By Dave Schofield
Association: Words we used, things we know.
The city smelt of cooked apple stewed with sugar. Beautiful but too greasy to be homely, my stomach rumbled. I couldn’t tell where the smell was coming from but hungry crowds were wafted in the streets. Manchester with grey skies above, as usual.
The train in had felt like a hospital visit. The man in the corner had slept noisily and we all silently listened to his deep breathing hoping not to disturb him. Now I was aware of the sudden noise, the rush.
Oxford Road – full of freshers pushing and hurrying. A long line of Asian men strung out for miles wearing sandwich boards for pizza places. I fought through towards the art gallery, on and off the pavement, car horns and bike bells. Nightclub advertisements, takeaway menus. I remember loving being a student, but now they make me nervous as they play-fight and flirt. People run out into the roads laughing. Zigzagging buses and taxis with the screams of victory and near misses. I smile at one of the pizza-board men and he raises his eyebrows as if to say What do you think? I’m embarrassed for him as teenagers knock his cap off and play his sandwich board like tom-tom drums.
In the gallery they’re between exhibitions and all that’s available is the drawers of William Morris prints and a few boring wall hangings. I collapse into the cafe and use my coffee as an excuse to sit and read.
I can feel the distance behind me – my history – getting larger in moments like these. Times where my memory fizzes with all the days that have passed. I know I am old because my history is no longer a blackboard scribbled all over with events and people that I can appraise. Now it is like the space under my bed, filled with dusty photos, old novels, address books and lost socks. I have to really root around and sometimes I don’t find what I’m looking for. I feel old when people can remind me of things I had completely forgotten. That, and the experience of walking the length of Oxford Road twice on freshers week and not being handed a single flyer.