The house talks in a language I’ve never heard before.
Creaks and groans
and inconsistent tapping.
The door talks to the floorboards as I enter
letting them get ready for my weight.
They brace themselves.
Stay firm under my feet
only wincing in pain
when I push a nail further into their skin.
I heard the walls talk once.
They spoke English. Muffled.
I heard the words cancer
and tumour and doctor coming
Dad heard too
and was crying next time I saw him
I don’t think he likes it when the walls talk.
At the Tottenham Court Road bus stop just near Primark
a man in a faded blue shirt two sizes too big finished kissing a woman,
stood back and told her that he loved her. They let their bus drive on without them.
He said it and all she could do was stare. And he stared back and then
her mouth turned into a smile. We’d discreetly started to
make a crowd around them growing less and less interested in buses
readjusting bags so we were comfortable enough to experience this moment
we just watched them stand there. She stared at him like
he was her mother’s home-made cooking. The one her mother
used to make when she was seven to tell her everything
was going to be okay. He stared at her like she was the first sunset he saw
at Bournemouth beach, the night his Dad told him he planned to
marry his Mother.
I’d say they were double my age. He showed it more than her. Wore clothes
that used to fit him years ago. Wearing them as a memento to the man he
used to be. His backpack hung from his left shoulder, its weight forcing him
to lean a little. She had no backpack anchoring her down but leaned with him
so she could mimic his look back. She wore jeans for comfort rather than fashion
went practical with her bag. She saved her style for her face. Decorating it with
golden earrings that demanded to be looked at, at least commented upon by
random bystanders. I think I was the only one that noticed them. Everyone else
seemed too busy trying to save this as a memory. Freeing up space in their brains
getting rid of last Tuesday’s finance meeting, removing the day
the electricity ran out. Erasing memories of Terminator Genysis. We were all
desperate to relive this. Ignored buses as 29 and 134 and 24 and 176 drove by
our days were less important than these two people.
I’ve never been more jealous of a man before. Wished I could wear his aging skin.
His brown hair that was starting to grey. I wished I could be his 5ft9 size. Be as
stocky as him and have those eyes infront of me. I’ve never been more jealous of a look
and the amount of ease it was for her to do it. I don’t know how,
but Tottenham Court Road was silent. All of us wishing that maybe we could have
a moment like this for ourselves. For us, this was special. For them,
this was just a Tuesday.
And all we know how to do is run.
We run. We sprint.
Nothing else matters right now.
There’s screams all around us, red under our feet.
We run. We sprint.
Our African and Caribbean blood
desperately pumping around our bodies.
Sweat dripping from us.
We’re trying to breath. Can’t breath.
We run. We sprint.
We run. We sprint.
We run. We sprint
And I can’t see them anymore.
I’ve lost them behind me in the noise.
I’ve lost them behind me in the madness.
I’ve lost them behind me.
175m and I’m finding pace I never knew I had.
I need it.
And I stop.
I can hear the cheering. It’s over; I’ve won. A second later
5 other year 10’s follow me over the finish line.
We both spend 5 minutes pretending to stare at a Nandos menu
even though we both know what we’re going to order. We’ve spent
9 years not talking to each other so what’s a few more seconds?
I guess I got my stubbornness from him.
Inherited it along with his last name and oversized feet and
before I can make any more comparisons he speaks
and all I can think of is
he doesn’t sound like me.
But he’s offering to pay so I let it slide.
Orders the same thing, even down to the heat and it’s
worrying how normal this all is.
We trade small talk inbetween mouthfuls.
Tactical. Skipping away from big questions, and avoiding bigger answers.
We’re not there yet. At least I didn’t think so but he asks
how Mum is. And I’m not sure how to answer.
I’m not sure how much of an answer he wants or
how much I’m allowed to give.
‘Fine’ seems to suffice. I even throw in
‘Good’ to add more colour and he seems satisfied.
He doesn’t pry. Just accepts it. It’s like he expected it.
We’re halfway through now and he brings up Damari. Calls him
my brother. I chose not to correct him and say half.
He says he’s good in school like me,
says he’s creative like me. Says he likes films like me.
He keeps talking but I don’t remember what he says, instead
I’m thinking back to a month ago when he posted a picture of
Damari holding up his latest drawing. Captioned it with how proud he
was of him.
We may have a lot of things in common but
I don’t think a Dad is one of them.
One quarter left, and he’s telling me he’s tried to find me for years.
Tried to track me down through friends and old acquaintances,
testing old phone numbers and addresses and I guess we’re out of
small talk now. He says he never gave up, never forgot about me
and before I can even question him he takes 2 year old me
out of his wallet. I’m crinkled from the years but
still smiling. And so is he because he’s finally found me
and I don’t want to deny him this moment.
We ask the couple on the table beside us to take our picture.
That night, he’ll post it on his wall and caption it
“Happy birthday to my eldest son Tyrone
hope you have a blessed day. We have alot of catching up to do.”
I don’t think he’ll ever be my father,
but I guess I’ll be his son.
When the fire evicts us and smoke rents out every room in our house,
when the heat melts the carpets
and the pressure breaks the floorboards I’d go back
and burn for the reception morning where
my mother made us late for school because Puff Diddy’s ‘I’ll be missing you’
was playing and she had to wait till the song finished before
she could take me.
I’d burn for the night Zach came over
and we were too busy playing with Buzz and Woody
that my mum forgot to feed me that night. I’d burn for the
16 years since when I never let her forget that, despite
the fact she’s always been prepared to feed me every other day
before and after. I’d go back and burn for the Sunday afternoon’s
after church when Kwabena and Martin would invite themselves round
and we’d lose hours in Little Big Planet and Super Sunday football.
I’d gladly go back in and burn for the TV shows my mother raised me on.
for “Becker” and “3rd Rock From The Sun”. For “Fraiser”
and his “I’m listening”. For “Will and Grace” and every “Just Jack”
I’d burn for the day my mother bought us sky.
I’d burn for my childhood raised on Cartoon Network and Toon Disney.
I’d burn for “The Weekenders” and “Animaniacs”
For “Lloyd in space” and “Filmore”. I’d burn for our present.
Let the fires rip the flesh off my body for “Emmerdale” and “Doctor Who”.
For “Family Guy” and “Come Dine With Me”. I would burn
for David Lamb’s voice.
When the fire evicts us
I’d go back in and burn to try and save
every text my mum sent to me from the living room
whilst I was in my bedroom. I’d save
every “Put the kettle on” text she’d send on her way back home.
I’d fight the flames for every look of disappointment on her face
when she got home to no cup of tea.
I’d fight the fires for the first time I said
“I love you” to my ex in my bedroom. I’d go back and burn for the last time
even though I don’t remember when that was. I’d burn for the 6 months
she lived in our flat waiting for a job to magically present itself to her.
I’d burn for the Tuesday 3 months ago
where she tweeted how much she loved Mass Effect,
8 months after we’d broke up, a year and a half after I’d suggested it to her.
I always knew she’d like it.
When the house burns down, the first things I go back for won’t be
the Santa my nan knit me or my PS4 that may tax rebate paid for.
I don’t need to save my venetian masks or the 8 waistcoats in my wardrobe.
I’d just burn for memories, all the mornings when
I struggled to get out of bed. I’d burn for every moment
every raised voice, every piece of smashed cutlery I’d burn for it all.
When the house burns down, when the fire evicts us
I’d go back in, inhale the smoke, embrace the 3rd degree burns
to save my mum. Because when the house becomes ash and dust
if I save her, I’d still have a home