12 August 2019

It starts

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The vicar mentioned said it yesterday — the weather has turned autumnal. This is British autumn, which begins at the end of July and continues on in fits and starts until November or early December when Christmas takes hold. It's raining and cool in the morning, and when I set out to run even this afternoon, I could get feel it still. I ran slow and fat, after a few days of mania, induced by some phantom stress and vivid dreams, or the lack of structure of the summer holiday where I am taking annual leave, but also still working on things that seem to be coming up. A grant application kicked back for an error. A pay appeal. Dissertation drafts to comment on. I'm on holiday, but not in the way that other people manage to be on holiday, where they go away and forget about everything. There is no money this year, at least I don't think there is, so I'm playing defense still, getting mixed signals. I probably shouldn't tell anyone the newest news — it's likely to change anyway, isn't it.

I'm growing a beard in the meanwhile, to occupy my mind. As a beard and an distraction, it's not really working. There are only so many cocky men on YouTube with beautiful, flowing, long beards  and wildly divergent views on how you should or shouldn't trim your beard that you can watch. There are only so many beard oils and balms — it takes passive time and you never notice the changes day-to-day, even if you stare at yourself. Even if you trim five or six stray hairs. I finally get the energy to run and think — think about my beard and then about my pay appeal and then the climate crisis and then about the dreams I have been having, the vivid ones that I wake up from and wonder what a body is anyway.

When I eat too much, I sleep soundly and remember my dreams. I had a dream about the house in Gurnee, the one my parents sold last month. I was there alone, at the table, waiting for something and then I called my dad asking where he was, had they come home from church, were they at church and he said it's nine thirty-one and I woke up suddenly. And then last night I dreamt I had driven out to Johnsburg and my daughters were with me, and that house, the one that my body remembers, was exactly the way that it was when I was seventeen. I woke up and fell asleep again on the sofa. They say that in jail, you shouldn't try to sleep the whole time, you should keep a schedule. You should let the time serve you. You should write something. You should process something.

In Japan, in 2005, I had a John Lennon poster in my apartment in Matsuhama. I don't remember buying it or why I had felt the connection with Lennon initially, but then I was dating Yoko and I felt like it was all coming together in some storyline that had been told before. Yoko Ono was seven years older than John, too. We were in Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy exhibit in the Museum of Liverpool and that shirt, that New York City t-shirt he was wearing in that poster was there. I took a picture of it and it was raining outside, wasn't it, for a while and we had to wait for a minute for the rain to pass before we could leave.

I tell Yoko it's a sickness, when I can't stop eating, I'm sick, I don't know if it's a sickness. I want to fall asleep again — can I sleep until September and I have to get on the plane to Japan and work again, work until there is nothing to think about but work. Perhaps it's just a desire for routine. I'm an animal, I need to do the same thing or I lose my way. At least today is mostly done and I had some control. My beard got slightly longer. I ran. I went for a walk. It'll be September soon enough.

30 July 2019

The fluids, the humours


It was raining heavily when I walked up to the train station and I wondered what about this, what about the rain. You have a kind of strange phantom limb as a person who used to believe but doesn't believe anymore. Maybe Jesus will come back and sort this all out. Of course he won't, of course that was all a lie. But still. Still.

I'm revisiting my apocalyptic fears that I had as a child with the now very real presence of the deteriorating climate all around us. The flash heating of airline travel has been on my mind as the summer of bad climate news continues on and all of Europe seems to be burning up. I'm not sure what superpower will enable me to ignore this, except for a change in the weather over the weekend when it was suddenly autumn again and I felt a kind of calming that has evaded me all month. It's not like the false prophecy of the second coming where you can just say, no, it's not real, and go on with things. I want to blame it on something, on some other thing outside of me, but clearly whatever it is, it is inside of me, waking me up at all hours, and wanting to be fed, literally, with food. I'm eating all night long and I wake up thinking I can run it off. What an elaborate set of lies you can tell yourself; I will do this, this, and then this and it will be okay then.

