by Stewart Wilson
I don't like to talk about my past. It's not that the past is bad or anything, it's just filled with a lot of shit I'm not proud of. Being a wanker at school, unsure of what I wanted and always being on the receiving end. But it's the past. I don't have to be reminded of it most of the time, and that suits me just fucking fine.
My third cigarette of the day when I'm waiting for a bus and I see her. It's been six years since I last did but she hasn't changed as much as I thought she would. Back in school she was going out with a guy who I mistakenly considered a friend, and thus I got to know her. And now she's waiting at the bus stop with a pram, looking like she doesn't know me. A chill goes right through me, and it isn't anything to do with the cold wind that's picking up. Who I was in the past is going to collide with who I am and there's little I can do to stop it. I need to be in town for an interview so there's no way I can afford to miss this bus.
She looks right at me and it takes almost ten seconds before recognition dawns in her eyes. I've not cut my hair for three and a half years, which is always a good way to avoid being recognised. The tab end hisses as I throw it with perfect accuracy into a puddle of water. We exchange awkward pleasantries, and I decide to buy myself some time by asking about her. Turns out the sprog is hers, and the guy she was dating is now her husband. They had the kid; both graduated late and came back here to get a home and a mortgage. I go into my gloss mode, all nice and bright and interested. Buy myself more time asking about the people we used to know.
With the exception of one, they're all in the area. Those that went to universities graduated (excepting that one). Two of them came out as being gay. They've all got full-time jobs, houses, mortgages, kids, or married. Every fucking one is back in the same shitty place they grew up in working for the same generally shitty people as their parents did. They did their little rebellion thing like I did in school, but never went too far, always in the ways the system wanted them to. After all, nothing gives a system more weight than having some rebels attacking it. Without the system they would not exist. But they went away, they worked, and they came back. Apart from that one that she mentioned, who's currently engaged to a guy who imports banned pornography and sex aids for both humans and animals. The woman I'm talking to treats this like a joke, like the one deserved it for not going away, doing okay and coming back. I agree that the bitch deserves it, but for different reasons. After all, she made the lives of me and some of my mates a complete fucked-up mess over a two-year period. Threefold return in action, I sincerely hope.
But hearing all this takes me back to the classroom. It's like I had never left, like the five years away never happened, like these fucking robots mean something to me. But their imaginations never left this shithole, and that's the discrepancy. It's a form of psychic assault, in a way.
Then she asks what I have been up to. I can see in her body language that she's half switched off, she expects the same litany of "got engaged, looking for house, looking for sprog" just put back half a year thanks to the placement year. Well, that can get to fuckery. I've never been one to conform to their expectations. Doing so at school just made me a wanker and I'm buggered if that's happening again. So I tell her what's been going on in the past five years. I tell her about the ontological crisis I went through which left me questioning the nature of the world. I tell her about courting the ideas of both black and red anarchists and throwing them both out in favour of a kind of synergy; drunken nights spent reconstructing the world into a paradise for those so far left they're off the charts. I tell her about spending a month off my face on booze and dope in preparation for the final exams of my second year. Having the secret history of the world explained over far too much beer at the Wies'n. How I came to understand Erisian Number Theory when headbanging to Iron Maiden with a girl I truly loved for about three months in my first year. When an acid trip laid bare synchronicity and the tesseract demanded I keep my face pierced as a constant reminder. Of dancing with a girl who was a boy and his girlfriend and the sex afterwards. Waking up in Amsterdam with a pile of broken glass all around me, sat in a stolen chair in the middle of a square feeling like God Himself had shat in my head. Seeing Freddie Mercury when channelling the Godhead.
Her eyes are well and truly un-glazed now. I was never threatening. I just brought forth all of the things I have done to get outside her headspace. The cultural-psychic equivalent of an aikido throw, using her own attack as a way to counterattack. She doesn't look at me with fear. She tells me she's not surprised. Some people have to be like I am, it's the way they are. But haven't I ever thought about getting married, or what it would be like to have a kid?
I smile as the bus gets to my stop. "Yes. I wonder. But that's for the future now. Life is here, and I want to live it before I have to think back to what it was like."