|The Summer of '83
The Summer of '83
I haven't been to Wigan for ages, not since the '80's in fact and I can't say for sure we're really there now except it seems pretty much that way to me. If I'm correct, it's a Thursday, just after lunch, and we're standing in a huddle of people waiting to go inside the technical college on Parson's Walk, but there's been a fire alarm, and it's chaos. It's no hardship though because the sun is shining and every second I spend out here is a second less I'll have to spend in class.
Okay,... so, here we are; this is the interesting bit: there's a girl looking at me, smiling. Do you see her? That's Serena, and I've been in love with her for a long time. Her smile is heart-warming - also completely unexpected because until this moment I'd not been aware of her having taken much notice of me. Clearly though she is aware of me; dare I say she even seems to like me?
The crowd fades into the background and all I can see is her, except "see" isn't the right word here. Sure - I can see every freckle, every individual eyelash, but I can also feel the texture of her skin, her clothes, her hair,... and though she is twenty feet away and just one person in the midst of so many others, I'm aware even of the warm-womany scent of her.
Emboldened by that smile I take a step closer, but the smile fades as if she's read my thoughts and is wondering how to avoid the embarrassment of my making an unwelcome pass at her. See? She's gone now, swallowed by the crowd whose din fills my ears once more as the fire alarm is ended and we all make our way towards the doors.
Here we are then, shuffling along corridors, heading for my Material's Science session, which I warn you is going to be a couple of hours of grinding tedium, but you're lucky because from my perspective things are made all the more unbearable by the ache in my heart, and the knowledge it might be weeks before I ever come that close to Serena again.
I've done this a few times now, slipped back to this moment, and what I'd really like to do is slow things down, savour the best bits, the glow of that smile for instance, and then pull out of it before this crushing disappointment kicks in, and I'm once more sitting listening to old Dodman explaining about Mhor's Circle. I might have found a way of slipping back in time, but once I'm here, time ticks along at its normal pace and I'm unable to control how long we remain, though boredom usually kills it and sends you right back to whatever time you came from.
It's curious, these trips to what I suppose must be the early summer of 1983, and my final year of the old HNC course. It's curious, because although I am myself, as I believe I was back then, my heart heavy with the bitter sweetness of an unrequited love, there is also superimposed upon my memory the knowledge that for our entire lives, Serena and I will never say anything more than an awkward "hello", that we'll both marry other people, have kids, and live our lives in complete ignorance of one another.
Now, don't go thinking I regret the way things turned out for me, because I don't - well, not exactly. This moment may be charged with a deliciously poignant nostalgia, but I could just as easily have revisited any number of similar moments from around that period. Indeed a few months from now I'll meet a delightfully feisty girl who won't disappear every time I try to say hello. On the contrary: she'll take me to her bed at the first opportunity and keep me there - that is until we both wake up, a quarter of a century later, too middle aged and kid-tired for that sort of thing any more.
Nowadays she prefers watching TV, and grumbles at me when I forget to take the rubbish out. Well, that's middle age for you, and you either grow up, grow into it, accept its imperfections, its disappointments, and grow old grumbling at someone, or you ruin yourself on a mad fling with a girl half your age that you know won't last, and then you grow old alone and with only the walls to grumble at.
In the absence of any other alternatives, I know which of the two I prefer. But what if there was a third alternative? What if that mad fling were to take place in another time and place, dare I say even a different universe altogether? Then you could have your fun and it wouldn't matter would it? And what if it wasn't a mad fling or a bit of fun at all? What if it turned out to be the single most important thing you never did?
Dodman's lecture on Mhor's Circle seems to do the trick – don't misunderstand, this is fascinating stuff first time around – it's just the boredom of its frequent repetition I suppose, that has me resurfacing safe and sound in the shed at the bottom of my garden. The light's just melting into amber over the messy backs of all the red brick terraces of my street. I can see a multitude of chimney pots, a tangle of drainpipes and a mad assortment of larch-lap fencing in various degrees of disrepair - not exactly the most likely setting for an experiment into the nature of reality, but then I'm not sure there's much of a precedent for this sort of thing.