Someone said to me, during the heat, This humidity must remind you of Malaysia, and I had to think about it. Yes, of course it did, but then, it seemed like all the worries were closer. Whatever money I had or didn't have. I was eating fried chicken in honey sauce with cashew nuts then. I had stopped running and was content to be fat. Not content, of course, what am I saying. It's funny how the way the present is changes your view of the past — that is what I said to the person asking me about Malaysia, anyway, as I looked out the window of his office at some tree. I focused on different things then, didn't I.

Now, the summer is coming and I'm supposed to go on leave. We haven't got plans, really, because we didn't have money when I needed to do the planning. I will be up every hour, one assumes, eating something and then feeling guilty and then running. It's silly, isn't it.

16 July 2019

The mother we share

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In the student accomodation at the University of Liverpool, you can pull a kind of sliding Ikea cabinet door over the window to block out the light. On the ceiling, there is what seems to be a pull-cord alarm marked 'Anxiety Alarm' without a cord. In the course of the conference, it came out that this was true of all the rooms, none of the anxiety alarms had cords. What sort of metaphor is this, I thought: they've installed an alarm, but it can't be used. When my Garmin Vivosmart+ buzzed me awake on the second day, I felt disoriented the way you do in a new place, inside this cabinet. I sweated all night because the window didn't open more than an inch, presumably so if you felt anxiety, you didn't jump. I took a piss and pulled on my trainers, and set out on a run towards Everton, where I had looked online and found a long park to run through with some stretch of road that seemed like you could go down without thinking.

The house my parents sold early this week is the house I grew up in, but that's a bit of a misnomer. I didn't grow up in any single place — we moved around a lot, I say, although that's only true in a small, un-American way. We moved a normal amount; this was the house I was a teenager in and where I went home for all of my twenties and twice now, in my thirties. The house was, by any standard, huge, much bigger than my family ever really needed. I stayed in the finished loft and had it full of guitars, and for most of high school treated like a museum to myself. I saved anything that meant anything: pictures, ticket stubs, receipts, the strings from the acoustic guitar that I had used when my band recorded our EP. I had all of my books from university for most of my twenties, but then when we were back the last time, I gave them all away in a fit of minimalism, even my Faulkner books which I regret now, though I would never read them if I had them. My grandmother died in one of the rooms. And then all the memories you can't say to anyone, the ones that you keep to yourself. I think now, if Jesus hadn't spoken to me there, if he hadn't called me to Japan that summer, what had.

After my legs warmed up and I came to the top of the hill at the park, I saw the Mersey and the port down below and suddenly I could see slave ships coming and going like a kind of tracing paper over the horizon. The past stacking up on itself. I ran past a Victorian building that had been boarded up, and in the blue light, everything was haunted. Then at the conference dinner, when I got away from the crowd for a moment and looked out, I had the same sense — who had fallen here, had been killed or beaten. How much blood was in the water, diluted after a hundred years or more now of everything circulating in and out.

It's a silly thought. Why this violence, why this memory. I was on the phone with a friend on Friday night, ecstatic to share some vague positive news. I had ordered an insufferable pizza without cheese — I clarified to the man several times I didn't want any cheese and he had to clarify it several more times to the man further back in the shop making it. I went outside and was talking and pacing and almost stumbled over what I thought was a pile of rubbish, but turned out to be a homeless man bent over and barely conscious. But this is not an emergency in Brexit Britain, not even something to note. You just think, I best not get involved, and walk away, because these tragedies are on every corner and what am I: I'm one person and I pay my taxes and this is what they, the British wanted, isn't it, and can feel marginally better about myself.

The metaphors continued: there wasn't enough vegan food and then too much. The girls are collecting toys to give to a girl they know about who's become homeless. I got back to the house on Victoria Road on Sunday and it was cool and empty — some of the children were gone, although I forget where and which ones. You eat sandwiches for eight days from conference tables and you feel disoriented and bloated. I'm not sure what to eat anymore. Am I high fat, or am I no longer thinking about calories — have I stopped making the protein cookies or do I need to start them up again. I drank more than I normally would in all that haunted darkness, but it was vegan wine and vegan ale. Local, of course, that ale. Ethically sourced. I eat an apple and sit at the dining table, waiting for the girls to start to wake up and thinking that I should meditate.

