What had changed? Was it him, was it the street?
Those questions rested in the back of his consciousness. He was neither disturbed or perplexed by the questions. They were more part of a scientific experiment. He didn’t care much for cats, so curiosity was welcomed. He turned the corner at the top of the road, and he thought about the last time he had walked this street.
He hadn’t actually been walking, rather being driven down it as he left this area for good, or so he thought. He had never planned on returning. He had returned on a couple of occasions over the years, but that was for a holiday. This felt different. He remembered the pain in his chest that day that came from the sobbing as he was driven away. Minutes earlier he’d had to pries himself away from the bear hug of his disabled father and loving mother. He was leaving on an adventure that had been in the planning stages for nearly ten years. His whole life, being, existence had been aimed fairly and squarely on that day. It was an emotional departure.
Here he was again. What had changed? Had he? Was it the area?
The road was a long, busy and noisy one. It was the main road in this particular suburb. It was a busy thoroughfare for buses and commuters as they made their way either into the city or escaping to the countryside, forest, or the seaside. The retirees would fill the roads after the morning rush hour making their way to garden centres, tea rooms, and expensive department stores. They were following the same routine they had always followed.
The houses were the same. They reminded him of the late 90’s when PVC double glazing seemed trendy. Glaziers were throwing deals left and right out of the window, waiting for the environmentally conscious to buy into the idea. It was a great idea as it raised the value of the properties through the roof. DOH! There goes the saved heat.
How had it come to this? Why was he walking this street again?
One noticeable thing that had changed was that people were driving fancier cars than they had been 9 years prior. Were they fancier, or had he just got older? Yes, they were fancier. He counted the amount of ‘bangers’ that went past him. None. There were none that had white smoke coming out because oil was being burned. There were none that seemed to be struggling in third gear causing a pinging or hoarse rattling in the depths of the pistons. They were clean, environmentally friendly looking, not a sight of rust or color fading.
The other distinctive and noticeable social difference was that all the men seemed to have beards. 9 years ago beards were left to the working class, the older generation of man to be used as an area to store leftover food for when they got hungry. That’s what the middle class chortled. Beards were used to depict your typical ‘Northerner’ who also seemed to be juggling a whippet, a pint of craft ale, and a pipe under his left arm whilst leading a flock of sheep to the pasture ground next to the coal mine.
In the air was the strong smell of thick white glue. It was the kind that used to be used by carpet layers before laminated floor became trendy. It was the smell of the glue that modern day builders rely on to cover up their mistakes so that they can still get paid a ‘pretty penny’. Another change. Everyone now wanted to keep their pennies for themselves rather than send them over the waters to Brussels.
He thought at first that it was the smell of craft glue that what was holding the approaching young man’s facial hair to his chin. He purposefully slowed his stride so that he could get a good sneaky yet casual look as they crossed on the pavement to see if traces of glue were seeping out from behind. There wasn’t any. Really? Surely, he was too young to have a beard.
Had he changed? What had changed?
Pubs had become Convenient Stores, Florists had become Nail Bars, Off Licences were still Off Licences.
Across the street, he caught a glimpse of the headline poster for the local newspaper. “Callous Attack on O.A.P”. No, The country, the city, the suburbs, the road hadn’t changed. Further down, he gave way to a young person who seemed to be in their early twenties but had aged significantly due to recreational excesses. Swigging down extra strength cider, moments after taking a heavy drag from a cigarette.
No, the road or all the other roads that led to the sea, city, or the beautiful forest hadn’t changed since he’d been driven down this road some 9 years ago. The same vicious attacks and the same social issues were as present then as they were now. People still needed answers, they still needed comfort and hope. A new car, PVC windows, and a little more bum fluff on chins hadn’t and wouldn’t bring about significant changes.
He, though, had most definitely changed. Had he changed for the better? Those questions made the old ticker beat a little faster.