I’ve lived in six homes, seven rooms and two countries I was not born in since leaving my parents’ place. When I return it’s not just a physical move, it’s also a reacquaintance with the familial realm and streets I did some growing up in.
Time is sort of static in a small town. I swear it’s the same three people always waiting for the bus, the same boys kicking a ball at 2pm, the same girls who perch on top of the dry-stone walls, the same patrons by the jukebox in the pub. What I remember repeats as I return to the Express shop. And the quietness at night is still the same, and the irregular hum of traffic during the day is still the same, and the rolling greenery of the landscape is permanent. Returning home is like stepping into a memory, albeit one made of real fabrics and in which people really, though sometimes barely, live.
Like a memory, I’m not actually in it anymore. The bus to the airport, juddering as the driver applies pressure to the accelerator, snaps me out of it. Like when a vibration from my phone shakes me from a daydream. In five or six months’ time I’ll be on the same route, travelling in the opposite direction. And through the smudged pane of glass beside me, I may see an old man walking along the impossibly thin pavement that hugs the A-Road, a raindrop left there by the cloud of lives that hangs over the hillsides. He may stop at a field’s metal gate, at the base of which there’ll be one of those puddles that never evaporate, within which mud builds up, the type in which I remember getting stuck when I was busy making memories, not remembering them. The bus rolls me away from how a place is, the distance leaves me knowing only how I think it was.
Roadworks create traffic jams and the driver starts muttering. If we stay on this road long enough, taking a right a bit further up, we’ll reach the point where a metropolis starts. There I once started new in amongst those buildings that rise during every decadent decade. In streets that morph as facades take on new logos and colours, alongside the people whose attire and attitudes change half as quickly as the degrees in temperature that increase year on year. Where newspaper headlines scream wolf, rarely demonstrating a grip on reality, and are left to be forgotten on the seats of public transport by commuters as they shrug away their cynicism. For the attentive viewer an extra pause at a junction gives time-
In flight we pass over rivers that are traversed, cities that are drunk in, anonymous towns. I squint and outline the curves of the countryside with my index finger but cannot find those lines which dictate where one sort of life should stop and another should start. My greasy fingerprint is oversized, this high up I can almost fit my entire field of vision into it.
On the platform after landing, while I wait for the 15:14, a long distance voice messages me via text on a screen. I will wait for months to board a plane that will find old times rendered new. I impatiently elicit a response while I augment memories into reality: pores of skin in panoramic high definition, their arm lying across my pillow, their head rests against my chest as our fingers interlock. Those future times will become old times, too.
Patiently missing you [SENT TODAY AT 15:12]
In the carriage I slump on a hard plastic seat and get used once again to hearing a tongue I have not fully wrapped myself around. The intermittent intelligibility between me and my environment, the people and the furniture, is a broken melody that soundtracks time spent away from home. (If home is a place where other people understand you.) I reach into my tightly packed bag. While attempting to pull out a magazine, a power adapter falls out and lands on my lap. In embossed print between the plug pins it says ‘USE ONLY ON THE CONTINENT. TEMPORARY USE ONLY’. A mechanical voice announces we are approaching my stop.
In my semi-permanent mailbox I find one of those letters courtesy of the postcode lottery. I roll the dice- opening the envelope without care, ripping its seams with a little satisfaction. It claims I am the lucky recipient of a welcome bonus to their new scheme. The more my savings account seems insignificant to the outlined and costly endeavours in my head, the more gambling seems like a worthwhile pursuit.
But haven’t I already won some sort of postcode lottery? At every street number I’ve been a winner. I am porous flesh, grown from a seed of expectation, made myself, through others. Foreign street names became less so with the guidance of experts, who lent me, the naïve, experience.
Over time new homes deepen with detail, like latent images that undergo chemical procedures in darkrooms.
I tear the letter and envelope into ever smaller proportions. For prosperity, I throw the confetti out of the window and watch as the streamers twirl down like maple helicopters.