Monday, January 09, 2006


'... the group split up, but we still went ahead with the plan. We travelled in Brazil for almost a year. Doing theatre with kids, working in exchange for food and a place to sleep. And then I came back here, D went to live in the house inVauxhall Grove... but why am I telling you all this?' we were standing in the kitchen after dinner. She was washing the dishes, I was putting things in place.
'It's good to hear people's history' I said. 'Somehow it never happens. It's rare to hear someone talk about their life before they came to London. Life here is so much in the present. Especially when you're squatting, there's a sense of NOW stronger than I experienced anywhere else. It's almost like you're outside time.'
'I know' she said, her eyes twinkling as she smiled 'I love it'.
I've known her for three years but never heard her talk about her past.
'I absolutely love it' she said again. 'It's liberating'.
I knew what she meant. I never believed in the possiblity of transformation before I came here. I thought I was stuck with myself for good. Redemption, or reinvention, were terms I was very cynical about. I still am. But after four months here I had to admit that it was happening to me. I was changing. I was losing my old clothes, one by one, and finding new ones in unexpected places.

Me: 'I like the way age doesn't seem to exist, or to matter that much. Not like in normal life, where your age says where you should be in life and how you should behave.' Here's is a scene that happened to me a few times in London: a name comes up in the conversation. And someone asks: 'how old is she?' the answer is - always - 'our age'. But what is our age? 27? 33? 22? my housemates were always of different ages, and I never knew - or thought to ask - how old exactly they were.

'For me it's about education' she said, dipping the mug carefully in the sink, rinsing it slowly in the water. 'In Spain, your background, your formal education, matters to people so much. It sets your place in life. It was a big thing for me to break free of that.'

The last day of that weekend in Vauxhall, three years ago. Eviction day, hand-the-key to the council day. S and me making breakfast for everyone. She made it just in time, coming back from Spain. She took out from her bag two skeletal dolls, their limbs pale and alongated, their effaced faces hard with mutates' sadness. (That weekend changed my life: Jason playing Fisherspooner to us in his room; the dress-up room and kissing booth; the posters in the bike room; the smell of wood and incense in the bathroom; blu's dreads catching fire from the candles; S and me helping Jason move his stuff on a wheelbarrow to the Funeral Parlour).

She spent the night at ours. Next morning I was in the kitchen when she woke up. She kissed me good morning, and made herself a cup of tea.
'By the way' she said 'how old are you?'
'I'm 32. How old are you?'
'I'm 38.'

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I'm 41...does that mean I'm too old for you ;)