, I won’t ever be able to share him. Why did I miss out? Never one to admit I’d drawn the short straw, I realised that I had, infact, done exactly that. The grass isn’t always greener, but this time it’s lush and I want it for my own. I want a dad. There, I said it! I want what they have, like a child wants an iPhone or a dog wants a steak. I’m moaning at the table, throwing tantrums in my head and gritting my teeth at pictures of nuclear families. I could steal his dad in the dead of night like a petty criminal and ride the bus to work in the morning with him by my side. Pocket dads are a thing of the future. All the kids are going to want one.