|sent from: London, UK. destination: St Albans, UK|
I visited my school over the weekend. By school I mean high school. Given the years, it had changed very little. I climbed stairs, peered into classrooms, wandered through the once forbidden staff common room, went out of bounds with nary a yell of “HEY! SANCHEZ!”.
Behind the cricket pavilion I remember there once being a water-filled hole charitably called a swimming pool. On a nettle-choked path it was still there. Behind a locked fence, dank and dark. I don’t miss school especially, I was a good student and had good teachers and friends, but I don’t eulogise it as the best days of my life, as that would forever be robbing from this wonderful present moment. The locker room was littered with plastic bottles and crisp packets, nothing new. Yet as I looked at the old photos and chatted to the distant, still cricket-obsessed priests, I couldn’t recognise myself as someone who’d spent ten years here. I was not reflected in the walls of photos.
After a few years in the USA I’d left all this behind me. I was free of whatever definitions had been imposed on me and became my adult self, someone not defined by the A-levels they’d studied or whether they’d attended Oxford or Cambridge.
It was strange, then, to feel the pull back there, strong memories flooding in, occasional people, the odd ageing priest, the texture of the door hit by hundreds of hands every day, the chapel pews and classroom desks.
I felt I was an alien carrying someone else’s memories, compelled to understand this stranger from the inside out, and wonder what might have become of him.