I winked at a kid in Tesco Ghetto today.
His mum and dad were arguing in the biscuits aisle. Nothing major, just one of those day to day snipes the marrieds that shop together seem to have, but it was enough to distract their attention from little Wayne or Dwayne who trailed behind. He took advantage of that. I think D/Wayne was that kind of kid. He ambled sneakily to his left, grabbed a couple of small bags of Haribo and then slid them under the huge cereal box in the trolley. He looked up like butter wouldn’t melt. He caught my eye. For a moment his expression darkened.
Rumbled. Caught. Shit.
And then I winked. And smiled. He smiled back. We didn’t need to say anything. We had a moment that was entirely our own. We both wanted to giggle. We understood entirely without words. There was just me and him and the rest of the world could go to hell in a handcart. I wheeled my own handcart away and left them to it. It made me think though. That wink.
The world is too loud, don’t you think? Or maybe it’s just me. It seems to be getting louder from where I’m sitting. Email, text, phone, facebook, Twitter, blogs– everyone filling every space with words. Needing to communicate. To get their point across. To be liked. To be loved. To make themselves heard. And yes, I get the irony of me making a statement like that. I do all of the above and then some. But recently all these words have started to wear me down. They’re like a tidal wave and what does it all mean anyway? It’s just words. Endless amount of words. Mine, yours, theirs. It’s white noise.
A couple of years ago I was in a room with a man. We weren’t standing near each other. Too many others stood between us, cluttered gatherings of conversations. I barely even knew this man beyond the occasional muttered hello. But I knew him enough to know he made my stomach go funny and my heart race a little faster every time I saw him. I stumbled through words near him. I made no sense. On this occasion, back in the days of stranger, I looked up from my own polite conversation to catch him looking at me. Watching me. I winked. His face cracked into a smile. Mine cracked back. The man beside me kept talking and I didn’t hear a word. I was too busy smiling across the room. That wink had created a moment. The ones that come so rarely in life. A silent, private moment where two people look at each other and an infinite number of impossible possibilities open up. All the potential of what could be. All the things that you could never put into words. The whys and wherefores of what happened after that wink are neither here nor there. That moment I’ll remember forever. I’ll savour it, and sometimes take it out of the memory box and make myself smile all over again. There are men I’ve slept with that I’ll forget before I forget that moment. And not a single word was spoken. There weren’t words that could cover it. I wouldn’t want to even try to explain all that went through me/us in words. Words could break it.
Words are clever. We can twist them. Bend them into new shapes of meaning. Words make liars of us all by their very nature. We tell people what they want to hear. I would die for you. I love your new haircut. No, your arse doesn’t look big in that. Great Christmas jumper, grandma – I’ll wear it all the time.Words, words, words. Fiction and fact. Cruel and kind. Always there. But we feel long before we have language. And it’s the insides that are honest.
My dad used to wink at me. Normally when my mum was angry. You all know the wink. The kind that lets you know things aren’t as bad as they seem. It’ll be all right. I loved my dad’s winks. The ones that were just for me. He still does it from time to time, often when we’re standing in a bar, and I’m laughing along to one of his friends’ jokes, and he’s just feeling proud or fond of me. They make me feel six years old again. My dad doesn’t do words. He never says ‘I love you.’ I don’t think he’s ever said it. Over the years and the many, many failed relationships, my dad’s answer to all my problems is just ‘Shall we go to the pub?’ and then we get there we don’t talk about anything much at all. But those winks – they say everything that’s needed and so much more. They’re me and my dad summed up those winks. We get it. Without words. We don’t need words.
I’m trying not to make this an essay – keep it short and sweet – keep the words down. I could talk about other winks. One in a pub after a week of unsure flirting, a wink that led to kissing in a car park ten minutes later and an affair that would kick the crap out of my heart a year later but c’est la vie. The less pleasant winks that promise so much other and create moments that send a chill across the pit of your stomach. Those moments can’t be put into words either, but they’re just the small dark clouds that pass across a sunny day.
One wink delivered while I was prison visiting in Woodhill. I was maybe 22 or 23 and just realising that these games I played were dangerous. I’d gone with my then boyfriend (he was on day release from Open prison himself), and his friend to see said friend’s father – probably the biggest ‘gangster’ in Milton Keynes at the time. As we sat there sipping tea and eating our Twix I watched the other inmates and their visitors watching us. There were some frightening people there and I had a moment of dawning realisation that the most frightening was probably sitting on the other side of the table from me. I remember thinking that this would be a really really good time to keep my big mouth shut and just be quietly blonde for the hour. I remember for the first time feeling slightly afraid of these people that I considered my friends. I looked up to see the man’s son, then in his late 30s, watching me. My boyfriend was talking to his dad, but he’d seen my face. He smiled and winked. It was a gentle wink. It said many, many things about him and his world and the expectations on him, some of which he probably wasn’t even aware, but most of all I guess it said ‘don’t worry. This isn’t your life. You’re just passing through.’ He was right. I saw him a couple of years ago. He didn’t recognise me. But I remembered that wink. And I’ll always think well of him for it.
Don’t get me wrong. Words are brilliant. I love them, I love using them and without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for a living. But sometimes, in life, I just get tired of them. Words don’t make you feel special. Not often.There’s too many to sift through.
So if you like me and want to make me smile don’t give me your words. To be honest, I don’t trust them. Find me in a crowded room. Look at me and wink. Make me smile. Give me a silent, private moment that’s just ours. Because winks don’t lie.;-)x