RECOLLECTION (500 words)
I was back in the old neighbourhood for the first time in ten years. A father’s death, regardless of your differences, brings you home. The wake was in the house and I’d taken as many condolences as I could stand, so had stepped out for some air.
In the same way that school corridors shorten and classrooms shrink if you ever return as an adult, the old streets and alleyways seemed tiny and insignificant when compared to memory. I walked on, smirking at the flashbacks and the inevitable comparisons.
That’s when I came across the front yard of Tyrone Lang’s house, or at least where he used to live. Sixteen years ago, when I used to run around in a crew – mid-teen, angry, antisocial – he had been the only person for whom we had any reverence. He had been ripped, muscles stretching cotton tees taut. He used to do weights in this very yard, and we’d just watch him, and hoped he’d favour one of us to spot him. A good seven or eight years older than the biggest of us, we were impressed; in awe.
He was a fearsome beast, and everybody knew it. I had a clear memory of him beating another man half to death, an altercation at an impromptu house party that had gone too far. I realised there and then that I’d never been more scared of another human being more in my life, even after all these years.
I wondered, but didn’t have to wonder for long. I’d been stood there for a good half-minute and that had drawn attention. A man came out of the house. Stocky, but with a belly hanging over his belt buckle. Shorter than me, and balding. As he walked towards me I could see I was a couple of inches taller.
‘Can I help you?’ he asked. It was the voice that gave it away: this, unbelievably, was Tyrone. My initial instinct was to scurry off apologetically, but then I remembered I was no longer fifteen.
‘Not particularly,’ I said. ‘I’m Michael Buchanan. I used to live around here.’
Lang nodded. ‘You’ve done some changing, Mickey B.’
I was surprised that he remembered me, but he must have, using my old moniker like that.
‘So have you,’ I said.
‘Not so much. A beergut and a baldpatch, but that’s about it.’
I looked at him again and concluded that he was probably right: it was me that had done most of the changing, mainly my perspective on things.
‘Heard your dad died.’
‘Got to be honest with you, Mickey. I’m not sorry he’s gone. He was a mean son-of-a-bitch if ever there was one. Good that you and your mum got out when you did.’
I wanted to say I don’t know what you mean, or how dare you! but instead I stuck out a hand and he shook it. ‘Thank you,’ I said.
Memory was a fickle thing. It was good to hear the truth.