Faye thinks I'm potting up Bizzie Lizzies - at least in so far as I imagine she thinks about me at all these days, and to be safe I have potted a few, but mostly I've just been sitting here in this old armchair, among the dust and the cobwebs - well - daydreaming really. Except, as you've just seen, there's more to it than that. So, maybe you're wondering if it really is possible, to slip back in time, court girls, and maybe even have sex with all that sweet simplicity like you used to, and just, well,... be so damned young again!
Well, it's possible all right, to go back and experience your past again. I'll show you how if you like, but I'm warning you, you can only amuse yourself so much with that kind of thing before you start to wonder how you might go about making some changes while you're there. I see you hesitate? You're worried about going back and, by changing something insignificant, ruining your present, or maybe even blotting it out altogether? Well, that's day one on the time traveller's course, and if you don't mind my saying so, I think that theory's a bit dated now. No, I'm thinking if you change something in your past, you don't change your present at all - you simply create another version of it. Setting aside all the philosophical musings for a while, there really seems no harm in it, provided you can always get back to where you started from of course, and as we've just seen, all that takes is moment or two of boredom.
It turns out the business of time-travel is actually a lot easier than the naysayers would have us believe - provided you're only interested in going backwards of course. Sure, it turns out the most effective time machine's not a machine at all - it's simply the mind - whatever that is - helped along by nothing more complicated than some herbal tea, and the right phase of the moon.
The phase of the moon?
Perhaps I should explain. At certain times, your mind is less securely fastened down inside your brain. This has something to do with the earth's magnetic field, which forms a sheath around the planet we call the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere gets a regular kick from the Sun's magnetic field, which generally keeps the magnetosphere lively, which in turn stimulates our brains through the pineal gland, which is basically a magnetic sensor wrapped in nerve fibres.
With me so far?
Much of the pineal gland's function is a mystery, but one of the things it does is keep our sense of self too busy to think of leaking outside of our brains to somewhere more interesting. Once a month though, just before Full Moon, the earth's magnetic field hushes down a little and then, if your mind's calm enough it can slip into a state of dissociation where any memories that happen by are rendered in ultra-realistic detail.
So, maybe now you're thinking this isn't really time-travel after all - more simply a kind of hallucination? Dare I even say Lunacy? You might have a point, but think about it: if you can trigger a memory, like we just did, then amplify it to such an extent you experience everything, exactly as it was: sights, sounds, touch, smell, and the feel of it all, a feel so overwhelming it entirely blocks out the sense of your present self - well, what difference is there between that and reality, other than the passage of a few decades?
Okay, it's cold sitting in the shed. Come into the house. Let's try the lounge. Yes,... just as I thought: that's Faye, reclining on the sofa, dropping bits of chocolate into her mouth while she gawps rather unattractively at the TV. I'm sure you'll agree she's not a bad looking woman, and there was once a time when she was very sweet indeed, only now I get the impression she isn't really much of anything other than this dull automaton with all the life squeezed out of her. To be fair, she probably feels the same way about me.
Now, Faye and I will never split up - I mean we might have outgrown the idealistic stage when we both believed we had the power to make each other deliriously happy. Okay, we may be past all that but we're far too polite and conventional to do anything so drastic as making each other deliberately unhappy - for example by having the bad manners to take off with someone else. We're companionable enough, most of the time, but anyone can see there's something,... well,... missing.
There's no sense in disturbing her just now, so lets sneak back into the kitchen and check on the herb tea situation. Did I mention the herb tea? Look - I keep it all here in this cupboard where its cool. I get it from the hedgerows, dry it out slowly over the summer, then crush it in the usual way. I'm sure I don't need to tell you there's plenty of stuff growing in those hedgerows that will kill you, and make a pretty long and nasty job of it too, so you need to know what you're doing. What's that? You're already familiar with this kind of thing? Well that's fine - I suppose you must be or we wouldn't have met outside the college the way we did – or when we did for that matter.
