The Byes look strange from this angle. I haven’t crossed this grass in all the 6 years I have lived here, never strayed from the concrete path through the park. Why today, all of a sudden? Perhaps it’s the cool wind, the September sun. I forget it’s not August any more.
So, why the straying? I walked down Cambridge Terrace in the hot sun – the leaf-shadows thrown dappled on the pavement, the tall Mediterranean-style town houses to either side – and I thought again of the past, of school, which has now been reduced to a mere dozen images, a few dubiously remembered feelings, the truth of which I have forgotten.
For a moment I was close to her, the self I recall best in summer, on special afternoons when the temperature is right, the leaf-shadows thrown a certain way. Then I look up at my surroundings and am powerfully, inescapably reminded of the past. It seems so golden, golden and green like in Thomas’ Fern Hill. I was prince of the apple towns. He captures it so well, the sad, fleeting beauty of childhood.
I am still young; I am close to these memories. But when, I wonder, will they become strange to me? When will I cease to feel them as keenly? The way the sun filters so eternally through the trees almost breaks my heart. The meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Back to the Byes. There are so many memories hiding in the folds of this afternoon. The tree to my left: it is simultaneously the one we dubbed the chrysalis tree in primary school and the ‘sacred tree’ in my grandma’s garden, the one around which we cursed Stephanie, hoping we did better in our GCSEs (really sorry about that, Stephanie). And it reminds me too of the time I made a wand of great power that would surely land me in fantastic adventures (perhaps it didn’t in the obvious sense, but who’s to say the adventures I have in my mind are any less real or exciting? I write those down on paper).
And I think, what would I have been doing this afternoon ten or twelve years ago? A new school year, each one arriving with a greater inkling of the future. And then I wonder where the transition was. Somewhere between school years? Somewhere between the ages of 14 and 15, round about the time the children green and golden follow you out of grace. Who knows when it all changed? It is an inevitable, indefinable moment, a Vanishing. And it’s led me here to this day, to this hot bench under a hotter sun where I am just as inevitably getting sunburned.
I hope you’ll forgive me this kind of muddled, introspective musing, but god, life is bloody strange.