A conversation with my younger self

I’m sitting in my car, already parked. I would get out, but a song is still blasting it’s way out of my speakers and I’m in the zone. I’m not going to leave this song unfinished, and I have time to sit for a while. It’s one of those small moments of peace that I cherish so much, a moment before the frantic rush that is my day continues. Sunlight is streaming through the window, a long gash which is splitting me from the passenger seat, and I’m completely alone.

At least, that’s what I think until the snort from the seat next to me proves me wrong.

With a jump, I turn and stare at whoever has somehow managed to sneak into my car without me noticing. She’s staring deliberately away from me, and her eyes seem to be held in a continual upwards roll. She’s got bushy hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, bright blue braces trying to push themselves out of her mouth, and barely blended concealer over what are obviously teenage spots. 1918831_1294463046731_6083115_n

The girl sitting next to me in the car is me at 13 years old, and I’m pretty alarmed to be having to share the front seat with her.

I pull out my phone, my fingers hovering over the dial button, wondering who I could call. I’m unsure of the solution, but she makes her derision clear as she snorts again. I turn to stare at her, shocked at the noises she’s letting herself make.

‘You caved. Of course you did.’ she says, uttering the first words of this bizarre experience.

‘I’m sorry?’ I reply, trying to get over the feeling that I’m listening to a 7 year old tape recording.

She nods towards my phone. ‘I can’t believe you let us actually gave up your sony ericsson for  that.’

I look down at my iPhone, suddenly realising. ‘Oh, well, I mean…it’s a good phone. Android wasn’t really cutting it for me any more.’

She rolls her eyes again. ‘And what is this awful sound you’re listening to?’

Something in me plunges to the floor. Even at this stage of my life I’m a little ashamed to admit what I was listening to, and I know exactly what my 13 year old self’s reaction to this will be. I don’t answer. She picks up the iPod and drops it, apparently in shock.

She closes her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. She seems to take calming breaths. ‘Justin Bieber?’ she finally lets out. ‘You were listening to Justin Bieber? And enjoying it?’

‘I’m sorry – ‘ I say.

‘It’s too late!’ she exclaims. ‘What happened to thebandwithnoname, to Fall Out Boy, to My Chemical Romance!‘.

I remain silent. She knows what happened to them.

‘And let’s not even get started on what you look like. How much makeup are you wearing?’ she demands.

I decide my best tactic at the moment is to remain silent. I remember that at 13 makeup was the enemy. Concealer was a necessity, but only if it was from natural collection, and even then it must be used with a minimalistic attitude.

‘Okay,’ she seems to be consoling herself, ‘Okay, there must be something good here. What do you like…do?’

I smile, knowing this will please her. ‘I’m studying English with Journalism and Creative Writing.’

‘For real?’ she replies. ‘You’re serious?’

I nod, pleased to have found something that satisfies my younger self.

‘And you write actual, original stories?’

‘Yes,’ I say.

She seems to be building up to something, her excitement making her flap her hands. I have to dodge them, nervous about getting my face smacked. Finally, she lets out what she’s been building up to: ‘Oh my gosh, you could write the next Twilight!’

I sigh. Here we are. One of my biggest childhood regrets. Do I leave the topic? Do I broach it? I close my eyes, count to ten, and prepare myself for the coming battle.

‘Listen, about that – ‘

 

An Early Morning Ramble

I slam the door and then regret it, knowing I’ve not just broken but shattered the quiet that was both inside and out the house. It’s still dark out here, but I can see a faint gradient on the skyline, an ombre of different shades of dark navy. Through it I’m able to see the beginnings of something, of the sun rising on a new week.

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I’m holding toast in my hands, the 6:30am leaving time being too much for my body to handle – something had to be sacrificed, and breakfast was that something. The need for food overpowers the cold and my hands are left bare to the elements as I eat as quickly as I can. Cold captures them with alarming speed. I swap my toast between hands, giving each hand precious seconds in my warm-ish pockets. My mind flits to the book I’ve just finished: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, and I wonder if I can get frostbite on a morning as cold as this. I have to remind myself that I’m in Clarkston, not on the risky heights of Mount Everest.

In the weeks previously I’ve walked this path before the sun nears the world, silence and darkness making it so solitary that reaching the train station is like being reintroduced into society after months of retreat. I remember this feeling now, aware of the lack of humans around me. No cars pant past, no mothers or prams or dogs or teenagers run around me. I’m completely and utterly alone.

Unless you count the birds, which I do. Because welcoming in the day around me is birdsong. They call to each other and to me, singing and chirping and rejoicing. Unseen but not unheard. It’s all I can hear and as I finish my toast and lock my freezing hands in my jacket I feel glad that I’m here to witness this moment.

As I pass houses, lights switch on and off within them, but the people remain inside. The streetlights block out natural light and darkness alike and I wonder to myself what the world would look like without them. I want to switch them off but the birds remind me that focusing on that is wasting my time. The cold caresses my cheeks to pink and bites my hands to red. I put my hood up, appreciating the warmth that the fur lining provides.

When I reach the main road, I see my first cars of the day. They hum by me, the passing roar dimming the noise of the bird song. I hasten across the road and away from it, not wanting to lose the precious stories they have to tell. With them again, I wonder what they would be singing if I weren’t here. Have I somehow disturbed the natural sound of the birds with my lame attempt at getting up early? Or am I privy to a beautiful insight into their natural world that most people pass by in an attempt to doze in a cocoon of warmth?

I feel like I am in a IMG_1914special moment. I want to believe these birds trust me with this insight into their world. I have interrupted their routine, but they seem to have gladly welcomed me in as a passerby, an observer. As I walk closer to the station other birds join in, the magpies, the pigeons, all of them singing in a cacophony of noise that is so natural I wonder why I have never really heard it.

As I get closer to the train station, other noises creep in. The sound of the motorway sighing in my direction, a long breath of sadness at the start of a new week…‘the next train at platform 2 is the 7:08 train to Glasgow Central’…the builders at the new health centre hollering at each other to get started. The floodlights from the train station illuminate everything, except the birds, and I realise I can’t hear them anymore. I wonder absently if I can’t hear them because they aren’t there, or if I can’t hear them because the rest of the world is too loud now?

A week later, they’re still here.  In fact, every Monday morning I note their presence as the sun climbs closer to the horizon. It leaves me wondering what other beautiful, natural things I’m missing as the noise and busy world block them out. What’s being hidden from me? Is there something in the quietness of the world that reminds us that no we don’t need to be running around all the time? Maybe moments of quiet are important, essential even, to surviving on this world – whether that’s in the form of a 6:30am walk or in a book in the corner of the library. Or maybe I’m talking rubbish, most likely due to the fact I was out of my house at such a ridiculous hour in the morning.

The thing about the quiet though is that we can’t normally hear it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there to find.

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