10 July 2019

When to say goodbye

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Niigata City, in northwestern Japan, is the Japanese Pittsburgh, I've said in the past. Hull, in the UK, I suppose, more accurately, a grey port city with a river and paper factories spewing smoke in a way that I was never comfortable with when I taught in the primary school across the road. I ended up in Niigata by accident, having failed as a missionary in Fukuoka City and hoping to hide for a time, to regroup and make sense of the world again and decide what it is that I wanted. Have a good time maybe, for the first time in my life. Nothing had worked out the way that I thought, and all I wanted was to disappear, buy a motorbike and make some money. Take a year or two out, and then get back to it.

When I left Niigata four years later, I was married with a one-year old baby and another child on the way that I didn't know about. We got on that ferry that pulled away from the city and I knew I would not be back, there would never be any reason to be back even though it was, by any measure, my home. The tiny 2DK apartment I had in Matsuhama outside of town — the one I rented because I could afford it and it was convenient — is a perfect metonymy for everything my life has become: accidental and random and blessed through misguided bloody mindedness. You could just see the river between the houses from the window in the second room. Yoko came to me in that apartment, and then Naomi came, just like that, without any effort, without any plan. The windows could open on three sides to let in the sea air. Everything changed so suddenly, in ten months really, but it didn't feel like that at the time. It felt like a day was a week, that we had been together for years and years and of course, whatever we did, we would be okay, because what is love but a commitment to being okay, no matter what. You say that, don't you, when you marry, when you lie to each other about what you'll do and not do. In good times and bad, sure, how bad can it get.

That was almost fifteen years ago, as I think about it. I romanticise it now, but that's just because I was reckless and me in my mid-to-late thirties admires the recklessness of me in my early-to-mid twenties, even if he was misguided and foolishly optimistic. Even if he was full of magical thinking and insecurity. That version of me didn't give a fuck. He wasn't thinking about consequences — I was twenty-three, what was the worst that could happen. My broken Japanese was a joke. We got married on a clear blue day and the windows were open because it was warm and the cicadas were out and the future, what was the future, before everything, before the melting ice shelf, before the mortgage and the visas and the children needing whatever they need. I walked to the seven-eleven to buy ice cream.

Of course, you're only twenty three for one year and then you're twenty four, and then twenty five and then and then and then. Now, the children are leaving for school and I too need to get on with things. My petty responsibilities that pay the bills, the new four hundred pound vacuum cleaner that I would have been apoplectic about even last year now seems to make perfect sense. I had to sell my motorbike at some point, the mini-cub that you kick started and went faster than it was legally allowed to go. It was fun while it lasted, but eventually the baby, the fleck, the shadow that I saw for the first time on an ultrasound monitor and took my breath away became real. I didn't even have to think about it — things become real without you doing anything. You see the face of your child and it is part your face and that sense that the world is just spinning what does it matter, ends. It counts now. I trawl through pictures from that year and see it in my eyes, the slow realisation that things have started to count.

03 July 2019

Try to forgive

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The British summer hangs on, and it’s bright and cool in the morning. I can, for the minute it takes my Garmin to find a GPS satellite, stand and enjoy it. There was more bad environmental news and I think about all the self-talk and cognitive dissonance the changing world will require of us. I have a car, how silly that is as an evolutionary coping mechanism. I want to attribute blame for things that we cannot blame anyone for. Maybe it’s Trump’s fault, or Boris Johnson, or whoever. Some rich person who doesn’t think about using plastic. Not me, the insufferable plant-based vegan who bought Quorn slices without checking if they had egg whites and then struggled for the next half hour with what to do as I walked from Sainsbury’s to Starbucks. There was no choice, it seemed, but to throw them away or eat them. I bought vegan shoes with birthday money from my in-laws, but the shoes are plastic, non-biodegradable, so I have to apologise for them too, to people that care, anyway. They’re pouring some terrible amount of concrete every minute in China, but these shoes will last for two hundred or more years and that will be my fault.