But, tell me, do you also know about the ecliptic? No? Then allow me to explain because a knowledge of the ecliptic might be just the thing you're looking for to enhance your experience. You see, there's something else about the moon you need to know. Over the course of a month it goes from rising south of east, to rising north of east, and then back again. When it's half way, that is when it's rising due east, it's said to be over the ecliptic. When the moon's at this point, more often than not, the earth's magnetic field is once more a little quieter - like a with a full moon. So, if you want to skip back in time, you're better doing it either with a full moon, or with a moon over the ecliptic. Got it? If you check your almanac you'll see this gives you three or four chances a month. Okay? With me so far? Ah,... I see I've sparked your interest now. You're intelligent and already making the connections: you're wondering will happen when the moon's full and over the ecliptic at the same time?
Well, a full moon on the ecliptic only happens about twice a year, and I agree with you, that might be just the time to slip back in time if you wanted to do something other than simply experience your past, and instead see about making some changes while you were there. That's what I plan on doing next time. Next time, I'm going to try a little harder with Serena, instead of being so damned passive about it. After all, you don't create a fresh future for yourself by being timid in your past, do you?
So, we've skipped ahead a little now, consulted our almanac and there's a full moon on the ecliptic this evening. I've checked the earth's geomagnetic signature on the Internet and sure enough, its been plummeting for days - so now's our chance. I've tickled round the garden with a hoe, tidied up the borders and mown the grass, which ought to keep Faye off our backs for a while. If you think you're ready, come down to the shed and I'll boil us up an infusion of hedgerow clippings. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable - go on - settle back.
Here we go.
There,... see how easy it is? We've slipped back to '83 without much trouble. The only problem is we've missed the best bit and we're already half way through Dodman's lecture. Mhor's Circle is up on the blackboard, which means Serena's long gone. That's a bit of a drag, but maybe you're right and trying to cop off with a dream-girl from my past is like trying to run before I can walk. So, maybe I should start with something simple like,... I don't know,... how about if I just,.... stood up?
Okay! That seemed to work. Here we are, standing up in the middle of Dodman's lecture on Mhor's Circle. Weird! It seems we've just created another future because Dodman, interrupted mid-sentence, is now peering at us over his spectacles in a way he never did in our original past, at least not at this place and time.
"Yes?" he asks.
He's a pleasant chap, old Dodman, and we've no need to fear his wrath, but all the same it's an embarrassing situation and I've no idea what to do next. To be honest I didn't expect things to be as easy as this.
"Is everything all right, young man?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Dodman. I think,... perhaps,.. I need to excuse myself."
I could just have sat down again and maybe time would have flowed back into its normal course, but, really, this is too interesting a thing to let it go just yet. So, we're outside the room now, breathing hard, sweating like we're sick and shoving our college notes back into our bag. What now you ask? Well follow me and I'll show you.
I'm of an age when I can look back fondly on the 80's and even though it doesn't seem that long ago to me, the fashions, the styles, the cars,... when I see these things in movies or pictures from that period, they conjure up a feeling of such nostalgia it's like I'm sure I misplaced something back here that was really important to me. I'm also sure I know what, or rather who it is:
We're talking about Serena, of course!
The girls were into big fluffy hair and shoulder pads in those days. I remember it as a very glamorous, sexy and confident time. As for my car - I drove an RS 2000, painted a gloriously unsubtle shade of yellow. It had alloy wheels, fat tyres and a Cosworth engine. If I'm right I've left it parked around Avondale Road, where it's all quiet and residential , and where the parking's free. For now though, I've just remembered a coffee shop in the old Market Hall which is nearer, so we'll check that out first.
