Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Natural History Museum

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” L.P. Hartley

Another holiday weekend rapidly disappears in my rear-view mirror, and I’m back to desk-jockeying for the next four days.

Sunday involved a rare trip to see my Mum, and I always try and salvage a fragment of my past whenever I visit. This time, I managed to dig up a couple of boxes: one box file and an old shoe box, both packed with bits of paper and ticket stubs and letters and school reports and photographs and newspaper clippings and used matchbooks from the last 32 years of my life, tucked away for future reference.

I spent the rest of the weekend sifting through this haul of magical junk looking for traces of the person I used to be. And whilst I was sifting through my accumulated past, I kept remembering the scene in Tim Burton’s Batman when Vicki Vale is wandering through Wayne Manor, and she turns to Bruce Wayne and says:

Vicki Vale: You know, this house and all this stuff really doesn't seem like you at all.
Bruce Wayne: Some of it is very much me. Some of it isn't.


I found a diary from 1982, where my excitable 9-year old self had scrawled: “Doctor Who is on tonight!”. That gave me a good laugh, seeing as I’d just stayed up until the early hours of Sunday morning just so that I could catch a re-run of the latest episode.

I found a book I’d written when I must have been around 10. It was only 14 pages long, but it was pretty dark, considering I was a happy, well-adjusted child. Lots of squalor and poverty and rats and filth. And I found stories that I’d written for school assignments when I must have been in my early teens, full of gangsters and jazz clubs and gallows humour in abundance. And then there were the school reports that all seemed to say the same thing: that AKA was a bright, intelligent, articulate child who was well-liked and charismatic, but he was lazy and seemed disinterested in working hard or applying himself to his studies, and would never amount to much if he didn’t try harder.

And I found letters written from friends arranging to go out for a drink or to go to a movie, back in a world where there was no Internet or text messaging, and a first class stamp was the quickest way to arrange a Saturday night out.

The diaries from the early 90s packed with appointments for movies and concerts and beers, when I never had any money but I always had enough for a night out. And the notebooks from my first job at the Record Shop, full of scrawled lists of albums that I had to re-order to make sure the shelves of the shop were still stocked with torpid, uninspired crap like Michael Bolton and Wet, Wet, Wet.

And then I found shadows of people who have drifted out of my life for all manner of reasons; from the acrimonious implosion of friendships, to girls I had loved and lost, to that most final terminator of relationships, death.

Then there were the shards of people who still loom large in the AKA story – the lifelong friends who will be there forever, with fresher faces and smaller frames, but with the same amount of laughter in their eyes.

And then there was the mountain of cards from the future Mrs. AKA, every one a love letter, full of love and passion, for anniversaries or birthdays or just to put a smile on my face and a bit of moisture in my eyes, a trembling in my heart or a stiffening in my trousers.

It was pretty draining going through it all, and for a while it put me in a weird headspace, but once it was over, I packed it all back up again, tucked it away, then went to hug my daughter and kiss my wife and revelled in the fact that where I’m at right now is pretty damn sweet, even if today ends up as another bunch of scribbled words in a dusty old box.

3 comments:

Bert said...

That's so gentle and touching. It made me smile and my eyes fill up (I'm a bit tired and emotional)

Thank you.

b othersuperior said...

I concur with Bert - however, I was left wanting to respond with some kind of hilarious pun on the phrase "dusty old box" but couldn't think of anything funny or appropriate.

It's the thought that counts.

AKA said...

Touching reminiscences and blatant innuendo: I do it all here. SUCKER PUNCH: it's your one-stop-shop for Internet Fun.