A Deprived Childhood

They were watching the Olympics on TV, the whole lot of them – everyone in the company who was at work that day. This was only a brief interlude. While it was the sort of company which would put a broadcast of the games up on a big screen for people to watch at lunchtime or while they made a cup of coffee in the kitchen, they had not gathered for an event before this. It was the big one. You know, the one we were supposed to win? The one we were supposed to win and then didn’t, because that’s the way it goes at the Olympics sometimes.

And there was long jump on the screen before our big event, and the colleagues watched and made comments, as you do, and became transiently well-versed in the byways of this complex and irrational discipline. The athletes were compared and their performances analysed. There was laughter and cheering and some form of delight that only comes when adults immerse themselves in something foreign and trivial and allow themselves to be, if only for a moment, like little children again. Unashamed to admit a lack of knowledge, indeed positively rejoicing in it, they asked each other questions and didn’t know the answers and speculated wildly without any substantial basis in fact.

And someone asked her what she thought. She was sitting there, sitting next to him, wearing leggings and wearing some kind of running shoes. They were sitting in front of me. And he said that one of the women looked strong when he could see that she was openly admiring the athlete on the screen, with her muscle definition and general hardness. Admiration was mixed with a certain envy, it was clear, as she made comments.

“Why can’t I get that?” she said. She spoke as if it were achievable to look like an Olympian, and she spoke as if she was used to getting what she wanted.

He said it takes four years to look like that, and that it can take a lifetime too.

She realised that she was being a little silly. That’s what she said anyway. But you could tell she hadn’t let the thought go. She was still assessing or making some sort of plan.

He asked her if she’d ever tried the long jump, and she said she hadn’t. She wondered if she would be any good. “I didn’t know I liked running. My mother put a violin in my hands when I was six. I didn’t know I even liked sport until a few years ago.”

It was challenging herself that she was her real obsession. She would go on to more and greater challenges: increasingly dangerous pastimes. Running would be a memory when she began scaling rock faces and skiing off mountains.

And the desire to brag would never leave her either. Those lost years in the music room made her want to boast about the poshness of her quite featureless early life and not very grand upbringing. She assumed we would think that everything is sophisticated in England, for some reason. It was really a little ordinary and more than a little tawdry, as we learned later when news came through of her freezing to death half way up a cliff in the Andes, and her mother came in to collect some personal effects from the office. Her mother did not speak with an accent from far way and she told us that her daughter had never learned the violin at all.

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Published in: on October 5, 2016 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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