The Blue Box
It stood there at the junction of two roads, at the entrance to my Grandmother’s street. It was a tall, oblong, Royal Blue coloured wooden box, which dwarfed me as a seven year old boy. Its structure was made from wooden panels, the front was a big double set of doors, and the top crowned with a squat four sided pyramid. It was built into the walls of the street corner, two bricks walls butting up to two sides of it, only two adjacent sides of it open to the world.
My Grandmother told me it was a box “were naughty boys are put overnight until they are taken away to prison.” I knew better though, it was a magical box that could potentially whisk me away from this awful world, if only I could find my way into it.
It was the mid nineteen-seventies and I spent every weekend with my Grandmother, so every Friday evening I would pass that magical Blue Box. I would get off the bus, pass the Blue Box, brushing my fingers over its wooden surface, in the hope that its doors would somehow open and allow me inside (Which never happened), and then walk the short distance from there to my Grandmother’s house.
It was the nineteen-seventies and Saturday night television was still King. With a “light super” of something on toast (She never was a great cook), my Grandmother and I would sit down together and start our evening’s viewing with Doctor Who, the program I really loved. I loved the excitement and adventure and sheer wonder of it. I longed to be there in the Tardis, travelling with The Doctor and his companion. Anywhere but where I was. My Grandmother didn’t understand the program, constantly getting confused by the characters and the aliens, but she watched it with me because it was my favourite.
My parent’s marriage was falling to pieces back then, but in nineteen-seventies’ suburbia divorce was a dark taboo, so they’d stayed together but in name only. My father had his flat in town while my mother stayed in our suburban family home. My father had his work, which consumed his whole life leaving no time for a social life or me. My mother had her changing list of men friends, all of whom I was supposed to call “uncle”. Neither of them had any time for me, even as I was shuttled between them, a week with my father and then the next with my mother, neither of them that interested in looking after me. But there was always the weekends at my Grandmother’s, Doctor Who on the television and my own private Tardis at the end of the road.
So many times, as a child, I’d stand before that Police Box and long for the doors to open. I could easily imagine them swinging open to the reveal the curly haired and widely smiling Doctor, with Sarah Jane in her brightly coloured clothes standing behind him, inviting me in, ready to whisk me away. But it never happened; no matter how hard I wished and how many times I ran my hand over the outside of it. It didn’t stop me dreaming it would happen.
In 1980 my world changed. My father met Jack and moved in with him, he was part of a happy couple. Jack was a tall, slim man, with very gentle movements, the opposite of my father. Jack was also good for my father in other ways; he brought my father out of his cold shell, and my father relaxed, becoming human being again. Jack also wanted me to live with them. Suddenly I had a new home and my mother was glad to be rid of me. She had a new boyfriend and he wasn’t interested in having a step-son.
That summer my Grandmother had a stroke. It left her too ill to carry on living alone, so she moved into a nursing home.
Doctor Who was still on the television but I was growing up and my life was changing.
In 1994, Doctor Who had been cancelled and disappeared off the television years ago, and my Grandmother died. She’d lived for nearly fourteen years in that nursing home, cared for as if she was the Queen herself, but she’s had many strokes over the years. The penultimate one had left her bed-bound and unaware of anyone around her. The last stroke that finally took her life away was almost a relief.
To my surprise, her will left me her home. I thought it had been sold off years ago, but instead it had been rented out all the time she was in the nursing home.
I returned there on a cold Saturday morning in February, the night before it had snowed, thick and white.
On the corner of the street still stood that Police Box, its walls still a shiny royal blue, though it had a heavy covering of snow on it. As I walked passed it, I touched my hand to it, almost out of habit. For a moment I felt it vibrating under my fingers, a very low hum; but when I touched it again it was just still, cold wood.
I spent most of the day sorting through my Grandmother’s house. It had been rented out for years, now it was rundown and in desperate need of renovation. My boyfriend Rick and I were in a fraught need of somewhere to live and this would only cost the work it needed, extensive as it was. I was so lucky.
I left in the early evening and as I walked to the bus stop I past the street’s corner, but the Police Box had gone. Were it had stood was a square imprint in the snow, as if a heavy, square based object had stood there, the wall behind it faded with age.
I stopped in the snow and stared. My Tardis had simply gone.