Know thyselves

I look at my reflection in the mirror; it’s not what I expected. My face seems big and clunky with a jaw that’s almost comical. How did it get like that from such a slender, effeminate youth?

The light from the window brings out a sheen on my skin. It’s not the healthy kind though, but one of apprehension that goes well with my pasty complexion.

I’m just tired, I tell myself. But then I make the mistake of looking into the murky blue of my own gaze and I’m caught in a paradox. Do they know something I don’t?

Brain separates from body and I feel myself coming apart at the seams. Two halves of a whole sharing a mutual level of distrust. How can I possibly get on with the day if I can’t even get on with my selves? Hang on, there’s three of us in this now?

Self-awareness is a real mindfuck.

Tower block lights

Night after night we’d criss-cross the centre like a knitted sweater, connecting up places with thread. Then we’d pick a colour and chart a course through the night and in our heads to find the perfect setting.

Passing through the heights of Kingsdown, we knew every one of those tower block lights, twinkling with promise. Then we’d dip down to Park Street, not quite our scene except for a few sidestreets in between where the shirts didn’t go.

In the old town, we discovered bars where possibilities resided. The tunes were different, Bacardi Breezers didn’t feature and black wasn’t only for metal kids. Late nights, not fighting, but trying to find a sense of belonging was our commonality.

Weekends were spent on Gloucester Road, sitting in coffee shops before we knew what real coffee was. All the way down the stretch, we felt like we were keeping it all in check, clocking changes when a shop rejigged its name or a familiar figure no longer looked quite the same.

Sometimes we’d end up in St Andrew’s park, but I never went for that daytime lark, the air stiff with smoke and the sound of beer cans under foot while kids flew past their grans on bikes. Curiosity might push us on to the cusp of Montpelier, where, like tourists, we’d stare over the allotments and into the east, its neighbourhoods infamous and out of reach.

Occasionally, when the city got too much, we’d head up to the Downs and over to Ashton Court. Mess about in trees and talk awkward stuff on the grass, before wheeling it back down through Clifton, insecurities surpassed by the breeze and our expertise for shortcuts.