I hear him before I see him. Sometimes not even that. The proverbial person you could set your clock by. At 6.15 every evening in whatever weather a low roar from the top of our road begins to build. It has something of a jet engine in it, which peaks as he passes our house. Skateboarding, on the road? This is Exeter. This is also a gimme: 80-100 metres-plus of downhill, one-way tarmac. The only thing coming up it is likely to be one of those naughty cyclists on a shortcut up from the quay or the ring road. I don’t know where he lives, so imagine he carries on beyond the safety of this haven, down to where the road gets steeper, faster, and where traffic will meet him coming the other way. Perhaps that is the attraction. By that point he will be doing 20mph, going some. I have never seen him come off. Who is he? I catch him sauntering past the house going in the opposite direction into town in the mornings, his board under his arm, rucksack on one shoulder. He leans back from the perpendicular, placing each foot in front of the other as though not quite certain that this is what they were intended for. I am afraid typology is at play: the baggy black jeans, worn through at the heel, of late period rave; the indiscriminate long-sleeved T-shirt; the beanie. I have never seen him without the latter, so don’t know if he has hair, though a flash of blond ponytail sometimes lifts in his contrails. I wonder if he eats. He seems so pale. I have never heard him speak, or use money, or a phone. He seems utterly contented with the world and his place in it. I marvel at his routine. Whatever he goes into town for, and comes back from, he has stuck at it for years. He is a commuter just like the rest of us, hidden in plain sight, asking no thing and stepping as lightly (if not quietly) as possible across the earth.
Published by Anthony Wilson
I am a lecturer, poet and writing tutor. I work in teacher and medical education at the University of Exeter. My anthology Lifesaving Poems was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2015. In 2012 I published Riddance (Worple Press), a collection of poems, and Love for Now (Impress Books), a memoir, about my experience of cancer. My most recent books are Deck Shoes (Impress Books, 2019), a book of prose memoir and criticism, and The Afterlife (Worple Press, 2019). In 2023 I will publish The Wind and the Rain, my sixth collection of poems, with Blue Diode Press. My current research project, with Sue Dymoke from Nottingham Trent University and funded by the Foyle Foundation, is Young Poets' Stories: https://youngpoetsstories.com/. This blog is archived by the British Library. View all posts by Anthony Wilson
You have just described my 16 year old son beautifully Anthony. I listen for that jet engine sound daily.
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Thank you Peter! Btw, would you like a review copy of The Afterlife sent to you? Do use my contact form to ping me an address. With good wishes, Anthony
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