In a funk, refusing to think as the world has dragged you down so deep into a fug that you ain’t ever getting back up and out of it. But there it is, on the building.
And you laugh ‘cos you are no longer a kid and the kids are around you looking at it all as if it is wonder as if it is splendour and you’d have thought them imbecilic even back then when you were a kid, but in your defence you always felt guilty about such misaligned thoughts.
You feel old with arthritis in your joints but you are not old and you know you are not old but you are not young either; not like these kids around you… these undergraduates but nor are they young like your children, like your babies who you know are missing you and you try to remember that this is not a selfish thing, but you know it ain’t exactly selfless either and that is OK.
And the wall art, not even street art, is safe and neat and philosophical and you like it in spite of yourself, in spite of the grump you want to be. It makes you gooey inside and you strive to be like all the others and you see the flower and you think of Mulan and dressing as a guy and the baseball cap and padded shirts from your youth and you hate the hipsters for stealing it all and making it expensive and you hate the hipster haters for hating on others for expressing themselves and you feel refreshed; but somehow washed out.
They say the flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all and there was a legend about dragons hidden in a room and there is a dragon and it’s supposed to mean stuff but it doesn’t it’s all just mind games and the same thoughts keep skipping through your brain in a loop that is tangled.
There is a chain, they’ve chained the dragon like they’ve chained your mind and the soul can’t help but follow the mind and the body you are pretty sure has been eaten by the damn dragon that started all this in the first place.
And then it gets real mythic and possibly even mystic and you spot gods hidden amongst it all as if waiting as if preying on the would be prey-ers, you know what these gods are up to but you dare not step in their way to stop them from plaguing the Freshers and transfer students because everyone needs to be shook up by a god when they start university. But Zeus, dude, where have your eyes gone?
Seriously not the ravens again – wrong mythos, honest!
And then he appears, blue and true and a mix of it all, a laughing Buddha, not a reclining Buddha, not the one you have in your head but the one you were given a statue of on your wedding day, the one that sits on the shelf of computing books, the one with all the kids. The red statue the toddler kisses announcing it’s a nanny baby because it looks like her nanny covered in babies and you’ve explained and explained but she’s never going to get it.
And you hope that means Karma is going to kick some arse but then you hesitate and wonder if it is you who has got all the myths and legends and religions and philosophies mixed because you know they are all pretty much mirrors and copies of each other, a mash of ideas and collection of ideals, they are all overlapped and entwined and twisted around and through. An Endless mess just waiting for an unpicker, and dreading a hack.
But then you look on it all in its glorious fusion and you think UNITY and you find UNITY written on the walls and unity might well be the words of a prophet but you can’t quite recall which one and the way you were going is blocked and marred by those smoking tobacco mixes you dare not inhale because babies grow in you and they do so unminded and you don’t want the contam.
And you know the hostility you face if you whisper your needs and the gratefulness you felt at the smoking ban and how it meant you didn’t have to give up work; not because of the baby but because you couldn’t breath with the foulness before the baby let itself be known.
And the hostility is stupid, no one listens to what you say let alone gets what you mean… I mean… they… they think you want it all banned and taken away and harsh penalties when you don’t. You ache inside from the pain of misunderstanding because banning things never makes it better it just drives it under ground and prohibition happens and everyone’s a criminal and the gangsters rule.
Illegal is cool and you are left between two warring groups, a drugs war, a war that leaves the vulnerable lost and the rich still get richer and it’s like killing the caged bird but the pictures – the neat safe pictures, the clean not quite true picture; they saw a bird saving the caged birds. Saving their little silhouetted backsides, flocking together. But who feathers whose nest and are they going to fly away? In the same direction?
Only time can tell and it is ticking ticking an irregular beat, a torture hell that time that changes the reference frame. The wild kids you knew the ones that said you were staid and old for your days – those wild kids… they are grey and middle aged, not in years but their minds have frazzled to a halt and they become the things they dreaded in their youth – the moaners, the whiners, the youths-aren’t-good-enoughers.
Now they say to you “grow up” and frown at your zest for life like somehow having kids is supposed to rob you of individuality, of your sexuality or your identity and that only the withered husk of Mum is left and you know that isn’t true because you have always been just you. But you were never right for them and they make you feel… they make you seem… they make a case that you are the bad parent with your lack of repression and with their rose tinted glasses they conveniently forget all they were and the stuff that they have done and that you are not wild but to their eyes you are wild; and only in their eyes because they have become so afraid.
And that fear makes them grip their little ones too harshly to their breasts and hide away from anything that does not conform and they want the child to be a moulded model and the child is not. The child is not a mini them, your babies are not mini yous and you’ve always known that, you want to see who they are as people but that makes you… not a Waitrose shopper, with pretension oozing, remember you are not losing and they… they can not have the perfection they seem to expect; and the downfall will hurt them.
Because fear is a mind killer, and they are so very very afraid, and they hide all that is good of themselves to become bland and nothing and to not DRAW attention.
They can never be.
And all these thoughts drop from your mind as you wonder if you are going to make that assessment deadline and realise you have no drive, np push, because it is not as important as it once was and actually you planned it lots and maybe if you just barge through the smokers you can drop it off and it will all be good and you can nap in the bar in the comfy seats with the football blaring and the chips being over greased and wait for your friend to take you to the postgrad lounge for proper coffee or, in your case, decaf and you can think and talk about the future and as you pass them… the smokers – you see the non-smoking sign behind them and smile whilst not breathing and wonder if they know they stink and know that they do know and recall the bullying over that stench and how your parents tried so hard to quit because of your chest… and how your roommates were shits and didn’t care and smoked the smokes and smoked them like chimneys until you ended up having to use the damn wheezy pump and then antibiotics for the infections that followed and the eye drops for the eye infections and you think on the smoking hut that the youth club used to have and how that had worked really well… you didn’t have to go in and they could smoke and everyone was happy except some stuck up prissies who reckoned it would drag their kids down, when their kids stole and boozed and did drugs that the kids at the youth club couldn’t hope to afford.
And you see the queen with her nose turned up – there on the wall, the ancient ruler with an apparent duck on her head and you wonder “does she know?” and you smile at the thought of her saying “what duck?” and everyone going along with the delusion and you look around at the kids who are rushing past thinking this is life or death…. this exam this test this assignment is everything when it is not because you’ve faced death and you know what it was like to stare into the universal void but you concede they do not. And they probably wouldn’t get the reference either.
Once you did not know and so we must have patience and then you spot him smirking at the lesson you have learned and you feel like punching him except he’s a pacifist and… a brick wall.
And then it is done.
Handed in, finished and it was weird because you found in the queue you were full of the nervous tension of the kids around you, you did care you just thought you didn’t. And your heart sinks – for you realise that though you do not fit in this world of too shiny and safe and new, of youth learning, you do fit here more than you fit pretty much anywhere else except perhaps with your husband.
You feel light headed and go to see the ducks on the green just to get some fresh air as the weight of those left behind; those who had the talent but could not follow – those you left in the other world of non-uni, of working class working hard not smart, of slow deaths from industrial poison and all the rest of it – yeah, that.
A lot of them would have belonged here more than you, but they never got the chance, and you’ve seen both sides of the divide; this safe neat street art and the raw grit of graffiti with its prison time, and it is your two worlds or at least a subset of your worlds, and they try and war with each other but you need them to make peace and you say hi to the ducks, your back is hurting and your walking stick is out because your body broke making life and people laugh at you and your funny gait and you don’t care because you’ve found a bench.
It says “The Personal is Political” and you think “It has a point” and that is the starting point for your last assignment.