Saturday, February 03, 2007

ABL: "All That I Am, All That I Ever Was"

After Birthday Letters: "All that I am, All that I ever was"

This blog comes from late Summer/early Autumn 2002 and was one of the first that I knew I'd have to write when I decided to revisit significant moments in my life. It's slightly different to how I imagined it would be - more accusatory, maybe more arrogant, certainly more knowing. Maybe writing in retrospect will always endow the past with such a tinge. Curiously I was writing an online diary at the time that this took place [though a tad intermittently by this stage] but it never seemed the place to write this down. I guess it was a little alien to the inhouse style of the fairly idiosyncratic persona I'd created. And maybe it's a moment that's only become so fixed because of all that happened afterwards. I can't help but think this is because it's my last identifiable moment before life got complicated. At the time I thought this was the Epilogue. In reality it was a Preface.

It's undoubtedly less a love letter to the person I was with, though his part shouldn't be underestimated, than a love letter to Oxford and everything which the name evokes.


We start off walking down Broad Street, hands joined, going nowhere in particular.

The evening's been spent in the hazy, slightly awkward (for me at least) confines of the Union, talking to people who are his friends and not mine. One of them - clearly oblivious to the reason I was in that upstairs room in the first place - had asked if I wanted to go to the cinema with him. I'd politely declined, trying not to betray the fact that I was slightly worried about being dismembered and ending up in carrier bags under his bed if I did. Other than this blip, everyone's been nice; nicer than I would have expected if I'm honest.

This night is just one of many that will happen as we play our relationship out against Oxford landmarks. Usually they belong to him - the Union, with its endless rooms and new people to meet, who shake my hand for slightly too long, and whose names I don't quite remember; his quad which I don't like as much as I do my own; his houses which scream out that they are owned by boys; his rooms which, as a rule, are bigger than mine. Sometimes the places are more neutral, adopted for reasons neither of us quite understand; Christ Church Quad which is beautiful and which we are both secretly envious of (though neither of us would ever say this out loud) and where we are possibly at our happiest; G and D's ice cream parlour, crammed in the available space on high stools eating - in my case at least - which ever alcoholic flavour is on offer that day; The Eagle and Child where we always fight for the booths at the front, hidden from view and yet a perfect vantage point for grabbing anyone entering the pub. Occasionally - ever so occasionally - they belong to me, though this seems to be principally confined to my kitchen where he - who can cook - will admonish me who can't. For reasons I never quite understand I dislike him entering my territory; he turns up in my college bar one night, not invited by me, and I am unexpectedly annoyed.

But as I walk down Broad Street all this lies ahead.

We reach the gates that provide the barrier to both the Sheldonian and the Bod and which are open - are they always open, or is this just tonight, at this time? I can't quite recall - and he pulls me through. As we run across the gravel I laugh, for once tripping this path not because I have anywhere to be, not because there is a drama meeting in Brasenose or a book I have to read in the Rad Cam, but just because I am alive and in Oxford and therefore I can.

As we giddily run across those ancient cobbles as fast as my balance will allow us I think of how many people have done this. Because you can hear those footsteps, if they are anywhere then they are here.

We pause to look up at the Rad Cam, illuminated in all its glory. I turn away from it effortless beauty to look at him, conveying my thanks wordlessly for this.

For making me understand how fucking lucky I am to be here.

We sit down, limbs entwined. As I stare out I get the surge that I have had before and will have in the future, but which is maybe never again this acute; that shot of how much I'm in love with this place.

This shattering brilliance, this Rad Cam, this Oxford; it belongs to me.

Us.

(Though the us is noted as an after thought, something altogether less solid and concrete; something infinitely hazy and not quite formed).

We're here, almost postcard worthy and, I happily note, certainly novel worthy.

In 10, 50, 100 years time others will tred my footsteps and they may hear me, just as I hear those whose footsteps I follow.

It is my story, my history. And, more than that, I'm now part of its.


NB: The title is, of course, taken from Snow Patrol's 'Chasing Cars'; there is no doubt in my head that if this particular blog were a song then 'Chasing Cars' would be it.

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