The reddish bricks of an English suburb stack up into homogenous houses, fired in the kiln of my childhood.
I, the architect, am erroneous prone but in control.
And I’ve returned to this place where I spent such turbulent, formative years.
I am alone in the house at the corner of the cul-de-sac.
Only, I am older now.
The light streams bright through the kitchen window where my arms are covered in suds and bubbles. My hair is pulled back by a butterfly clip, my gaze is lost in a sinking spiral of thought. I smile in the warmth of the light.
My eyes travel up towards a figure in the back garden I hadn’t noticed prior. His face belongs to many I have seen before. Through the lattices of the window, he sits barred away from me in a faux Buddha pose. A fool in disguise.
As I try to place his face, I recall one of my early ex-boyfriends. He was this skater kid with long blonde hair and an oversized hoodie. I smoked up with him for the first time. It was a young, reckless innocence; the fuck all of fourteen.
His face shape was slim and childish but now it morphs. His cheeks hollow out and a haze of facial hair vibrates around his jaw line. The space between his teeth become gaping gaps and his eyes pale in the craze of age. A young spark flickers out into an empty blankness, hidden by the startling blue.
This likeness is something sickening.
The character resembles a young, homeless man of about twenty-seven years of age, give or take. He was from New Zealand. Scuzzy and drug fucked, he looked like he had recently got off the bus from Palmerston North. He had been sitting opposite me in the library for a while.
I’m twenty-two here.
I had plonked myself in a quiet corner to study. He slid over and asked me for the time. It’s three fifteen.
Five minutes later, he slides back and asks me for the time. Three twenty.
I tunnel into my work, the laptop screen blinking attention.
Exactly five minutes pass and he returns;
“You’re so fuckin’ sexy. Will you fuck me? I’ll fuck the shit outta you like nobody else.”
Unsure of what was happening was really happening, I paused for a millisecond. I scoffed a curt no thanks and watch him slope off behind the book shelves.
In the peripheral background of my vision, the blur of his movements caught me off guard. Again, he had seated himself directly opposite of me. Clutching an open book in front of his crotch was hardly subtle, let alone the rapid hand movements and his contorted expression of pleasure beneath the sag of his beanie.
Disgusted, I packed up and got the fuck out of there.
Now, he grins at me from the knoll of viridian that was my childhood garden. Perplexed and curious, I quizzed the air between us; the glass, a shield of ignorance, indifference.
A flash, and I am at the conservatory door. I unlock it and burst on to the patio and look up at him on the grass. Another flash and he glitches in front of me, and we sit across from each other at the garden table.
What are you doing here? I demand.
He is spreading disease in my dreams. The wrinkles around his eyes are like a grimacing foreskin, and I am uncomfortable in my imagination.
Why have you been sent here?
My childhood haven, invaded. He is predatory by nature; a masculine nature that is blunt and straightforward in what it wants, doing what it can to get it.
And all I feel in this moment is I have been brought here to protect the innermost core of my world from this dominating scripture that wishes to override my mind.
Too long I have smoothed over my own desires and felt exploited. Commanders commandeer but women are the ocean they try to navigate; they can swallow and spit out unwanted entities. Tiny me deserves a hero; a woman I am proud of. She cleans the grime from the dishes, taking matters into her hands with harmonious ease.
You will leave here as I have asked.
Yet the words are hollowed with fear. But firmly rooted in the crux of the garden where my self-belief grew and blossomed, he knows he is unwelcome and ultimately, powerless.
I manage to chase him out the gate around the side of the house, and I lock it.
Upon re-entering the house, I hear clanger from outside. I flurry to the front window. He stands in the driveway, surrounded by a hoard of pot-bellies and beards galore.
In an instant, I am unlocking the front gate hysterically.
What the fuck are you all doing here? Stay away.
The grin is fixed as if a manic demon lives in his skin.
In unison, the hoard descends upon the house like hungry sharks. They don’t even see me. Their eyes are black and cold, focused on a feast as they climb up the walls.
I look wildly at the fucking creep responsible.
Don’t let the bad cuzzies in.
His glare takes up my whole vision as he speaks. He is a leering jester, riddled with reprehensible lunacy.
I despair at the destruction, and I awake drenched in sweat.
It is time I began living for myself.