If you drive out of the city, through the suburbs and up the hills, the greenwood starts becoming clear and the houses get a little space between them and the architecture takes on the form of an afternoon. Lazy gaps, quieter; I suppose the packed in, built up areas that you’ve left behind are the busy mornings. This is afternoon space.
As you travel, notice that things are less and less friendly for anyone not driving. Invisible underpasses beneath unexpected dual carriageways, baby motorways trying to get bigger. Pavements are sometimes narrow or sometimes just empty – perfectly usable but clearly pointless. There’s not even litter here sometimes. Then it’s the fields and the odd tiny estate, often disastrous and visibly falling apart, lost in a state perfect isolation and disconnect from the heart of the Town, slowly being eaten alive by fields that were first cultivated before the printing press was running.
Just before you arrive at that space though, there’s a pub, a big late 60s ex-Harvester, the sort of place that’s there because it’s on a big spare corner at the ends of normal living space. First one to get a huge TV in 1989. A wide open car park, because people come here to have a burger after the shops, not to get drunk, or not much. We aren’t going in. There’s nothing wrong with the place really, but we aren’t going in.
Here it is. Right where the car park meets the pavement. Slightly paler smush of concrete surface. Details that are so small that they aren’t ever accounted for – a change in texture out front of a dull pub. I can read it though, literally, because there’s a fragment of writing still there; it says L84 which I know because I was standing next to L in 1984 when they wrote it with a stick, in the first month of secondary school.
Fragments of writing hanging around, like the dark blue stabbed phrase in the subway about WOODS which was a testimony to someone’s power and control. CONVICT BEATS in whitewash on the quarry wall for forty years. But I can’t shift that moment from my mind. Standing in the half sun in Autumn, near the bus stop. And then what we make stays still in place and we get older and wander on but those words stay where we left them for a little while and anyone who sees them meets that version of us, the writer who was.
Even when the writer isn’t any more. Not in some dramatic and tragic manner, just in that we aren’t concrete. We aren’t even wet cement.
Oh god, we must leave our stories, we must, we must. Every word that we can, because even your name and the year is glorious, shining in memory and saying yep, something happened, there was Something, and maybe there’s not any more, but it doesn’t matter, any more than it matters that some words in the ground got bulldozed over again, or words on a wall that got demolished, or painted on a quarry that’s a supermarket now.
None of it stays forever, and that’s alright too.