dying to be someone

by uzwi

Competent or not, the other four-year-olds were aggressively in charge of themselves: they did up their own coats. I let an adult do mine, so I could remain preoccupied by the colour of the buttons. At eight, I was staring into ponds, bemused by the way there seemed to be more clarity in the water than in the air. I became lodged in the moment and found it hard to move from one state to the next. By eleven I could imagine myself grown up, but only as someone who, reaching some undefined gate-level, had flipped into a completely novel state. Adulthood would happen to me, but not because of me. Unlike my friends I had put in place no strategy. Meanwhile, my parents and teachers were panicking. I was perfectly intelligent but if I carried on not connecting I would end up digging ditches. I reacted to that as an imposition. Arriving in their eighteenth year, no one could have been angrier, more confused or more directionless. One Sunday afternoon I stood at the side of the Lutterworth Road in the rain and stuck out my thumb. I was facing north. In two hours not a single vehicle stopped, but as soon as I crossed the road and faced back the way I had come, they were queuing up to take me home. I was relieved. I got a job in a hunting stable a few miles up the A5. Seven pounds a week. Shovelling shit was the nearest thing I could find to digging those ditches. With my first pay I bought objects I hoped would define me. A Dutch blanket, an ashtray with horses on it; a Ronson cigarette lighter. I was dying to be someone but I didn’t know how.

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