This story has to be about lots of things. Some of them seem important, but some of them seem so very small, so small, in fact, that they might almost get lost.
We were walking around the side of the building and someone said “I’ve never been here” and I saw that the benches were ten years old and completely pristine. No-one had ever been here. And it made me think of a sort of story.
This story needs to be about white skies and rainy silent afternoons long ago. It needs to be about grey concrete and moss and the places where no-one is walking right now. It’s a story about spaces and gaps in the structure. The void zones (they are usually labelled as such on caretaker floor plans), the walkways and glass bridges, the places that we pass through. It’s a story about the afternoons, as I said, the silent afternoons, when workers and pupils are locked away and everything seems to hold a new shape, a different shape and sound and taste, just for now, just for the afternoon time.
But that time is long gone, long, long gone. And that’s the way it felt; those places and moments, they’re all about the days when life felt like a memory from far in the future. And I could almost see the shape of it and listen the voice of days, telling me all those stories about dust and concrete and raindrops, about quiet roads and the sound of pale skies, and always, always the rain again.
It has to be a story about the small things, because the big things are unseeable, at least they were then, to my eyes. My brain and senses don’t work according to the standard model. Not seeing the big picture is the phrase that the neuropsychologist used, but I rather like to think of it as seeing the big picture but only in the smallest of things.
Writing is a fantastic exorcism. The very effort of these paragraphs has rid me of a creeping nostalgia in the space of ten minutes or so. As I sit in the warm and dry, I am now reminded of all the times when I was cold and wet, or hungry, or addicted to something, be it eating, spending, drinking, smoking, or starving myself, for that matter. How on earth can I feel such longing for the cold grey places, when I was so lacking safety or perspective?
Because the rain. I can’t explain it easily, but that’s the thought I get. Because the rain.
Perhaps as I write, I’ll come to understand my own explanation.
(Raindrops fall, millions on millions, out of an infinite sky, small and forming from clouds that are unfathomable, that are patterned on physics beyond everyday understanding. They fall and they land and they are rarely perceived, rarely observed or noted. They are us, falling from one form to another; travelling to a new life in a new city, to a new job, relationship, house, feeling in charge but ultimately at the mercy of dynamics that we can scarcely comprehend. And every one of them is part of the same rainy day, but they haven’t noticed, because they are only concerned with their falling, and because they are raindrops and lack the capacity to notice most things.)
When I write here, I would really like – I would love – to take my readers, that’s you, on a tour of a past and present that isn’t quite either. Something liminal, or maybe something in process of becoming and never quite getting there. And there are boots that keep the damp out, and a old gas fire that starts with a blue flame and slowly grows orange, and something about the roads that we don’t notice until it’s much too late.