Sometimes I play a game.
In the game you guess the lives of the strangers around you. For example the man using the pay phone with the glasses on the end of his nose is a security guard who stands in front of his full length mirror at night quick drawing his walkie talkie and quoting from ‘Lethal weapon’.
Everyone has a secret life, things they do when no one is looking. In this game you guess it. You make it up.
I played the game at the beach yesterday.
The girl walking alone carrying her sandy sandals is called Bonny.
Bonny has lentils soaking at home. She’s a vegan, but only because her boyfriend is and told her on their first date that people that eat meat don’t have a heart and she didn’t want him to think she doesn’t have a heart so she told him she was vegan too. She eats cheeseburgers and hides the wrappers under the seat of her car. She likes to thrift shop and when she is in the back of the store she smells the leather belts. Her boyfriend knows she eats cheeseburgers.
He will never marry her.
The man smoking the cigarette on the bench at the lookout is wearing capris and an expensive cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. His wife thinks he gave up smoking last march.
He pees in the shower.
A young man walking an american staffy has tattoos all across his back. A Koi fish wraps its tail around his shoulder and swims down his back. He also has a row of thai symbols on the inside of his arm. He thinks they mean ‘brothers in arms’ but he bartered with the poor tattoo artist with such arrogance that the artist accepted his cheap offer but wrote ‘หัวใหญ่, สมองขนาดเล็ก’ which means ‘Big head, small brain’.
If he is out walking and hits something uneven (a rock or root) with a part of his foot, he needs to find a similar uneveness to hit with his other foot, in the same spot.
There is a man and woman watching their son tread the sand until it goes all mushy and swallows his feet to the ankles.
Late last year the man bought his wife a red, satin lingerie set. At the time she asked why he bought her a size 12 when she has never been bigger than an 8. He was sorry he said, he will exchange them if she wants. No dear, she says. I may be bigger one day.
When she works night shift at the rest home he enjoys the red satin feel of the briefs and sock-stuffed bra and is getting better at walking in heels. He loves Cher and the way his boss plays with his tie when he’s deep in thought and he lives for that 2 seconds of vanilla when you first suck on a tic tac.
Sometimes I wonder if other people play this game. Sometimes I wonder if people play the game and make up a secret life for me. I wonder if they say ‘When that girl eats scorched almond chocolates, she sucks off all the chocolate until only the almond is left, and then she closes her eyes and bites into the almond and it’s one of her favourite tastes. She puts on horror movies when she’s alone but watches the whole thing in fast forward with her hands over her eyes. She can play one song on the piano and it’s not any of the songs she learnt in piano lessons, its the one Sophie taught her in high school.
She has the same nightmares she had when she was a child.
She hates touching the furry skin of peaches.
I wonder if they think ‘that girl gets scared of standing next to windows in high buildings. Not because she thinks she might fall, but because she’s worried that she will have a moment of madness, and jump.’
I wonder if they think ‘that girl can’t sit next to someone who breathes through their mouth or cracks their knuckles and that if its a hot, sunny afternoon and she can hear someone mowing their lawns, it makes her want to curl up and go to sleep.
I wonder if thats what someone would think, if they played the game about me.