Okay. Here we are. I know it's not much of a place but the coffee's really good, and is very straight forward to order - just coffee - none of the endless choice that's supposed to be the mark of a sophisticated free-market society. It's pretty busy - market day you see, but if you follow me quickly there's a table just over there. We can hunker down, sip our coffee and try to work out what to do next.
Excuse me,... coming through!.... Wow, did you see that girl? She looked like a movie star! I used to sneer at all this glam stuff - plastic people I used to call them - but now I really miss it! By the way, if you don't mind my saying so you seem to know your way around here pretty well.
Anyway, where were we?
Oh,... hold on. Something really strange has just happened. Serena's just walked in. She's over there, ordering coffee from the counter - baggy striped sweater and jeans, big satchel. Isn't she gorgeous? Do you see the provocative tilt of her hips? Oh,... now she's looking for somewhere to sit. Ever heard of a synchronicity? Well you're in one. We shouldn't get too excited though because, considering the way she last looked at me, I'll be lucky to get a smile out of her this time. Still,... she can't find a seat, and we've got this whole table to ourselves.
I wonder,... Okay, she's looked our way now and I'm sure she's recognised me. I can read her mind: she's thinking she can either beg a corner of that table with those old dears by the window, or she can come and sit with me. If she's kind hearted, she'll know I'll be hurt if she chooses the old dears, but I don't want her to be uncomfortable either. And I don't want her to feel sorry for me. I just want her to want me.
Right, she's coming over! You'd better slip off into the background, while I deal with it. No,.. don't go too far; I don't mind you listening in and, anyway, I may need your help if I get into trouble.
"Hi," she's saying. "Do you mind if I join you?"
"Of course not."
I can feel myself tingling now, like she's emitting a force field and it's exciting every particle of me. Once again there's that startling awareness of every detail of her, and she looks so cute and cuddly in her sweater. Surely, no matter how long I live, I will never desire anyone as completely as I desire Serena at this moment. No,... I'm not talking about sex here; it's more that I can't remember a time when I've ever wanted just to be,... with anyone so much as this. But I'm confused because, of course, this moment never happened. If this truly is, or was, my past, then it's following a different track now.
And that's progress.
Serena's nervous. She can read my thoughts, she sees the desire in my eyes, and she doesn't want any embarrassment. She just wants to sit and drink her coffee without some hormone-inebriated youth making a pass at her.
"It's okay," I tell her. "You've nothing to worry about."
Now it's her turn to be confused. "Oh?"
"I'm not really here, you see?"
She smiles. She has a lively sense of humour and thinks perhaps I'm joking with her - thinks perhaps she's misjudged me, been too hasty in setting a distance between us. "Really?" She enquires. She has the most beautiful dimples, and those lips? Do you see those lips - how wide her smile, how white her teeth?
"It's true," I'm telling her. "I'm actually sitting in my shed some time maybe twenty five years from now, thinking back on this moment."
She takes a sip of her coffee and I can see her running this one through her mind, her eyes making little oscillations while she weighs me up. She could easily think I'm a wierdo and recoil, but instead she tiptoes politely into my joke, and now she's asking me: "So, what's it like then: twenty five years from now?"
And of course I want to say something corny like: "All the poorer for not having you in it, Serena," but that would be lame and this is a joke after all, so I'll have to say something light and smart and say it soon, or it'll ruin the moment.
But what is it like, twenty five years from now? Do I say the world's economy has collapsed, that the financial institutions these stripey shirted, brace twanging proto-tycoons are constructing around now will turn out to have been nothing more than a sophisticated con-trick? No,... too downbeat. But then I remember I was not particularly happy here in the '80's either - sure I wasn't sinking in a sea mortgage hell and torpedoed investments, but what I was was forever falling in love with a long string of women, none of whom ever knew my name, which from where I'm sitting now, back in '83, suddenly seems a whole lot worse than looking at my building society statement every year and thinking: shite!
