05 July 2015

33, the year they killed Jesus

 On Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I turned 33: this was, as Google reminded me, the year that Jesus was killed. I was in Chichester for a conference on the use of the Bible in contemporary culture, and got up early to run. I run every birthday, as a kind of antidote to getting older. I feel compelled to run further than I normally would. This year was no exception. I headed out right after 5 and ran along the walls of the city, and then to the canal and then straight, further and further up the canal until I had run further than I did the morning before and I kept going and going.

 I gave a talk at this conference that morning – a talk based on an article I have finished, but I did a remarkably small amount of preparation. Made my slides and got up and talked and left. It was my birthday, after all.

 I don’t like to get on about years being good markers of time in life: what is a year anyway. Still, thirty-two was one of the hardest, in many ways. The year, if I’m honest with myself, I almost gave up. I’m not sure what giving up would have entailed precisely, but I felt the urge that you do sometimes as a family man in this culture with these people around you, like you could just walk away and it would solve all your problems. No one to argue with, no one to need, but not want you. You scan studio apartments online. The problem with these fantasies is, of course, their lack of a clear conclusion. One leaves. Then what. This isn't 1957. No one just leaves anymore.

 Instead, I spent the year like a coward, just getting up and going. I lost and then gained weight. My book came out. Yoko’s dad came for a month and Yoko and I stopped talking to each other entirely. The perfect Japanese marriage: there was nothing to say anyway. The girls had birthdays and I ate and ate.

 On the trip to Chichester, I found and read my journal on my computer from when I met Yoko and that year, 2005, when we fell in love and then in 2006 when we got engaged and then married and then Naomi came. It just all happened, suddenly. I was single and wandering and then, 12 months later, I was married and Naomi was percolating up: not Naomi then, of course, the baby, the fleck of baby. In one year, I managed to accidentally decimate my adolescence, while the world went on drinking and fornicating and spending money. When Naomi came and I held her for the first time, you can see in the pictures that whatever I had been that time the year before was gone.

This is the first thing I have written about Yoko, on 16 June 2005:

Also, tonight, I had the most fabulous time with Yoko and Ben and Yui. Yoko, she is a really fabulous person. I really enjoy being with her.

You think sometimes of the past as a kind of retreat: if we could go back to that, we would be okay again, but of course, re-reading what I had written makes it clear that you can’t got back in time to something you aren’t anymore. Who is this guy anyway, and this woman he was falling in love with.

 No, of course, this is not possible. Yoko’s dad left and I stopped eating cheese and bread and cake and drinking whisky. I started counting out almonds for breakfast, the sort of obsessive behaviour that is the inverse of the fat version of me. I’ve been running and jumping rope and going to bed hungry, all the signs pointing to a return to the person I want to be. Yoko and I had a date, and afterwards, stood in the Milan Sweet Centre on Stoney Lane. We held hands and a lesbian couple in front of us ordered, the sort of odd marriage that Birmingham is, where the Muslim man calls the lesbian woman my love and nobody seems to care what anyone believes or does, at least on the face of it. We cut through a supermarket with spices in burlap sacks on the ground and notice as we drive out, the exact place where gentrification line has been drawn. We sit in a cafe with each other, drinking flat whites, watching the world go by, talking about the kids. In 15 years, we will wear flip-flops and walk to the beach in the South of France. We promise each other. Now there are kids to tend to and swimming lessons. But the arc of the future is long and there is more coming.