Condoms for Cornwall - a short monologue
Here’s the list. Now what do I need? Well not me. My gallumping son Dan, who's just passed his GCSEs. Him and the rest of his year are heading for the only Cornish campsite willing to take a bunch of testosterone-fuelled 16-year-olds.
Here we are. Pot Noodles. Right, seven of them; that’s his evening meals sorted.
I’m a bit nervous. You know. Drugs, sex, drink. All the stuff I don’t do. So let’s check my list. Nothing to actually cook, or put in a freezer; it’ll be off by the time he gets there on the bus.
There’s fifteen sleeping in a caravan meant for six. Girls too. He calls them mates. Why did he tell me? Why doesn’t he lie like his friends? It’s because there’s no gap between Dan’s brain and mouth and what comes out scares me.
Sun screen, let’s see what it says, ‘Factor 40, and apply once a day.’ That should do, won’t be too taxing but he probably won’t put it on. Told me that last year some lad fell asleep with his feet hanging out of a tent and ended up so blistered he couldn’t walk the rest of the week. And another called Richard, had the shape of a, well I’ll leave that to your imagination, squirted in sunscreen on his forehead. Let’s just say he suited the shortened version of his name. He wore a woolly hat for the rest of the week; even in the sea.
Now what about this? Tuna fish that doesn’t need a tin opener. Brilliant because he’s not taking mine to lose. I can’t believe he’s leaving school. No more fretting about homework and reports. There’s a whole pile of new stuff to worry about like getting into a mountain of debt at uni, doing an apprenticeship or just getting out of bed before noon in his case.
I remember when he was born. I never felt so much love in my life. One minute I was being run over from the inside and screaming at the midwife to cut me open and tear him out and the next there he was; all starfish pale fingers and bright blue eyes looking into mine. The midwife wrapped him tightly in white muslin and I cradled him watching the sun rise and drinking the best cup of tea in the world.
My mum still frets about me; last time she phoned she said she’d read somewhere that the chances of a woman over 40 finding a man are as much as getting killed by a terrorist. But she added with the way the world is today my chances have soared.
Loo roll. I better buy lots of that. He still thinks a fairy buys and changes them. When he was five, just before his dad ran off with my yoga teacher, he’d wrap himself up like a mummy from head-to-toe and came lurching after me.
Now Dan slopes around the house in his duvet, wearing just his boxers. He trails this smell like damp moss with a tinge of well-worn trainers.
Tea. Yes, big packet of that, Yorkshire tea, strong, three sugars, with lots of milk. Painkillers. Better get some of them. He told me he wants to get there before the rest of them while the campsite shop still has cider left. I ask how he can do that underage and he flashes me a fake ID. I try to snatch it. He just raises an eyebrow and picks me up, all 6ft of him. Towers over me, or perhaps I’m shrinking.
Anyway, mum told me I hadn’t a minute to waste, what with Dan being far from home and got me to sign up for Delightful Dating.com. for those past their sell-by-date. Desperate Dating more like. But I’ve taken the bull by the horns and when Dan boards the bus I might just go for it.
So hair-dye for me and razors. Well, you have to make an effort, not that my legs will be seen out of 80 Denier anytime soon. Oh and last but not least. Condoms. Bit worried about these. Do I? Don’t I? Not for me. For him.
If I buy them will Dan think I’m encouraging him? If I don’t, am I irresponsible? Can’t risk that so packet of six here we go.
Checkout here I come.
Oh no, his former Head of Year is coming, Mr Jackson; the nice one with the dark hair and patience of a saint. He’s behind me and looking at my stuff on the conveyor belt. He’s smiling and I can’t bear to look. My face is burning. How do I tell him the Pot Noodles and condoms are nothing to do with me?
What’s the checkout girl doing? She’s turned on her flashing light for the manager and she’s holding up the condoms. She’s waiving them in her hand and asking the manager from about a mile away how much they are. People are staring. It’s gone deathly quiet. I want to say I’m a responsible mother. I want the ground to swallow me.
I put my head down and pack the bags.
That’s it, paid and off like a rat out the trap. Then I hear my name called quietly ‘Mrs Clarke’, then ‘Sylvia’. It’s Mr Jackson, he’s coming after me with something in his hand and saying ‘I think you forgot these?’
He pops the condoms in my bag while my face turns scarlet. He smiles and says ‘I see Dan’s going to Cornwall then?’
The he asks ‘Would you like to go for a drink?’