A (long) journey

This is a memory of a journey. Not a long journey. No, it was a long journey then.

It starts in a flat, one just like tens of thousands of others on this estate. A panel block wall of buildings, shared entrance, two hallways, one to the left and one to the right. An elevator and stairs. Cold, ceramic tiles everywhere, white walls and wooden doors. Two doors on every floor. Behind the door a small entrance room and six more doors on its perimeter. His room is fifth clockwise.

The room feels big. There is space to hide – under the desk, where he fits well and can bring a lot of things, or behind the bed, where he cannot fit much else but he’s better hidden. There is a bunk-bed – he is sharing the room with his sister – so it is indeed easy to hide, even vertically. Nobody climbs upstairs, only him. Perhaps it’s laborious, perhaps the bed and the ladder feel fragile for bigger people, perhaps there is not much space between the upper bunk and the ceiling, or perhaps it’s just a space outside everyone else’s interest and reach.

The journey is to his grandparents. They live in a village and a village is a different world. There is space outside. Space that is there for him – their garden, allotment, yard. But also some space that is not for him so much but still is – the field behind the land, but also the street in front. There are no cars, few people. You say hi to everyone, they are older and should be greeted, and they either know you or they know where you are from.

The journey begins in a car. The car is hot, burning. Loud. And smelly. The journey can be felt, every curve, every acceleration, every bump. And the journey is also steady, what breaks the rhythm and the flow are the traffic lights. Just that. There is time to count other cars, by their colour or how many people are inside.

He understands now that the journey took 25 minutes. It would be 50 nowadays. Or more, probably more. But at that time, 25 minutes is a lot, it’s the longest journey he would make as far as he can remember. It’s a lot of time to sit at one place, be quiet and observe the long, unwinding roads, occasional cars and traffic lights.

He’s at the village, at his grandparents’ house. Stiff after the long journey. He runs out of the car, says hi to the grandparents, and then he runs again. And hides. He can go behind the garage and climb the trees. He can go to the end of the allotment and hide in the corn field. He can be in the yard and no one will probably notice him anyways. He is barefoot, which he enjoys. He steps on the grass. Or lies down.

He enters the car, ages later. Or was it just two hours? The journey was one to remember, now it has become a commute. It connected two places that were ages and worlds apart, now they are the same.