The same environmental news that had me thinking about a world without clouds and how soon it would be before the antibiotics stop working, also mentioned 2014 and I remembered that year like it had just happened, or indeed was happening now, the way the past is omnipresent when you're thirty seven and starting to feel like there's little chance things are going to change drastically for you. We had just come back to England, free from Malaysia and I was ready to be nostalgic. The weather this week, that crisp morning when it’s still a bit dry, makes me think of the Cameron Highlands and how we had gone strawberry picking and walked out into the tea fields in the mountains, whatever sweaty haze that was below us, hanging about KL, gone in a memory. And then in a month we had come back, come home to England and started the new chapter of troubles, our visa troubles, a chapter which is itself finished. What now, you wonder, what troubles now.

Mia had her birthday party, her first real one, at a trampoline park. We never really have had a proper birthday party for her, an embarrassment that came up when she was naming off potential friends to invite. I initially thought that can't be right, but I was smart enough to shut up because it must be, they told me it was. Eight partyless years — I thought about them while waiting for the late children to appear so I could shepherd them up to the trampolines. What litany of mistakes have I made as a father and husband — sure, I am holding my daughter's purse and phone now, but what things have I failed to notice, what things have been wanted that I didn't provide. The party clipped on, and the kids were happy with the junk food served to them by a tired twenty-something woman who didn't seem bothered by the copious amount of wasted plastic we generated. Like that, the eight partyless years faded into memory — I bought slushies for whoever wanted them and offered leftover sandwiches to the parents standing on the edge and watching.

In their grace, the girls seem blissfully unaware of my failings so far, although they do occasionally call me out for my constant swearing and furrowed brow. One assumes that they have noticed something, that they’ve encoded all of this stress deep within their psyche, the way I have vague memories of my father being upset, but I can't remember when or about what. I can hear my irritated sarcastic comments in their British voices sometimes, like some developing polaroid of myself.

Of course, you need to keep your expectations in line. What’s a manageable goal. What responsibilities do we have. The Garmin catches its satellite and buzzes that it’s ready. How silly, next to this car, I have a machine that I tell where I am going so that it will then tell me how fast I’ve gone there. How silly that I run in circles and circles because I’m afraid I ate too much. How silly to have plastic vegan shoes so that some animal, somewhere might not suffer. I ate the vegetarian Quorn slices with the egg whites in them and tried to forgive myself. Can this chapter be about forgiveness, can we do it all again from the beginning. You could wind back in the tape, like a cassette and a pencil. Of course, that assumes some beginning, doesn’t it. Before everything, before the children and the news about the ice shelf melting. I’m waiting for you, anyway, out by the garden, because it’s sunny now and they have the windows open.

17 June 2019

Thirty four


Saturday, the mania high water mark finally came. I had been planning to wait until Monday to see if I had erased the visa stress eating four kilograms, the weight for which I blamed the Home Office and every unsympathetic person I have met over the last five years who didn’t know what their country had put my little family through. Four kilograms was nothing, not even real weight, but if we don’t have metrics, we don’t have anything. My plan to wait until Monday made sense on paper, but then it didn’t and when I got up at 2AM on Saturday, I was too tempted. I stripped down naked to climb on the scale and stop it all. And there is was, the Japanese algorithm from this scale we’ve dragged with us from country to country, telling me that I was thirty-four years old, in terms of the metrics. This doesn’t feel good, I thought, looking down at the number. It doesn’t feel like anything. I got dressed again and put the scale back and went up again to bed for another couple of hours. There it is, I guess. I guess now I can go back to being normal.

Father’s Day I got up to run, but was immediately distracted — made coffee and meditated and procrastinated. I looked online at things and scrolled endlessly until I finally realised I needed to go now, right now, or it wouldn’t happen. It had not been raining and I felt good, as good as I have anyway. My body being light and aged only thirty four years, in terms of the metrics, I put on the 180 beats per minute running track list and went to a little loop up by the hospital where you can run one kilometre, going down an incline and then up a hill. Around and around, my Garmin GPS watch buzzing off the pace on each kilometre. I went eight and then nine and then ten and thought, I should do a half marathon one of these days, now that I am thin again and eleven buzzed and then twelve and then thirteen and I kept going.