But she's waiting - the moment sliding away and if you want to make a decent joke, of course timing is everything. I give her a smile, as warm as I can muster, and then I hear myself, like some ham actor from a '40's movie say in clipped English tones: "It's all terribly dull I'm afraid."
I'm a hit: she's laughing now and my heart is swelling. How I wish I could simply hold this moment than take things any further, but the times are holding on to me, and it seems each moment from now will be whatever I choose to make of it.
"You're a nutter," she says, but flicks me a smile and a coy look that I take as permission to proceed - but carefully.
"Shouldn't you be in class?" I ask.
"Study period," she replies. "What's your excuse?"
"Me? I'm meddling with the nature of space and time."
But this raises barely a grin - too pretentious. Must keep it real! "Well,... seriously, I've attended this lecture so often I know it by heart."
"What time are you in college 'till?"
She pauses before replying. I'm being too obvious now but my gambit is rewarded by that coy look again. "Four," she replies. "You?"
"I'm here 'till nine."
"I'm a day release student," I explain. "We get twelve hours of lectures a week - all on the same day unfortunately."
"Ah,... then you have a job?"
"Yes. I'm an engineer." I might have said 'designer', but I'm worried she'll think I mean fashion or something. But what's this? She's interested: she's lifting her chin, fastening her eyes a little more steadily upon me.
Now, it's not that engineering's a sexy kind of job - it's more that just having a job at all makes me seem a little more mature than your everyday college boy. I earn real money while the guys she's been out with so far have most likely all been full time students and dirt poor. Sure,... this is what she's thinking - trust me. Now I'm not exactly a rich man, but I can afford to spend money on her, and every woman likes to be made to feel she's worth a million dollars - it doesn't make her shallow. Anyway, that's the female side of the equation. As for the male: one side of my head may be pushing fifty - which is the side that's thinking straight, thinking ahead, and urging caution, but the other side is twenty three and thinking very little, except how much I want to show her the car, or preferably get her into it. I'm young you see and I want to wave my bright yellow, two litre metaphorical willy at her.
"Do you need a ride home?"
She shakes her head and I cringe inwardly. That was too much, too clumsy, but I note she's careful not to push me so far away. "I mean I don't know you, do I?" she says.
"Anyway," she goes on, teasing. "If you don't get off 'till nine how can you?"
"I'll probably skip the rest of today," I tell her. "What I really want to do,..." I mean if I blow it here, I'm thinking, "is take the car for a blast over the moors - there's a little pub I know. Cosy. Good restaurant. I'll probably hang about up there for the evening."
"Sounds nice." I can see her balancing the potential of my rather subtle invitation against the risks of being stranded in the wilds with a psychopath. "Well,.... I see you often enough in the refectory at lunchtimes," she calculates. "So, I sort of know you already, all little."
"Yes,... you do."
"I don't need a ride home though - I only live five minutes away."
"Right. That's very,... convenient." My how this girl likes to tease!
Is she inviting me back to her place? No - don't be an idiot. Her place will probably include a mum, a dad and an annoying little sister.
What do I do? What do I do? Time is ticking. Her hands are curled around her coffee cup, her arms flat upon the table and I see her turning her wrist a fraction so she can tell the time. She's so lovely, so perfect,... but I fear I'm losing her now.
"Study period almost over?" I ask.
She nods, and though she does not smile, there is a look in her eyes that betrays her pleasure in the time we have spent together.
"Sorry," she says. "I don't mean to be rude."
Our eyes are lowered a fraction. She's waiting to see what I'll do: if I'll try to blurt in a last desperate pass. She's perhaps hoping I won't, but being terribly polite in giving me the opportunity to embarrass myself. "Well,..." I say. "Maybe you'll let me buy you coffee next time."
She's surprised by this. It gives her the easy way out, the chance to smile and say "maybe", and retreat with both our dignities intact, also the chance of a follow up if she feels like it, or the chance to avoid me if she doesn't. Really, I wish I'd had this much sense when I was younger, instead of being so damned gauche and backing girls into corners all the time.
