I’ve walked these streets all my life.
Every street corner holds a memory, every building sparks a flurry of emotions inside my gut; swooping and diving within my chest like the seagulls screaming above my head, sending a chill through my bones that reverberates throughout my entire being.
The city of dreams, the party that never ends, the safe haven for sexual expressions and alternative idealists. My home. I much preferred it when it was still a town, when the Pier was called the Palace Pier, before the city self-titled it. When the shops that lined the streets were alive and full of colour; instead of being intermittently boarded up with cracked plywood and defaced with incoherent, uneducated graffiti from insolent youths trying to find their identity and spread their message of hate and repression to those who couldn’t give a shit.
I preferred it when my feet were a half-size smaller, my hair wasn’t wrecked by too many poor-dye jobs and my eyes were less weary. Much as I continue to struggle along trying to carve a niche for myself in this bustling sprawl of a city, I know I don’t belong. I have become one of the lost souls who dreamed of finding themselves here; I thought I would find it easy, find myself easily, for this is my home-town. Yet as I walk yet again to the clothes shop where I work, that holds itself in too high regard; battling constantly against the upmarket shops to be the most desirable, I know this is no place for me.
Some people say I am committed for having worked here for 5 years; others say I’m a fucking idiot. I agree with both simultaneously. Commitment has always been my failure; when I find something I feel comfortable with, I cling on for dear life. That goes with people too. I trust too easily and love too fast. I would say I’m a hopeless romantic but really I think I’m just hopeless. I like that. It means I’ll always keep trying.
Monotonous and uninspiring music from the charts is blaring from the speakers as I jostle past Christmas revellers and try to navigate my way up the escalator, gritting my teeth and clinging onto the moving hand-rail for dear life as I’m elbowed in the ribs by oblivious shoppers.
By the end of my shift my throat is sore from constantly yelling ‘can I help?’ to customers lost in their own world whilst standing in a queue one hundred miles long. My fingers are numb from where I’ve stabbed myself with the security tags in my haste to serve a continuous stream of impatient humans. Only their frowning mouths are registering in my conscious mind; otherwise they are faceless. My own mouth is always stretched into a smile, always ready to offer grateful thanks to ungrateful people. I’m very good at acting like I give a shit.
Once I’m back outside the city stops being quite so ugly as the automated time-table at the bus-stop promises a chauffeur-ride home in less than 10 minutes time. I take my seat at the bus-stop outside Marks and Spencers, beside a mumbling-elderly lady and a man with only sweat for hair on his bald scalp. He is listening to Jay-Z far too loudly; the sound is leaking from the sides of his neon-yellow headphones. Darkness has already fallen and I stare in vain at the navy-blue sky; trying to find one solitary star that hasn’t been obliterated by the harsh lights of the city centre. Across the street two cackling school-girls step aboard the number 1 bus to Mile Oak, the tyres squealing in protest as it pulls away from the curb. I look at the orange numbers again and stand as my bus is due. I find a seat near the front; the days where I lounged at the back have long-since passed; those seats are reserved for the next generation. I catch my reflection in the front-window and scowl at myself, wishing away my tired eyes.
Soon I will be leaving this city, and so I swallow down my feeling of discontentment at my surroundings and try to drink in every building, passer-by and Christmas light that glides by as the bus picks up speed down North Street. I experience a middle-aged moment when I see a young boy climb the stairs and retreat to the back of the bus, speaking into his phone; profanities spill from his mouth and taint the air with discomfort; the majority of these words should be foreign to someone so young. I catch his eye in the front-window and hastily look away; a knee-jerk reaction to my school days. I sometimes forget I’m not the victim anymore.
My bed is calling me by the time I’ve climbed off the bus and watched it continue up the hill towards Asda. When I get to it however, I find it already occupied by two cats. They refuse to give me room and when I protest by trying in vain to move one, he clambers onto my chest and settles down, pinning me in an uncomfortable position.
Tomorrow I will do it all again; this is my hometown. Even when I leave I know I will return; there are too many ghosts walking these streets for me to desert them. The two most profound ghosts of all from
my Brighton resurface; dragging me down into sleep as they swoop and dive inside my head, like the seagulls screaming outside my window.
This is my home-town.