Mei and Yoko were waiting for me at the door with a handmade card, and I was drenched with sweat. The card opened with a little cut-out for me, with my beard and glasses, but smiling. Mei had written ‘Vegan’ in the corner with a slab of meat crossed out, and I thought, yes, this is what I am now, this is what everything is revolving around. I showered and Naomi and I walked to church together. We sang some hymns I didn't know, but it didn't matter and I felt ill about halfway through the service and realised my body was weaker from the run than I thought even though it only was thirty four. The service ended and we had tea then the girls and I and Yoko went to town to have coffee and celebrate.

In ten days, I will be thirty seven, but that doesn’t matter because your age is just a number. Your weight is also just a number. Everything, it turns out, is just a number. I woke up at four AM and it was just a number. I showered and put on my sport coat to go to London for the day. The sun had come up and the rain had stopped again.

14 June 2019

More than you want

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The rain keeps up for the fifth or sixth day now and I think I've finally adapted. I can't write. I can't sleep. I keep waking in ninety minute intervals, ready to eat, ready to do something, first at one and then at two thirty. I act like I don't know what it is that's keeping me up, but I do know of course; I'm not eating enough to cover my running. I'm obsessive and then eat too much and then too little and then it's high fat then it's calorie maintenance then it's something else and I can't control it. Or I can control it too much, too carefully. I wake up and look myself in the mirror, look at the beard I'm growing and tell myself to be normal, you can be normal. You'll be thirty seven in thirteen days. Be normal, stop being whatever this is.

A student, one of my favourite students from a few years ago, was in campus and we chatted about the last couple of months and what he was doing. He was eating something which he offered me, and I didn't know what to say: No, not for any number of reasons, but thank you for offering. We walked together and I gave some advice about life plans, what another degree is worth in the grand scheme of things. We said goodbye at the top of the stairs and I went on to the next meeting, but I was happy the conversation had steered clear of animals and climate change and how tired I look — good, that's not what I'm here for anyway.

In thirteen days, I will be thirty seven. Every year you live, your life expectancy increases and even though I feel old, what an insufferable kind of old thirty seven will be. I will be young again when I'm forty, but until then I will just be getting older and older. My parents sent me a tracksuit, and I grew a beard — it's incongruity all the way down. You need someone you trust and love enough to say to you, Stop. Just stop. I wake up and eat again and have more coffee and meditate until everyone wakes up and the excruciating television show of the moment is turned on and off in the other room. I let the cat out and go back to my work, these two paragraphs I'm revising that I can't quite get right about how people avoid talking about the things that matter. Stare at a map of Tokyo trying to make plans for my autumn when I'll break free again, the guilt of however many kilograms of CO2 my flight will produce hanging over me like a judgement.

Instead, I'm just running and running. Running faster than I have before, with a metronome in my ear 178 beats per minute or 184 beats per minute like the trail is a treadmill and there are not hills. I got new shoes and ran so much they don't look new after fourteen days. I have a metric for that, the app will tell me how many  kilometers they've taken me if I look: there it is, 143.3 and I'll do another seven this afternoon. The rain stopped me a day or two and I found myself wandering around the house after I had proofread the pages I needed to and stood in my pyjamas looking out at Victoria Road, the water rushing down and thinking about the impending climate disasters that we rightly hear about now. Where are my children. Are they out in this.

Of course they are. The world has not stopped spinning, has it, all the concerns about net zero emissions and at what point we say the rain has become a part of a climate crisis and not just the rain, not just another day of rain. I don't know. I bought a new phone and felt guilty. I ordered something and it came in plastic and I felt guilty. I ran home and ate beans and curry. Waited to fall asleep and then wake up again.

