The bus pulled up and I looked out of the window and thought, “I’ve been here before.”
Well of course I’ve been here before, the big 24-hour superstore out on the motorway, I’ve been here plenty of times before. We lived near here when I was a baby. I committed my first crime here aged 8 months, when I stole a fistful of colourful lollipops from the checkout against my mother’s knowledge.
When we were unruly teenagers my friends and I used to get the bus out here to purchase trolley-loads of cheap, sugary alcopops with my fake i.d. I used to regularly pass this place on the bus when I had an appointment with that loopy psychotherapist, or when I was going to score some gear in the next town. I have done a mad last-minute dash around this store on Christmas Eve. I have been here lots of times.
But today, seeing this place propelled me back to a specific time – a specific time which did not have a specific time, not that I could remember anyway. I know that it happened, somewhere in my past. I remembered little details but failed to see the whole picture. I saw myself there, but could only remember one tenth of the memory.
I was cold. I was sitting on the stairs that go from the bus stop up to the superstore car park and main entrance. I was sitting on the stairs about halfway up and the ground was damp. I was cold and sitting on the stairs and crying, I was crying. I was really upset. I think it was late afternoon/early evening but I may well be wrong. Shoppers swiftly stepped around me, manoeuvring their bags groceries over my head, tutting aloud at me being in the way, shaking their heads at the inconvenience of my misery.
I think I had received some bad news. Or something bad had just happened to me. I have vague recollections of a phone call: shouting, crying, hanging up. Although I’m not sure if this memory is accurate, it may have been another time, another day, another argument, in another car park. I don’t know. But I was definitely crying. And I was scared. Yes, I was scared. But I can’t remember why. And this makes me scared today.
I had no money. I have suddenly remembered the cash machine, by the trolley park, near the entrance to the superstore. I checked my bank balance and I had no money. There was a queue growing behind me as I checked for the second, third, fourth time, hoping that money might magically appear. The message was the same every time:
Today, you may withdraw £0.00p. Today, you may withdraw £0.00p. Today, you may withdraw £0.00p.
I had no money. I was really cold but I think it was summer but the ground was damp. I was scared of something or someone. I was sitting on the stairs and I was cold and scared, and I was crying, and I was hungry. I was hungry. I had not eaten for a long, long time.
I was sitting on the stairs. Someone or something had really upset me, something bad had happened to me. Somehow my memory tells me that I was in a relationship with D.N during this time. The years would make sense, and so this happened when I was either 14, 15, 16 or 17. The Lost Years. I had not eaten for a long time. I was tired. Cold. Hungry. Scared. Crying. Homeless. Homeless? I was homeless. I slept on those stairs. I slept on those stairs.
And then the memory stops and the bus moves on and I can’t remember any more.