17 April 2019

Running fast

Naomi and Norte Dame

Settled for over a month, the phantom ache of impending judgment is gone, now some medical metaphor: a gap you tongue in your mouth where an abscessed tooth has been removed. I gave blood on Thursday after writing all morning and then went to look at an apartment to buy, a second property, on a whim, because I have convinced myself I need some passive income, what with the children and eventual costs of universities and travels abroad. I didn't have the money I needed, short almost the exact amount I had lost to my visa. I left the office feeling unhappy, but the sun was shining and there was nowhere to be, and I sat in Rep Theatre sending some emails and thinking about cycling home.

To run fast, you need to try to run fast. This is a tautology. If you are running, you can run faster if you just do. I realised this one year, in Kent, when I was running in the forest and I was alone and bored. I just ran as fast as I could, and I ran faster. Now, finally, after the change in the time, the sun is coming up earlier and staying out later and I can run outside again. I gave up on the shoes I bought in the autumn that had been hurting my feet and went back to the shoes I've had for 16 months now and are getting close to having two thousand kilometers on them, but they fit perfectly and I can go run my 10k as fast as I can. I say as fast as I can, but the first kilometer is still too slow. I say to myself that I won't run the first kilometer for speed, but then I do. I say I won't start sprinting at some point in the eighth kilometer, but then I do. I say I won't pay attention to my heart rate and then I do, I get it at 150 and then I just watch it for a minute or two minutes or ten. And I am back running wherever it was that I am remembering running. Finland last year, wasn't it, or Chicago or wherever.

We were in London on Monday, pin-balling over from Regent Street to Soho, so Naomi could use the Hamley's voucher she'd won in a photo contest. We had bibimbap at a Korean shop near Soho Square Gardens and then went through to some place over by Covent Garden, a shop with two white British otaku selling Japanese and Korean kitsch. The kids were overjoyed over it all, thumbing through things you could never get anywhere else and telling me how much cheaper everything was in Japan and I stood there bemused and awful, thinking about how none of this was really Japanese, was it, this false otaku national narrative about a country no one has ever been to, but I have, I've been there, I wanted to say. It's nothing like this. It's drunk salarymen, and ramen, and packed trains. And old women hunched over in rice paddies that look up when you ride your bicycle by them. No one goes to maid cafes.

There was a climate change protest that we walked through and I felt the same sort of cynicism about the hare krishnas and the hipsters and thinking that we had no chance because people who looked like my dad weren't out there yet, and then hating myself for being cynical and embarrassed by something I actually believe, particularly after the vicar for St Peters, Father Graeme had, on Sunday morning when we went from the cricket ground to the church singing some Palm Sunday Hymn, implored us to not be embarrassed. I thought to myself, what's there to be embarrassed about, this is the national religion in the most middle class of white suburbs in the city. Are we afraid of the smirking atheist, walking by and judging us. I'm right here, I wanted to say, I've given up, nothing can touch us any more.

But the girls spent their pocket money and they were buzzing and I too caught the buzz, the sort of happiness you feel when your children are happy and we made our way to the National Gallery to sprint through the way you do when you have children they have grown tired. I saw the Pissarro's 'The Boulevard Montmartre at Night' and Mei told Yoko and me about Delaroche's 'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' which she knew an impressive amount about and I stood there in front of it, thinking of how much can change in just nine days, Lady Jane Grey's hand looking like it is reaching for the cutting block to stabilise her, the Lieutenant guiding her, the description says, using that verb guide.

It's like that isn't it, all the things your children come to know that you don't know. On the underground, they seemed more capable than they have in the past, but you still can see on their faces how big the city is for small people. I can now see them as they are in the future, living down there and me as their father visiting them with the phantom memories of what I thought was my present now have become my past. I used to work here, I think, it seems like last year but it was ten years ago, when climate change was happening in hundreds of years, not now. The same autumn we went to Paris the first time, and were in that Pizza Express on Quai St Michel and I was taking those pictures of Naomi. I was there with my sister then that next year, wasn't I, we had kebabs on the Seine, down on the concrete, and then with my brother this summer, when we just walked and walked and walked. I look up on the Bakerloo line and tell them, this is our stop. How do I know it is. I just do. I was here once, I think. Some memory is just on the edge.
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