remember when

This was a bit silly, you thought.  What did you hope to achieve exactly?  A brain-jolt of some kind, clarifying the hitherto blurry memory?  You didn’t really believe in the mystical stuff, that there might have been some significance, some message.  No, that was silly.

Nonetheless it was disconcerting, being ejected from that dream – sitting on a train with your good friend of many years, and a stranger, an older suit – and waking with memories of a single day over ten years previously.  Wales versus Ukraine, a World Cup qualifier.  What was it, March sometime, in 2001?  The 17th or 21st: something like that.  You didn’t know why you remembered but your brain often did that, plucked from nowhere with a loose certainty that you were in the right ball park.  You’d been to something in the day, an event?  A training course?  It was at a Halls of Residence, a large one the furthest out of the city, a fair journey across town.  Had you won something?  What was it?  Or made a good impression?

Your mind lurched around for the event or the course or whatever it was, but failed to pin it down.  You’d been in a rush when you returned to the grubby second year student house you shared with two girls and one guy.  You had tickets for the match and were heading into town straight away.

Who did you go with?  Anyone?  Couldn’t remember.  Did you go out in town afterwards?  What was the score?  0-0 or 1-1, something like that.

Why were you remembering this day, you puzzled, now wide-awake in bed, eyes opened in the grey 4am light.  What significance did it have?  What had prompted it?  How was it related to the dream?

Perhaps something to do with the memories jerked by that old picture a friend had posted to Facebook, a group of you.  Your starey creepy piggy eyes looking on from the background; pale complexion, uncertainty and youth.  They weren’t great pictures of anyone.  You never felt you enjoyed university as much as you should have, didn’t have enough fun or success with girls.  Just staring at them and hoping never seemed to do the trick.

You reached for a device on your bedside table and Googled “Wales Ukraine qualifier”, which quickly yielded a Youtube video.  March 28th 2001.  A little later on in the month.  1-1, John Hartson and Andriy Shevchenko the goalscorers.  A supporting cast of average forgotten footballers from recent history: Oleg Luzhny, Darren Barnard.  Ten years can only ever be recent history but it’s a timespan with almost magical powers too.  It can feel both like yesterday and 25 years ago, especially when looking back to such a supposedly formative time.

The next afternoon you went for a walk to areas of studentsville you hadn’t visited for a number of years.  It was silly.  What were you hoping for?  Or was it just a pique of curiosity, just to see if any other memories would be prodded out.  You’re never exactly slow to navelgaze.

You stopped in a small coffee-shop you used to frequent, possibly less as a student and more when you worked for the University.  There were young, fresh-faced, posh-voiced students everywhere.  You were never this fresh-faced, were you?  Those Facebook images suggest otherwise.  Although some had inflated and aged since then, while others had shedded a youthful puppy-fat and looked better now.

The second year street looked the same: anonymous, ordinary, a dowdy net curtain in the front bedroom window, a letting agent sign stuck to the outside.  You remembered your two girl housemates falling out, due in no small part to the thin wall between lounge and bedroom.  One had come back ranting, thinking her friend had been out.  It shouldn’t have been funny but it was.  You remembered walking back drunk with your housemate one freezing cold winter’s night to find his lovely but quite insane girlfriend curled up asleep on the pavement.

Nothing much of any note returned or jogged a memory as you aimlessly paced the dirty, waste-strewn streets replete with skips, half-eaten polystyrene boxes of fast food and discarded mattresses nestled in the front yard.  Shops had turned into other shops, a hypervalue had become a Sainsbury’s; your third year flat had a new front door; intimidatingly beautiful females wafted past, leaving you reeling, as frozen in your admiration now as you were then.


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