Saturday, 22 June 2013

'Sweat and Tears' by Diane Simmons

It’s June 1974, inter-schools sports day, Armadale Academy, Scotland. It's hot and I've the whole day off school in exchange for a few  seconds of effort. I've to run in the 100 metre hurdles and the 100 metre running race and then rest of the day is mine to lie around. My pals and I make the most of our freedom, spending the morning sunbathing, our pale legs pink and sore by early afternoon. Perhaps it's the sunburn or maybe the three bags of crisps and glugs of Irn-Bru I demolish before my races, but I get no further than the heats. This leaves me free, so I spend the rest of the day watching. When I say watching, I don't mean watching athletics, I mean boys, well one boy really – Ian Mackay.
        Ian Mackay starts every school week with double maths. He's fifteen and in the year above me. I’ve got his timetable copied neatly out on pink paper, decorated with hearts. The route to my own lessons is dictated by Ian's timetable and the decision over which staircase to go up or down, ruled by which classroom he will be queuing outside. He never notices me, looks straight past me the few times I've managed to look directly at him. We've never spoken.
        Ian Mackay is running in the 800 metres – two whole laps of the track when I can stare at him. He looks gorgeous on the start line – his tanned legs stand out amongst the pale Scottish skin of the other runners. I have idea why he's so tanned, but I'll take it. He makes it through both his heats easily.
        My pal Shona's been nice to me all day and watches his races with me, but by the time of Ian's final race she's sulking a bit, says she's too tired to get up from sunbathing. I know why she's grumpy and decide not to push it.
        Ian's the tallest on the start line and it's obvious he's going to win. He must be six foot and his legs look powerful. I picture him pounding round the track, his face and legs sweaty from the effort. I imagine him sprinting towards the finish line, running towards me, cupping my head in his hands and kissing me passionately. Fat chance.
        The race starts and he is in the lead from the beginning. When he is half-way round I realise that I am crying. I wipe the tears with the back of my hand and walk away, but they don't stop. This isn't some story from 'Jackie' magazine – Ian isn't going to run into my arms, isn't going to kiss me – not now, not ever.

        Today is the last time I’ll ever see him. Friends tell me there will be boys in Blackpool, that it'll be fun to live by the sea, that they wish they could move somewhere new and exciting.
        I'd settle for staying here, for being kissed for the first time.


  1. That took me back so vividly to my teenage crushes, and sunburning our white Irish legs, thinking it would make us so alluring. Great stuff!

  2. Thanks, Rachel. Those teenage crushes were so intense and fuelled by so little.


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