Roots - Non-Fiction Group Project (2 of 2)
It was probably three in the afternoon when I emerged, doing an impression of a Seven Dwarf, and so, I then headed on to the not so short, almost mundane walk, into town via its park:
Tire tracks; sticks; stones; running water; a body in the river; white lights; noise pollution; reeds on river bank; life after death; private school kids; hundred grand trust funds; Louis Vuitton specs; cod-bohemian dipshits; Daddy’s love; zero hour contracts; viva la revolución; red and white Fiat 500s; Mandy and cocaine; gap years in Thailand; hiding lunchboxes; weed and Xanax; Instagram twice daily; avocado and sperm for breakfast; five bedroom houses; five-star personality disorders; five fucking friends; five thousand followers.
To say the least I had wound myself up on my little walk. It wasn’t memorable in the slightest. Nothing had changed there, the same kids with wasted talent. I had become a foreigner here. Nobody knows me. I don’t want to know them. I just up and get on with it. I headed into the shopping precinct. Out of the shopping precinct. Down an escalator. Up another. Back in the sun and homeward bound. I have my stepdad’s belated birthday present and that’s all I went there for.
Upon following the road out of town up, reaching Hockerill crossroads. At it, four seventeenth century pubs on each corner of the junction, landmarks in their own right. I noticed this was far from true now, instead, a nail parlour, a Chinese/Indian restaurant and an IT technician’s. The last pub – the Cock Inn, left there almost as if an afterthought. A frequented building with plenty of stories to tell from the late 1600s. Now, all Stortford can be revered for is its excessive ploy on the coffee trade, takeaways, a club owned by a member of The Only Way is Essex (in Hertfordshire) that boasts London prices, an exaggeration from my many experiences, sixteen pounds fifty for a double vodka and coke – lovely.
So, with the present in hand, a plain ironed white shirt on my back, and shorts, I strode back from the town. The sky has now turned a subtler grey, at this my phone erupts. Mother. The message reads: It’s raining here (in Hertford). Get the washing in. My eyes return to the sky, through the tinted lens of sunglasses, maybe not so subtle as I had previously thought.
My footfalls echoed as I ploughed through vacant residential streets. Sprinting as hard and as fast as I could. It probably wasn’t that fast at all, snails have crawled faster, I curse as one squelches beneath my espadrilles.
At that precise moment, as I turned a living creature into green curb paste, the heavens opened above me. There was no light shower, just as though God had tipped a bucket down on my head through a small window next to the blazing sun, emerging unscathed from behind a single black cloud.
It’s a magnificent feeling to just let go, like a breath of fresh air, so something I seldom enjoy. I stopped in the street and gave up. Gave up hope of saving the washing, saving my relationship with my estranged girlfriend, worrying about my deadlines, exams, money, sobriety. I just let go. It’s a rare moment, a mere speck in the tapestry of life, somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes that I just gave up. There is no dignity in defeat, but in that glimpse, sunglasses on, white shirt and chequered shorts sodden, water soaking through my shoes, I was defeated but I felt that I had won. I had emerged the victor, careless of the responsibilities that plague everyday life. Liberated.
The day had taken its toll on me, as though: a ruined breakfast, fractured ribs, bittersweet nods to my heavy drinking, the past clawing its way back into my heart, all through sights, sounds and smells of an environment I had returned to. And, in absolute honesty, I didn’t miss it at all. Home is where you hang your hat and for now, it’s on the coatrack in our hallway in our five-bedroom house in Colchester, and that’s all I care about. A place where I can exist to be me, evolve, the opportunity to make myself into something my friends and teachers said I could never be. Now that is home.
Sunday, 16 April 2017
I emerge from the house with these same feelings of carelessness still prevalent in my mind. They had lingered the entire holiday and served me some clarity into how I want to shape myself, how to go about becoming the man I want to be. It was the evening of Easter Sunday and, with a dinner of lamb, mint sauce, roasted potatoes and green beans inside of me, I decide to walk it off.
With the urge to burn some calories, I push myself to walk all the way back to my secondary school, Birchwood High. Now an academy, the school rests on the outskirts of town, it has five blocks, the newly developed sports block, the original part of the school – the B block – a shamefully stereotypical exercise in 70s architecture, the Science, English and Sixth Form blocks, all brand spanking new.
On the pavement, I look left and right, there’s nobody about only the mind-numbing gameshow music can be heard blaring from the caretaker’s little house, I jump the fence. It’s ghostly walking along the long strip into the centre of the school, the same strip I, some nine years ago, had shuffled along with a cold nervous sweat on my forehead.
At the south-west section of the school lies an oak tree some forty-years-old, I think. It stands up against the old section of the grounds with crisp green and brown leaves for a crown. It has a thick trunk, tattooed in ex-student’s initials, the love hearts of previous lovers and the markings of time and place. A decking had been erected around it and, as the trees roots crawled out, suffocated beneath the single layer of hardwood, had torn it apart, penetrating the grounds surface, causing the student to feel as if they were walking on slippery foam.
In winter and in rain, the area would be cordoned off as a hazard. I remember this from a collapsed branch of it, a sticky, almost oily sheen can be traced with one’s finger over its pith. Its annual rings were cracked, almost threated together in a spider’s web, intricately woven. Looking up, the tones of one’s face would be visible in dappled light (if it were day). One can admire how worn it has become over time, how many students had climbed it. Its vitality of yesteryears completely gone to say the very least. I cross the decking and shudder.
The roots, I’m tripping over them, I’m tripping over my own.
I’m there now, back at school, running across the hardwood foam, ploughing uphill, darting across the gang plank, leaping over a railing, down into the music block, patting myself down, in between the two tall buildings, caked in shadow, surrounded in it, surrounded by eight Football boys, I’m screwed, I know I am, I’m adjusting my maroon tie, undoing my blazer, placing my rucksack on the floor, untucking my shirt, closing my fists and throwing the first blow of many to come.
I stop myself, I’ve done enough reminiscing over this holiday to last a life time, places change, people change, ex-girlfriends grow up, get pregnant, have jobs, find new and better lovers than I could have ever been. I laugh, loudly, it bounces of the walls and dies in the tree’s full head of leafy hair. And like the leaves above, the odd one fluttering off on the sea of breeze, away into the dusk, I decide to leave also. The next day I went back home, not this graveyard of memories, but back to the University of Essex.