By: Harrison Abbott
I woke up and wondered whether I’d ever be a great man. After nearly three decades I was still a boy and it wasn’t looking likely; didn’t look like the world would last another fifty years anyway, at least not for humans. Got up. Usually slept in my clothes bar my socks and I put the socks and boots on and it was November and only finally getting cold for this time of year and I went downstairs and on the way there was this abrasion in the wall. It’d been plastered over. Tackily. From where I punched that spot when I was a kid, after my mother had shouted at me. It was about two thirds the size of me. Below me, I mean, and I wondered how tall I was when I was that furious fifteen year old. … In the kitchen I looked out at the magpies and woodpigeons. Tore up some bread and tossed it out for them. They flew away from the bread and then came back and munched and squabbled over the bits and then I drank a pint of water and went up to the supermarket. Bought the newspaper. Then went into the woods and read it. Talk about the climate conference in Glasgow. Was what I was meaning earlier about saving the world etc. This was what you’d call a ‘liberal’ newspaper. The reporting seemed confused. I could not make out whether the news was good or negative. The U.S. president had fallen asleep during one of the speeches. … Umm and then I read the bits at the back about football. All across the woodland the arena the leaves glowed in yellows and orange … there came a scuffling through them at one bit and then this merry fox appeared and it looked up and saw me and then bolted away and I got up and went back home and put the newspaper in the recycling and as I lifted the door/lid of the recycling bin the rainwater that’d sat there from the night before went all over my jeans and I said fuck and I went inside and tried to dry it off with a tea towel and the stains lay in an oval around my crotch as if I’d wet myself. And my other pair of jeans were in the wash so I didn’t have a second option. And I had a meeting in town in forty minutes. Screw it. I brushed my teeth. Sprayed some deodorant on my neck to make me seem more civilised, then walked down to the bus stop. There were all these kids going to school. In black. Apparently, this high school had some of the worst grade rates in the city. It was third lowest, supposedly. As if grade rates were a special statistic. They just seemed like normal kids and I felt sad for them, having to lug themselves to this monstrous building this early in the morning. There were girls who talked in little bubbles of three or four, and boys of the same group numbers who would spar and throw shit at each other. Poor lil guys. I hoped life would get better for them and that they’d leave school as soon as possible and hopefully go to university instead, where adults actually treated you with some respect. … The bus came and a flush of kids got off and then I got on and I stood inside the wheelchair bit because there were no folks there and I watched the city move through the windows. … My boxers were a bit damp from that rainwater, I realised. Ha. The bus passed the mall which was this giant black construction that was erected in the early 1980s and it indeed looked like something out of an 80s action movie. Had a Die Hard vibe, that kinda thing. Hunky, mammoth architecture. Lots of memories from that mall from when I was young. I remember going to buy football boots in there whence wee and these lads I knew from primary school came into the sports shop to make fun of me, cos I didn’t have enough money to buy the fancy boots, and cos they supposed themselves superior players. (One of them, he proudly told me, that he’d signed for the big/actual/professional team in the city. “That’s good, isn’t it,” he said.) … And umm there was that time I’d just gotten some pocket money and I think I was like eleven and I went into one of the stores and was looking to buy some Simpsons DVDs. Back when people still bought and watched DVDs. And I selected a few of the seasons. Early Simpsons seasons, the best ones. And it must’ve been Christmas or birthday money actually because it was like a ‘grand buy’ as a child, and felt exciting heading up to the till with these luscious coloured boxes. And there was this woman at the counter. Who looked at me suspiciously and I didn’t get it and then she looked down at the DVD boxes … then asked me how old I was? I was a bit duped by the question. Wasn’t expecting it. She asked because one of the seasons was a 12 certificate – with that scary pink label. “I’m twelve,” I squeaked. My voice hadn’t broken yet. “Can I see some ID?” I did not have any ID. Didn’t even own a passport at that point – had never been abroad. I told her I didn’t have any and then she said she could not sell me the Simpsons DVD. There was this mixture of pain and embarrassment in her face, as if she were afraid she might get in trouble. As an 11 year old kid I kinda thought she was joking, that she was actually being serious that she wouldn’t sell me this DVD. And umm I think I said something like, can you not just sell it to me anyway, it’s only the Simpsons. “No,” she replied, with a reddened mug. … Aye. Just a few memories. The bus flumed on. Got further into town. A lot of the cafes and pubs were still boarded up after the pandemic … The exhaust fumes from the traffic plumed against the icy November air … Most of the folks on the street were a bit older than me – maybe thirties or forties, fifties – and I kinda felt in limbo, as a person, not quite a man yet and yet not a child anymore, somewhere undefined. The older folks moved with a detached amazement. Lost in their own heads. Just like me. I got off the bus and into the street and was met with this erratic clanging nattering sound. Construction works. On the other side of the block. Sent racy echoes everywhere.