- Vol. 09
- Chapter 07
Pipes and trees and peeling walls, abandoned shopping trolleys, lonely tires and paths of desire, leading off beyond a hole in the fence to who knows where.
You see yourself in another life, clambering down the embankment between the bramble bushes to where the grass grew long between the sleepers of the dead railway. You see yourself pushing aside the loose plank (fourth from the left) at the bottom of your Aunt’s garden, a portal to a strip of land between the houses known only to birds, foxes and the children of the neighbourhood. And you see yourself following the public footpath out from the back of the estate, a plastic bag of cans clinking at your knee, trying to ignore the growing sense of foreboding as you stepped away from the terrain of dog walkers and early morning joggers through a hole in the concrete wall into what was once the loading yard of the bread mill, its windows broken but its chimney still standing tall as the landmark of the village you once called home.
These are the places you crossed a sea to leave behind.
They are here, too, but you work hard to avoid them. The dead railway and the copse filled with wild garlic. The abandoned buildings and the wastelands filled with dens and foot-worn paths. These in-between places. You never learned the adult trick of making them invisible to you. You know how easily memories can be triggered, and so you work hard in plotting out routes on your psychological map of the city so that you stick to the ordered and controlled, the observed and the observable, the smooth and the well-lit.
Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes you drift or are sent by the demands of work and friendship to places that rub up against those that are filled with the memories you would like to stay there. To reach one friend’s house you have to cross a bridge over the railway tracks, and from there you can see, in the inaccessible triangle of land between the curves, criss-crossing pathways between hawthorn bushes big enough to hide it. By the harbour there is a glimpse beneath the bridges and between the docks, to where such greenery provides shelter for people who are looking to hide. Or who are forced to. On a arterial road, between the car park of an IKEA and a housing estate, a short cut between young silver birch trees and evergreen bushes passes through a tiny landscape of fire pits and abandoned bottles, and you can see that evening again so vividly, transplanted so perfectly into this backdrop, in another country and another language.
Part of you wants to hurry, but part of you wants to slow down. In these places you have long tried to avoid, you find yourself drawn to the desire lines and where they might lead.
Maybe this time will be different.