"Well,..." she's saying. "If you happened to be parked down Menses Park Terrace, say just after four,... you never know,... we might bump into each other again."
And if I'm not mistaken I think I've just scored.
"You never know," I tell her. "And maybe if you were passing, I could ask if you fancied joining me for a meal,... at that pub?"
"And maybe I'd like that," she says.
She's in a hurry now, drains her coffee and with a last look at her watch, pushes back her chair, flashes me a smile, and says it was nice talking to me. I nod dreamily, and she's gone before I have time to ruin the moment by saying something stupid.
Well, come on then! There's no time to waste. We'd better pay up, and get out of here. I know we've hours to kill before four o'clock but I remember it was always murder parking down Menses Park Terrace, and we'll probably have to circle a bit before we find a spare slot. I don't want to leave anything to chance, you see, and it'll give us an opportunity to get a feel for the car again. And maybe,... sure,... while we're there, there's somewhere else I think I'd like to show you.
Okay, that wasn't too bad. The car goes like a dream doesn't she? A little wild on the corners by modern standards, but plenty of kick! Anyway, here we are, just pulling into a space on Menses Park Terrace. The college is over there, and Menses park is to our right. We've still an hour to kill, so I thought we'd take a look in the park because I've not been in there for ages and, well, the place is kind of special to me for a number of reasons.
I'd forgotten how green this part of town is, all cherry trees and wide open spaces. It's just a stone's throw, and yet a million miles away from the bustle of the centre. And here,... see? Isn't this a pretty park? Look at the lawns, and the colourful borders. You won't find parks like this anywhere else in the world - it's so English, so Victorian. See the bandstand? The ornamental lake? This is where I come at lunchtimes when the weather's good. It gets me out of college, gives me somewhere quiet to be on my own and lick my wounds.
If you don't mind we'll just sit here on this bench for a bit. We've been lucky with the weather eh? Today's exactly as I remember it: warm, and the scent of fresh cut grass. But it was always a pleasure tainted by the perpetual loneliness of being in love, and always disappointed by the reality of love's apparent indifference to me. Still,... no need to dwell on that now: I'll soon be seeing Serena again. She'll be sitting beside me in the car, and I'll take her to that little pub. We'll talk over a decent meal and get to know one another,... we'll feel so grown up and sophisticated - then I'll bring her home and drop her on her doorstep and say: it was fun, wasn't it? I really enjoyed being with you. And she'll blush and maybe give me her number and we'll arrange to do it again sometime soon.
What's that? I said: We'll arrange to,... what are you looking at? You look like you've seen a ghost,....
Didn't I tell you Faye was a looker? Crikey, I'd forgotten she used to wear her dresses as short as that! That's her bench over there you see? Didn't I tell you? This is where we first met. This is what I wanted to show you, just for completeness really, though it's a while yet before our time comes, and I wasn't expecting to see her today. She was sitting over there, reading Wuthering Heights. I was going through a bit of a Bronte phase myself and was reading The Tennant of Wildfell Hall - made a change from Newton's Laws and Mhor's Circle. Anyway, even from a distance we couldn't help but notice one another's books and we made a joke about swapping them when we'd finished. It was said light heartedly but - you know how these things work - I looked out for her every time I was in town after that, and in the end we did exchange books. Her telephone number was written on the very first page and the rest, as they say is history,... or rather my future.
Look at her legs as she sits down and crosses them. Aren't they sexy? You can nearly see her stocking-tops! And the way she dangles her shoe on the end of her toes? Oh,... but she looks so pretty,.... so young and lovely! I don't mind telling you I feel a bit awkward now, sitting here, knowing I'm about to be going off with someone else shortly, and maybe you think it's wrong, but you're forgetting: Faye doesn't know me yet and it would complicate things if I were to do what you seem to be urging me to do and take my copy of Wildfell Hall out of my bag - yes I know it's in there - I've seen it too. Oh, Faye: red high heels, big bushy hair, a slash of red lip-gloss, electric blue eye-shadow. How I used to ache for you! Where did you go, my love? What happened to you? What happened to us? Do we really change so much as we age - or are we the same, and we just forget who we are?