07 June 2019

Home


My accent can create a kind of fishing expedition, with whomever it is I’m talking to, eager to tell me something about themselves, about where they have been in the States or their aunt or cousin living in Boston. I don't have patience for this like I should — when people ask me where I'm from, I will say I have lived in the UK for ten years and when their face drops and you can see they are searching for that phrase they know they should say 'Yeah, but where are you really from' I will throw them a bone and say, ‘But I grew up in Chicago.’ This is a demonstrable lie to anyone who knows anything about me or Chicago, but it’s close enough for British ears, something that perks the asker back up, the exotic Windy City, whatever that entails for you.

For me, Chicago, or Gurnee rather, the real place I grew up in the suburbs, is sort of embarrassing. It’s a town known for a rollercoaster and mall, if I’m being honest, and if I'm really being honest, I grew up in several places, in Texas and in Minnesota, and I was actually born in North Carolina, but this sort of story loses people around Minnesota, so I try to avoid getting further into the specifics. 

And now my parents are in the process of selling our home in Gurnee. After that, I will be from nowhere. I knew this was coming and now it has come and there's a final day. I could go back, but of course now, I have my family, and the children and work and so many other things to think about. I get asked how I feel — I don't feel anything, do I. What memories come up — nothing I can say to anyone, nothing I can write about while we're all still alive. It would implicate too many people. So that's that, isn't it. I hang up the phone, one of the kids needs something, I can hear them.

I can't sleep, or rather, I can't sleep as long as I think I should. I wake up because the sun is up and I think back to last year when I was in Sweden and the sun never seemed to come down and you could sleep with the window open, waiting for some number on the digital clock so I could go out and run around the lakes, have a big breakfast and try to stay awake the rest of the day.

There's so much to be done, isn't there. I open my eyes and and it's 4:27, too early to get up, too late to go back to sleep. What does one do. I wander downstairs and stack dishes or wash them. Meditate. Turn on the computer. Burn some candles and wait for the rest of everyone to wake up.

12 May 2019

Protection

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Mei's tenth birthday party went off without a hitch, Yoko busy in the kitchen for the day and me standing around awkwardly cleaning or proofreading a chapter or staring at my phone. The girls came in like a whirlwind and ate and laughed and shouted, and I, in a lapse in judgement, told this story of a time when we, my brother and father and I and some other men, drove out on a Friday night into the New Mexican desert, towards the Florida Mountains, on the edge of Mexico, and found a place to camp at the foot of one of them. The story was about how cold it gets at night, even in the desert, but when you were packed in together, you can be warm. We slept under the stars, I said, and one of the girls piped up to ask, what if it rained and the other one said, it's the desert.

I remember this story in the way you remember weird things floating inside of your library of memories. Things you are fairly sure actually happened, but who really knows. I'm sure it did and now, looking on the Internet, I can see the names of the mountains that I didn't know and road we must have taken. I can see, although I never thought of it, that our house faced west. But I don't remember who exactly had gone. It must have been the church and Dennis Powers, the scholar in our lives, the geologist that my dad respected even though Dr Powers knew the earth was not ten thousand years old, must have brought us there. This would have been around the time of Promise Keepers. It was all men, there were no women. We ate a lot of meat, I'm sure, and pancakes in the morning, the food all packed in thick plastic Igloo coolers. Again, I don't remember this exactly. I remember sleeping under the stars and feeling safe as you do as a child, surrounded by men to protect you. Something deep in our subconscious where all embodied metaphors come from. 

The girls listened to the story and then decided they wanted to sleep outside in the tent I'd pitched earlier, which hadn't been the plan. They started shuttling things out to the garden, and I was sent out back to the tent to dissuade them, although of course at this point I couldn't. They would wear coats, they said, it would be fine. When the night came though, I suddenly thought about the time we had been broken into, and the stabbing, but as they watched Britain's Got Talent on the flat screen TV, giggling and eating popcorn on the sofa and blankets on the floor, I fell asleep watching Goodfellas in my bed. The time came for them to camp out and they stomped through the house full of giddy energy, and I went out to tell them to be quiet and sleep. I said I would sleep on the sofa, but then Yoko took the blanket and did instead, like the mother bear, the tiger with the cubs, the light on in the living room. 

