“Do you want to come, or shall I just go?” I say.
“I think I’ll go home,” MindReader says. We’re standing in the train station car park after work. The sun is still hot. My cracked iPhone screen has been repaired by the lovely MadFather, and I’m going to drive to my hometown to get it. I’ve been without my phone since Saturday and it’s now Monday evening. I’d like to tell you it was liberating but, actually, it was just boring.
I listen to the radio on the drive. It’s finally – finally – summer here, and the radio plays whimsical, nostalgic summer songs. I sing loudly to The Fugees as I take the motorway and curse forgetting my sunglasses.
I now work four days a week, and time has become more precious. I still see MadFather a lot, but I don’t go to his house – my house, my childhood home – as much as I used to. As I come off the motorway and navigate my hometown’s streets I feel a familiar, eerie shiver. I look at the estates, the skinny kids kicking balls over institutional-looking lawns bearing threatening signs. I see the teenagers, caps down low over their eyes, smoking at the bus stops. Remember my old school, how inarticulate I have been in the past when trying to describe it. Yes, it was a shitty school and yes, a lot of people did take time off for court hearings, but it wasn’t dangerous. There were no guns or drugs. Merely angry, poor people who likes cigarettes and the occasional bit of dope, who stole quadbikes and never handed in their homework. Who probably now work in factories and raise children. There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t make me a working-class hero. But it does make me different to the other lawyers I see all day, I think. It means I had no idea what The Iliad was until i was 21. Or that people still l learnt Latin. As I take the last roundabout before my old house, I think how I look in my air conditioned car and black suit. I don’t feel that way. I still feel this way.
My hometown is a strange place. The estates part and suddenly we are in the heart of suburbia, which borders shabby patches of countryside which more often hold strange tacky markets than horse riders. And yet, it is not quite like middle-class suburbia. If you duck, or close your eyes, you can ignore it, but just a stone’s throw away is a collection of shops MadFather always called the Bronx, housing big blokes in tracksuits, bookies, cheap barbers and a pub we never once went in, with scattered cracked glass littering its doorstep.
MadFather isn’t in, and I try to make the most of my evening before I drive back. I wander down the uneven driveway to the garden, remember summers spent sunbathing while my parents sat inside drinking tea. I remember how it all changed when they divorced, how whole rooms went unopened, blooming with dust when I crept in. I remember happy times after the divorce now: the second portion of my childhood – University summers spent working, cooking and trying to figure out the washing machine with MadFather. Parties only a few years back when I was technically a guest but didn’t feel like one. I creep up the silent stairs to my old bedroom, past the room which used to house my mum and dad’s bed but now holds MadFather’s Eastern European lodger. My pointe shoes still hang on a hook on the wall in my bedroom, but apart from that it’s become a kind of graveyard for the computers which MadFather endlessly takes apart and puts back together.
I write a silly note for MadFather and lock up using the keys which still hang on my keyring: my house keys, my car keys, my childhood home’s keys.