Okay, maybe we should move on. I'm beginning to feel a bit strange now, like I'm going to wake up. Talk to me will you. Say something. Why do you have to be so flipping quiet all the time? Oh,... I think it's too late,... we're slipping free,.... no sense in fighting it - once we start to slide there's nothing we can do to stop it,... here we go.
Don't worry, it wasn't your fault. I think it was seeing Faye that did it. I wasn't expecting that at all. Let me come round for a moment, then well go back into the house and check on her. Does everything look as it should to you? I mean the shed. I could swear there was something,... oh never mind,... I think the tea was a little too strong. Do you have a funny taste in your mouth? Yak!
So, anyway, here we are. The house is all quiet. We've been away a bit longer than I expected and everything's in darkness. There's just a light showing under the lounge door, and I can hear the TV, so I don't think I've been missed, but I'm feeling guilty about the Serena thing, so I'll salve my conscience by asking Faye if there's anything I can do. It's a little weak I know and she'll suspect me at once of something underhand but, really, seeing her as she used to be has reminded me of what it was that drew me to her in the first place . She was every bit as pretty as Serena - I'd forgotten that - but there was something else,... and I'm really glad I woke up in time before I had the chance to disgrace myself. Anyway, here we are:
"Faye,... I was just,..."
You'll have to excuse me for a moment while I think about this.
Yes,... I can see it's not Faye. But who?.... Oh, I get it - It's Serena of course! Nice one! She's padded out a little, and there are lines around her eyes - not unattractive, I might add. Its more her expression that's so shocking - the same dull, deadness - just like Faye: those lifeless eyes reflecting nothing but the crap she's watching on TV. So,... I take it we've slipped forwards, not to our old future, but to our new one?
Fine, just so long as I know where I am!
On the up-side, it seems our courtship went well and we've managed to share a life together, but on the down-side, unlike my life with Faye, I've obviously not had the pleasure of remembering the best bits of it. I've gone straight from that tingling anticipation of our first date, to surfacing directly here into the featureless plain of our later years, a time when it's all been said and done, and we can barely be bothered looking at each other any more.
She's barely aware of us,... fortunately, the TV is on so loud she didn't hear me calling her Faye.
"Serena, can I get you anything?"
She waves her hand dismissively. Clearly I'm disturbing her and I suspect we'd be as well retreating back into the kitchen.
Now, given the rather shopworn outcome of both these relationships, I agree it seems I'm most likely the one at fault here, since I'm the common denominator in them both. I don't know what I'm supposed to do about that though. I mean I could do the decent thing while I'm here and try to perk things up with Serena, but since I don't remember anything of our relationship I don't know how I'm supposed to do that without her knowing something's wrong, and maybe making things even worse.
So that leaves me wondering about your part in all of this, and how we seemed to bump into each other at that particular time and place. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking it's you who's been married to Serena all this time, that this is your future, and that maybe lately you've been haunted by memories of a woman sitting on a park bench flashing her stocking tops and reading Wuthering Heights? A woman who caught your eye and smiled at you as you were waiting to go out on your first date with Serena perhaps?
Okay. Fine. Well, I trust that, like me, you know what it was now that you really left back there in '83, and now we've found it we can both avoid screwing up our lives any further. It was really weird bumping into you again, and you understand if I hesitate to suggest we do this sort of thing more often? For now, I'd be obliged if you'd just put the kettle on and hand me your almanac. With a bit of luck the moon's not moved too far away from the ecliptic,...
.... and Faye's still sitting on that park bench.
Copyright © M Graeme 2009