I still know where my one of my childhood best friends hides his keys when he goes out somewhere and wishes to leave them behind. I still know which of his neighbours keeps a spare key for them. I know the layout of his house as well as I know my own. I know what he will and will not eat. I know his family – I know his mother’s dry humour, his father’s quiet tolerance.
I have an entire set of memories in which he stars, and he has an entire set of memories in which I star. I remember summer evenings, he, his sister and I running around the cul-de-sac on which we lived until night finally fell and we were called inside – at ten pm, half ten, eleven. We were about eight, and I can’t believe we were allowed to get away with it.
I remember when they owned a minivan, and we’d sit in it and pretend to be driving places, far away places that could never be found on any map. I remember a few weeks one Summer when scaffolding was up in the front of their house, and we’d climb up and around it. We felt like kings. I remember falling off the top of it once, and basically bouncing when I hit the ground. I remember it like it was there forever. I remember when the summers seemed to last forever.
I remember playing swords with bamboo sticks, or even with metal poles from a broken down climbing frame. I remember sleep overs in a tent in their garden, or on the floor of their dining room. I remember seeing my cousin stack it off my friends bike, after assuring us both he wasn’t too big to be riding it.
I remember endless afternoons playing on a Sega MegaDrive – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sonic. I remember all of this, and more. My first real hangover was in that house. I was invited to a family reunion and fed whiskey until I was overflowing with it. I was maybe 15.
Now, I could count the amount of times I’ve seen him in the last year on the fingers of one hand. I could count the amount of times I’ve been in the house on the fingers of none.
Now, the Summer never seems long enough, the nights seldom seem bright enough, or warm enough. I no longer spend summer afternoons running off the road in which we were playing to make way for a car.
And it’s strange to think that I barely know someone I still know so well. I know the names of his childhood pets, long since dead. I don’t know if he’s currently working, or what job he has if he is. I don’t know what his interests are now. I don’t even know with any certainty what kind of music he now listens to, although I know damn well my guess would likely be good.
The point is, I suppose, multifaceted and contradictory and simultaneous, all at once. As we grow, we change more than we know, but less than we might like to think. Are we all still the same people we were as children? If we’re not, how have we changed? I’m not sure much does change, when it gets right down to it. I think that’s the greatest and most terrible secret kept from children. “When I’m grown-up”, we think. “When you’re grown-up”, we hear. But there’s no difference, is there? You lose maybe imagination, you lose maybe belief, but who you are as an adult, hell, who you are on your death-bed, has its roots in who you were as a child. And you haven’t really changed, not really. Maybe you skipped one way or the other during adolescence, because that really is the shittiest time ever, but the adult you become has more to do with the child you were then it does the puberty stricken adolescent you briefly had to endure as.
That’s what I’ve chosen to think, anyway. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’re reading this thinking, “Fuck no, when I was a kid I was a little shit, and now I’m a respectful member of society who never has any urges at all to do the things I used to be able to get away with!”
Maybe, more disturbingly, you’re thinking “Bullshit! I was a lovely child, and now the week hasn’t been spent wisely if I haven’t killed someone! And their pets!” Although in that case, you’re probably too broken somewhere important to be counted. Either way, I like my way.