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Been Looking back over words written months ago when our son made a trip to Southampton and later when we passed through again, together, in a time machine and the images fragment and crackle with who we used to be and it’s all here, in these words from that town. The town that started my journey to here…

Last summer

I’m in our old places, in a new way and head down, tapping, full on avoidance. Can’t see the trees, hide from the ponies and moments. And I hear our son’s voice still with his young idiosyncracies that take me back to our Sundays before school. And the car park’s familiar but I have to do it, glance up quick, then head down from the roaming animals and I ignore the swerve of the roads, trying hard not to and think where we are, I can’t be in any of it at all.
I stay quietly tapping, hurting in silence, aiming but losing the moment, while I’m back at our first ever Sunday. Ice creams from the tiny shop, dressed in red, trying to find the bin, teeming river and the current cattle grid shakes my presence and I’m tired of memory. Sun crashes through, the suspension rattles me and I’m lost in the trees somewhere.

I feel blown by the day, sleepy and crushed. Can’t find the image for the thought but it’s close to a broken cobweb, holed and stretched, at the mercy of the weather, stale prey, cocooned limp hanging. And while I’m spinning in sticky thread, a flash of rain crackles the light and we crawl through under the bridge of colours, bringing hope by the dismal tower block.

Same morning – earlier

Back at the bench it’s cold and I feel strange. Just left him kitted out, off to Southampton for time in the world that he’ll grow into and I feel odd but ok. He’s as prepared as me and I can’t see much beyond the rooves, the sky hangs thick and low as I go back eighteen years to my own careful packing for the first trip south and our conversations move around me in the wind. The horizon blurs purple, the spring flowers pushing higher as I drift forwards and back to the forest, the first glimpse of ponies and the laughter of a townie running out of bounds.
I’m knitting it together, his presence of challenges unmet and a world we’re stepping into, with my tentative steps back then. This all belongs to someone else, someone I used to know. I need to unravel this carefully, think I’m too much in the present to look at the past but it will come, as the hall fills with suitcases and they wait for the coach.

I took the train south, was it really that long ago? And you showed me your town and the places I’d come to know.
Familiar haunts on Saturday mornings, crossing over the water for baguettes,
carefully filled bread, in the cafe that never had enough seats and we’d sit in the front, watching people, opposite the shop we bought the rocking chair from, a couple of years later, before the stool got stained by family and life.

And Waterstones after, ending up at the camera shop and evenings on the edge, at the Frog and Frigate and stories and tales of the land before. Before I crossed over into permanence and your friend came back from sea. And we felt the force around us and I can feel his excitement as the coach pulls up now, as I boarded the train back then and he’s going to test out the waters, near our country park. And as it starts for him I see us racing back up the long smooth road, cutting angles off the roundabouts as we hurried to make my connection on time.

And I did and I came back again, became a local girl, a platform regular, until the habit became away of life. And he’s bundled up with all he needs for now, all shiny and new with extra chocolatey bits on top but sepia stained for me, dog eared and torn with love.
And as he burbles from the coach, I go back to all our moments, visits and integration, the things to tolerate, the things I came to own and we’re freezing on Western shore, standing guard in the playground, in the dark, waiting for the ship to come in, peeled back layers of a time before it was our turn and they stood and waved at us.

And forest teas with the Midwich cuckoos, when he wasn’t allowed to touch toys, to buying essential nonsense from the tinkling hippy shop, magpie-ing my way around ephemera, through the incensed air, in the chromed up glossy mall, the one we revisited that last Christmas, when the Apple store hummed helpfully as your watch repair went wrong.
And I flip back and round like the waltzer our son hated, memories blurring as the colours of our years bleed into each other and I’m sick with the intensity and my head spins till I heave it out.

And it keeps coming at me, Portsmouth road on the bus, passed the Cod Plaice, while you worked, around the complex island, enjoying my freedom of feeling new and the eagerness of the short lived perfumed job and I can smell their shallowness and see me by the busy road, flat shoes, achy feet with discarded heels banging in a plastic bag. And I was so young, so improbably young, and I hear our quotes at Dad’s party, the day we mapped out the future.

And I remember Buffalo Bills, with our friend and his friends, meals with Nelson and his funny little ways, shining talk and us, full of stories from New York and the walls were plastered with film memorabilia and the toilet was a jungle. And I wore my favourite t-shirt, rushing past the Mayflower on the right, when I wore the black shoes with jeans and we parked round the back somewhere. And I was driven passed it recently, think it’s a coffee bar now or was it the place next door, boarded up, out of time?

And it continues, all the places from when we drove around, you showing us where you used to live, when you first moved down and how you’d gone to find digs, walking for miles, coping with a broken arm to accidental biking by the QE2.

And on and up to the Cowherds, stuffed with roasts, by the park up the avenue, where we watched the balloon festival, chasing the Desiderata song.

And sometime later driving by containers and freight, just like we did back then. That first trip, when the car was full of us and the gardener’s children and he told us the trip was ‘pregnant with possibilities’ to wind us up, like he always did.
And I see the shiny buildings, chromed up high to the air, where I got a job that I didn’t take because we moved and chuffed up the motorway.

And some time after, I saw our journey north, into the sun, leaving there for the new home. And as we skirted it’s edge I looked carefully right, past the cut through that you showed me, by the car park where I crunched gears and the bus stop that released me on the road to Hamble.

It was all there, like a film set, soft focussed and it happened and it didn’t. And I stared through it all, at the sun beating off the leaves, in a courtyard garden, near to where we used to live, in a world away, in times gone by, in a distance place, in another land before.
Beyond the now and up the hill, like your pick ups from St Marys with the red and white eyes lighting up out of the greyness and it’s all still there just around,
just beneath,
just existing, in it’s own plane, safe and untroubled from this reality.

And I need to leave this for a while and come back to the present and see how it jigsaws together, me then, him now, knotting the images, tying them tightly, harnessed securely in past and present. Someone I used to know, someone I used to be and her ways and their words, feeding into who I am.

Now.

Right now,
in this moment,
in this world, with these challenges, with this love, with these layers, with this knowledge, with this truth.

In this reality.

Now.

xxx

Ps

Sun setting over my merlot, ruby light pierced raspberry. Blood rich shards dance out, splintering pink into my room. I’ve travelled today, through years and space, pain and growth and memory. I’m disengaged now, displaced, confused. Carrying heavy, vivid luggage with me, till I can place it down again somewhere, somewhere safe and protected. For now I’m in it, wrapped up totally and lost, feeling who I used to be with love from who I’ve become.

x

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