As you begin to read these words, the scribbles of a person whose name you do not recognize, I can just imagine the curious thoughts that must be swimming around inside your head. Can almost conjure up your puzzled expression as you wonder if this lunatic, yeah, that’s me, has a few screws loose; if the rain is getting in upstairs.
I can assure you though, that nothing could be further from the truth. So before you scrunch this letter up and slam-dunk it into the nearest bin, I ask you please, to bear with me for just a few minutes. You see, I could not pass up this opportunity to make a connection with you, and to say that I am sorry, and to remind you that our paths have crossed before.
Now while I am fully aware that you may have no recollection of me whatsoever, I remember you, vividly and will do my best here to remind you of a skinny, tatty-haired five-year old with pale skin, freckles and horn-rimmed glasses; a small frightened little girl with a heavy heart and not much to say for herself.
And though we only met that one time, this memory that I speak of has stayed with me ever since.
Still with me? Good. Well then, perhaps this will all start to make sense when I mention one word, or rather, one place, Goldenbridge. Yeah, the children’s home, or the “Orphanage”, if I can go all Dickensian for a minute!
I was there too.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to dredge up any painful memories. Heaven knows, there are enough of those to fill an ocean. And, if, at this point, I have managed to upset you or to make you feel uncomfortable, then by all means, feel free to tear these pages to shreds. On the other hand, if I have managed to fan the flame of your curiosity, then please read on.
I think you might have been eight years of age at the time, though I’m not exactly sure, but you could not have been much older than that or you wouldn’t have been sent to the “Orphanage” in the first place. Only the little boys were kept there amongst the female majority.
Do you remember David, the television room? How we small children would sit before bedtime, cross-legged on the floor, and so happy to be allowed to watch the black and white movies; the Shirley Temple films, or the Wanderly Wagon Show or maybe Gene Kelly, singing in the rain?
Now, do you remember the “Minders”? Not all of them were bad, I’m sure you will agree. And the ones who could, on occasion, turn nasty, well, I’d simply prefer to have pity on them now, wouldn’t you?
Anyway, moving on. The day in question that I refer to, we were sitting together, you and I. You struck up a whispered conversation with me, and how chuffed I was to see your rugged, friendly face amongst so many scared and gloomy ones.
I didn’t talk much myself back then, very shy I was and overly self-conscious for someone so young. And I was always hiding behind those awful glasses.
Can you see me yet? Well, we must have forgotten that rule. The “No Talking While the Telly is On” rule, for before I knew what was happening, I was dragged up by the arms and thumped into silence before being made to crouch down in the small space beneath the television set. How stupid and embarrassed and humiliated I felt to be stuck in there, with an audience of surprised, to say the least, slightly amused little faces all staring back at me.
All except your face. For you were indignant, the only one with the guts to speak up for Specky-four-eyes!
“She was only answering my question!” you shouted out, your tightly shaved head cocked to the side in nervous defiance.
“Is that so, you little bugger!” the Minder replied, her open hand making swift, sharp contact with your stunned little face. “Then go and take her place, and it’s you who won’t be seeing any telly today!”
Sheepishly, we switched places, crawling past each other on all fours, our eyes making contact just one more time. And though I never saw you again after that day, I can still see you blinking back those angry tears of injustice.
How often I’ve thought of that incident. I consider myself to be a happy, successful and fulfilled person these days, but sometimes, in the still of a dark night, when sleep fails to arrive, I go back there, to that place, and your face always comes to me.
David, I long for you to know how sorry I am that you were hurt that day, because of me.
Perhaps you are laughing now, thinking how daft and sentimental a character I must be. I am clearly both by the way. Or maybe you still have no recollection of this little story of mine, and/or couldn’t care less.
No matter, I’m just glad to have this opportunity to write to you. And for goodness sake, don’t be alarmed, for I have no intention of ever seeking you out. The memory of a blue-eyed boy with a heart as big as his mischievous grin is all that I need to chase the bad stuff away, so here’s to you David,
All the best,
Copyright of the author, Caroline Farrell. All Rights Reserved.