Thursday, 3 February 2011

Caroline No

When I was twelve I was obsessed with a girl called Caroline. (The person I was obsessed with isn’t called Caroline really. Her name [although she might be a man] has been concealed in case the following text offends her [or him]. For the sake of narrative ease, let’s assume the gender is female). Caroline was a product of a public Catholic school somewhere nondescript in the Lothians. She wasn’t gifted with some ethereal strangeness. She wasn’t about to say something that defied her genealogical roots.

I was obsessed with finding the abnormal among people I thought drab and pathetic. People behaved like other people from the same area, blending into one regional blur that left me unsatisfied. I wanted someone to do or say something somehow at variance to their age, sex, or upbringing. I wanted someone to say something so striking and odd that I would latch onto them forever and we would go live in a cave and milk stalactites for custard. This was my dream. This was the simple dream of a simple boy.

Caroline was ginger and therefore nursing the persecution complex that blooms in those with freckles and an outlandish sense of Scottishness. So Caroline, with her disgusting and beautiful gingerness, stood out in a classroom stuffed with clones who spoke in humiliating Americanised English (the girls) or thick Scottish dialect (the boys).

So for weeks I fantasised. I wondered whether beneath her clothes her skin was a red carpet of rustic hairiness. I wanted to plait the hair into love hearts or shave her nude with Dad’s Phillips razor. To use her legs as pruning shears and topiarize our love into shrubs of forever. That sort of thing.

So one afternoon in Home Economics we were paired at random to bake a cake. This was the moment to discover her true credentials. I wanted linguistic oddness to match her aura. I knew the likelihood that she would start barking out words like a witch possessed by the OED was . . . unlikely. She was shy, which was a good start. We got to work on our cake.

Every cake I’ve ever made comes out like a giant’s snotball and this one was no exception. She was a useless baker. Our collaboration was conducted with the shrugging reluctance of two people from two different worlds who don’t want to make a cake together. There wasn’t much evidence of a brilliant red freak beneath that shy demeanour. When she suggested I do the washing up I was disappointed. Impishness wasn’t enough for me. I wanted her to fling the plates across the room or snort burgers.

So that was the last exchange I had with Caroline before she moved away. I had to conclude she wasn’t the freak of nature I had been seeking. I also had to conclude it was unrealistic of me to expect to find someone as buggeringly bonkers as I yearned for, and these fantasies were merely a way for me to hide in the absurd and reject the normal. (Which I still like to do, but I no longer go around baiting gingers).


  1. Oh, Mark-you didn't look hard enough. There are PLENTY of people that strange (though few of them have red hair--I think red-heads, like tall people, exaggerate their normalness because they already stand out and don't want to stand out any MORE--says the giantess)

  2. You're tall, Tart?

    Mark, this was lovely. Lots of yourself here. That's grand.

  3. If you're looking for wierdly freaky, you should spend a day where I work. *nods* Plenty to go around.

    Nice post, Mr Velvet Turk. :)

  4. Hello commenting trio. I promise to find-a-freak first thing tomorrow. I'll report back.