By Harrison Abbott
You walk home at night, maybe two miles. A pumping sadness all day; these wrathful stories have worn you out. You step off the curb, clumsily, and a car nearly hits you, turning into the junction: it’s not moving fast but it still nearly collides, and you jump and feel all awkward, swear at yourself. Then walk on.
You think about that old university city and how it will never be the same again and how you’ll never go back there. It’s lost, apart from in your mind – and yet the memories are different now. That was in youth. You’ve aged now. And not very well. And you yourself are stranded between a jumble of other eras, with no prospective zone quite in the works …
When you see people on the same side of the street as you, you cross the road. Most of them are just couples. Ladies & gents, innocent. But there are some drunk men. Can tell by the way they move, and you still attract lots of aggression from other males to this day, and have long learned to try and avoid that (it’s Saturday night and you’re already taut with paranoia, skinny, semi underweight, twitchy with caffeine, haven’t eaten for twenty hours) and the last time you were in a fight was one of the worst and the injury was actually still hurting earlier today, almost nine years after it happened. The injury those men gave you, you mean. Not that you should complain. You survived it.
Onto the crossroads. Car headlights in your eyes: you’re extra hesitant/scared of vehicles now that you almost just got struck by one. Then the shadows down the road are super sensitive too. You make figures/people/stickmen with the shapes of foliage in the trees under the lamplights. There aren’t any real people there.
You cross by your primary school which you went to as a tot. And, look at you now – you’re an embarrassing underachieving wreck – a man but no real man – a nobody – zipping through the estate – the tinny windows and white walls glowing ghostly – the blossom trees by the roadsides with their pubescent buds, still green and ready to burst unto pink.
Police van. It roars behind you and then in front of you. Then takes this right-turn off the main road.
Are they going to U-turn and come back for me? See what I’m up to? Have they spotted something dodgy about me? I haven’t done anything serious for some time, at least, not in my recent years. You switch lanes again and quicken your pace … and you do hear a vehicle behind you again and you turn and glance, but, it’s just a taxi, with the lights off, and the cabbie’s speaking to some chap in the back seat. Nothing to worry about. Stop worrying.
At the end of the main road, just at the point where you would (during daylight) turn into the street which leads up to your home, is the pub that you would never ever go into. And, indeed, lads are smoking outside there now. They’re about the same physical build as you and the same age but they’re in pools of four and five and we’ve already mentioned that smell of blood that you give off. You’ve actually lost count of the amounts of times you’ve been physically attacked in the past; all of them, all the slaps in the face, head, cheeks, wherever on your body.
So you dip into the little sub-neighbourhood before you get to the bar. This group of tiny grey houses with diagonal roofs and hedges and there’s a neat alleyway beyond that which is always smothered with piles of leaves no matter which time of year and then you’re on your personal street and it seems like you’ve made it back unscathed … You think when I was younger I would walk about at night and I would never be as heavily terrified as this, and the irony of that is that it was in those days that I got my head kicked in a lot.
And you twitch all the way home.
Nice big house, yellow lamp in the kitchen window. Lock the front door behind you. Everybody else is asleep upstairs. Silence. Warmth.
You wash your hands in the bathroom quite efficiently, because of Covid, and, actually, you remember today is just turning into the 20th of March, which was when the first UK lockdown began, two years back. When the nation initially shut down. Happened two years ago to the day. And it was all so surreal and unlike anything we’d ever seen, and the bug is still killing folks to this day. Mad.
In the mirror you behold yourself. Need a haircut. Need to change your lifestyle, more like. What on earth are you doing to your heart, liver, kidneys, most importantly your head, so consistently? Why this suicidal behaviour almost every day! Only these days it seems like it’s regarding somebody else’s head. Not that boy that played on those fields we saw earlier. (And not that this lil kid was a nice one, by any means. He wasn’t an innocent child; he was a nasty selfish disliked kid who hung out almost entirely on his own. Maybe an Aspie. Perhaps just a rat. Gothic recollections without much dialogue. Rather poignant smells. Muddy clothes. Zero eye contact. Tends to reap laughter from the other schoolchildren, giggle giggle hysteria, you remember that raging anthemic sound, them all shrieking at you.)
With the poison, you don’t seem real. You have no identity. You’re in a film which you’re not even watching yourself. Or, rather, you’re petrified that you might’ve been cast in a movie you have no knowledge of … within a documentary about you but you do not know what the topic’s about.
And yet, it’s all self inflicted. You medicate to nullify the past and the medication only makes it worse, and it’s already been worse for years.
That old university city. You went back there the other day. And you found another ghost there, one which used to be you but is definitely not you anymore, and you realised you should not have returned to try and find him. Wanted to bail as soon as you got there. That person was somebody else, which had his own time period. He was no brilliant character. And you should forget him.
But when you did leave and you came back here, there was nothing to reconvene with either, no place to be somebody new. That’s what you need to do. Recreate yourself. Not be a ghoul. Be tangible once more.