At 4, I woke for the day, my own giddy energy for marking and running and writing, and sent Yoko back to bed, waiting in the grey light, trying to meditate and thinking about care. That morning in the desert, we had packed up as it got warm and I took off my hoodie and was in shirt sleeves in the sun and we drove back east to El Paso. We must have, I don't remember it. I remember those mountains, always in the distance then, when the thunderstorms would come. In the night, I stir — my daughter in the other room is screaming in her sleep like I do sometimes. I think I might wake her, but I stay in bed, waiting, wondering if it will pass.

11 May 2019

Work until you die

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There was a stabbing in Harborne, just on Tennal Road over the hill from the house on Victoria Road. It was a Wednesday night, and Yoko had been out walking. A neighbour dropped off Mei and we heard the sounds of the police, but didn't know what had happened. They cordoned off the road and the Birmingham Mail published pictures of women standing in the street with their faces in their hands, crying. I ran up the street the next weekend and there were balloons and pictures and flowers and I thought, yes, this is the place you would knife someone — the pavement narrows here and there's nowhere to run. The boys must have known each other and we, the British middle class say all the things we can to avoid talking about race and class. We talk about the estate over the road. We talk about how old the kid was — they were just kids. I'm not really worried, of course not, but the girls should be careful walking to and from school.

Then there was a hit and run on our street, someone plowed into a neighbour and sped off, this on a bright Sunday afternoon. Everyone stands around in disbelief, this is a thing that happens apparently, and you wonder if you should add now to that point, am I that age, the age where I talk about how things have changed and gotten worse. I blame Brexit, of course, the lack attention of the government to the things that really matter. The rich are getting richer, but so am I, that's the thing, the house values have gone up, and we don't see them going down. We all stand outside, hands on hips, shaking our heads.

I'm still just thirty-six. I went to the doctor because I hadn't been in years and having given my obsessions over to the plant-based diet, I've worried that the liars who lie to you about meat and diary might secretly be right. The GP, a woman who must have been my age, asked why I was there and I sputtered through some things, about being vegan and obsessive and having this lump on my leg. She looked at it, have negotiating my consent to touch it and then came around to getting a blood test. I had blood drawn and walked back the next Monday, worried that my B12, the dreaded B12, would be down, but it wasn't. I was in perfect health, astonishingly good cholesterol. Liver and kidney, normal. No diabetes. Blood pressure was great, pulse outstanding. Just slightly low iron stores from giving blood, but I could top those up with iron pills for a month or two. I was fine, of course, no cause for any concern.

I thanked her and left disappointed in the way you are when you think you're missing something but you aren't. Being deficient would have been convenient, wouldn't it, I could then eat something and feel better. It turns out I'm eating whatever I'm supposed to, that death is still a long way off, and I have to keep up for everyone that depends on me. That boy who was confronted by the other one with the knife, thrown over into the luminous void without a second to reflect. I've lived twice as long as he did. What do I have to show for it. Yoko says cancer is not a bad way to die. It's like going into the bath, slowly letting yourself down into the water. I think, yes, I will put on my backpack now and head out like a child to Europe to search for whatever it is I'm missing. It's not B12, apparently.

The weather changed and then changed back and I woke up this morning to put up the tent for Mei's birthday party. I did it barefoot and came inside realising my feet had gone numb in the grass. The sun is up though and it will warm over the morning. Maybe I will go for a run before the party or maybe I won't, thinking that my body is so tired still and I'm not sleeping well with all the things on my mind — sure, the stabbing, but then there is everything else, the other raft of middle class white male problems. Existential ones, but only in a metaphorical way, stupid ones. My daughters barrelling towards adulthood. A marriage that is a diary filled with things the children need to do. Reflection on life like going through things for the recycling. It's unremarkable. It all ends up in the same place, doesn't it — you wheel the rubbish bin to be picked up the next morning. You shut off the lights and go to bed.
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