Thursday, April 28, 2005

Exorcising Rural Dragons

So here we are just out of the rain again, some of us hoping for the thunder to get closer, and some watching anxiously for newcomers who might bring fags. There might be about six or seven of us trying to sound clever over the sound of the rain on the pavilion roof. The cold gets to us sometimes but this is supposed to be summer. I listen to the conversation but I don’t say much. The topics are as important to me as the atmosphere here, where the sun means nothing; we are all the pale kids, the kids who stay in and read.

And then Kay delights us all by saying that she knows that she is selfish but she hopes she dies before her parents. I miss the next part of what she says as it is drowned out by the sinners shouting. Someone brings up the inquisition; I have no idea why. I am thinking all the time of the order of death of my relatives, the fact that a death in the family is the worst thing we can all go through now that the chance of revolution has faded. Kay is saying that they don’t understand the inquisition and that as good Catholics they should be aware of what awaits them should they become bad Catholics. Being as old as I am now, I do know that she does not know enough to be serious but we do not know that then. We think she is clever and knows more than we do. I do know that the inquisition is gone. I tell her so and she argues that it is still around. Still torturing? I ask. She concedes this point but mentions ‘Moral Relativism’ and of course has to explain. The rain rains on and time passes, bored with us and moving on to cause decay in Northern cities. None of us really know anything, these girls who wear black and boys who read poetry. Nothing that bad has happened in our lives. We do not know which of us thinks of suicide or how movement across this countryside makes me so sad as to want to crawl into the space under the stairs and never move again.

The darkness of the storm makes reading difficult and the threat of lightning strike drags us back inside. The breaks here are pretty cool. We have an American teacher with us for a term while his counterpart here lives it up on burgers and gridiron or so we think. His salary here is more than that of the avuncular Yank who takes his place. He tells us of suicide in literature and how the blood could reach the ceiling, of great American poets and if you can guess who that is you have more death by self. And all this drags me away to my own pallid little world where I know what I know about all this. The great, grey weight of the future in rainy cities hits us bucolic foreigners and only immersion in study can keep those shadows at bay. My first days away from home are sad ones and yes it did rain like God proving his own pathetic fallacies in one week-long deluge, the flood again to wipe out these unfriendly people of the densely populated, sooty stacked blocks. I dream of the fields and woods that I once dreamed of leaving for good. I will play loud music the day I leave this city in my fast car, the window open and a finger extended in insult to the brick and concrete. The time that left us in those heady, first-love, pseudo-intellectual conversations has caught up with me and girlfriends have more serious implications now. They talk about real things here and point out the shabby children on the corners or the syringes in the gutters. I knew all this happened of course; TV shows us the world after all but I am within infection distance of the sad illnesses and soon enough those dark particles jump the gap.

We love in many different ways but having these things shown to us everyday is wearing. I grow used to it all but you knew that. And Will will build his supercity across the country and the countryside, splitting the green in two and leaving a dark legacy of a world that needs to get out into space before the sun explodes. The accent in this city is identical to the country accent I grew up with so I cannot tell who, like me, comes from the country. That white-clad girl in the corner who sometimes smiles at me for a reason I cannot tell, has the wide personal space of the rural-born. See her with the smoke-kids and she walks backwards while they try to adjust themselves to each other’s requirements for comfort. Body language is a wonderful thing. As I said, I grow used to all this. They have me closer now, talking to them eye to eye within spitting distance and sometimes I want to spit but this is just normal to them.

Evenings, I walk to phone home, to talk to people I casually knew at school, listening to calming music on my Walkman, a product of some far-away city. They talk back enough, happy it seems to have a link to less anxious times but they are happier because they have not moved. I read in the paper of a reunion which I did not attend and some of the people there came from as far away as Birmingham! I laughed and then cried. They could have had me down as the ‘as far away as… ‘ and where would they have put? This could be a circle of hell for all they know, the demolished town coming down about my ears, leaving me for dead and out of contact for ever. The end of terms and back home fills me with a temporary and false happiness, Christmas is no longer as exciting as it was though the books still come and I have days in a window reading and happy at more rain. My own children will have to come along to bring back the old feeling. My Christmas is more like the feast it replaced, something to celebrate the winter rather than man. And so we are back, arguing about religion again. And Kay says ‘Remember that time when I told you about the Inquisition? Well I was right; it does still exist’ and off she goes into some older person’s rant about what is real and what means anything to us. She is more erudite now but what she says is the same in meaning. The conversations have not changed and I feel we are the same happy kids we were under the eaves of the Cricket Pavilion in a Thunder storm.

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