Between the ages of three and six years old I had a reason not to give up, an ambition for life, a purpose. A future.
I wanted more than anything, to be, when I grew up, an apple tree. I wanted to live in the corner of a beautiful garden getting visits from the birds and the bees. I wanted the wind to blow my branches to provide hugs and to drop my delicious apples to feed those who were hungry. I liked the idea of being stationary. I had moved from a large bed in my own room to the attic. It was the first night after we got the latest in roof windows installed, which were the fashion at the time.
I had had a pleasant day talking to the old plasterer. I only remember he was old so he was about 16 – 90+. He had an old hat. Possibly a flat cap, a popular accessory among the pensioners of the area. He had done a good job with a smooth finish, so much so i would stroke the wall around the window just to appriciate the smoothness.
It was later that day it happened… Night came as I lay in my bed. It used to be bunk beds but my Dad had sawed them in two to become two single beds. Mine was the bottom bunk. Anyway, I couldn’t sleep that night. I had been awake for hours. Lying there, just looking through the roof window, the light pollution of the city bled darkness into the sky. The stars were out…
My earliest favourite reading books were about counting to ten and basic science for children. They were mostly published by Penguin or Puffin. One of the books said stars were giant burning balls of gas just like the sun. I must have been read this book recently because it was then it dawned on me.
Never before had I contemplated what I was. What life was. What I was doing here. I was the sort of child whose main sad thought up until that moment was ‘other people can’t have been around before me… I would’ve remembered them.’ And that was only sad because people would laugh and dismiss this truth. It was soon to come when a moment in time happened, where I would become disappointed. Too scared. Too afraid of what was. I felt reality’s full force. All its fierce flames and its endless meaning.
I no longer could accept my future would be being an apple tree. I felt my branches had fallen off and my apples were rotten on the ground. All my hopes and dreams faded into darkness in that second. Into the space between the supposedly giant balls of burning gas, my mind was lost. I was a dead tree’s stump in a great wasteland where nothing was alive. I was null and void. I was minute. Smaller than the smallest speck of dirt on the new glass of the roof window. Against these giant balls of burning gas the size of dots against the deep, ongoing, pure black of space. I was insignificant…
And so, it had happened… So, I reacted, I ran down the attic stairs, across the landing past the door of room, I did a hair-pin turn like a frantic rally car on a tight muddy track, down the stairs again I ran, I reached the bottom and without losing any momentum I took a quick right into the brightness of the front room. My mum was there, stood hands on her skirt, warming her arse by the fire. I had slowed down by now and was pacing slowly towards her, under the headache inducing light. It was then I bent my neck back, looking up at her face, a formidable five foot and half an inch off the ground. She looked back down at me. Her pale face, no make up, pointing down at me, crushing her chin in two. She looked as she had seen a ghost… “Mum! Its all too big! I can’t cope!” I said. “What is?” She replied, her voice quivering. “Everything. Everything is.”