“There was a girl,” he said, gazing up and almost seeing the upstairs window of the missing house. “She used to live here . . . “ Then, coming suddenly to reality and embarrassed in front of a stranger, he added: “Before they knocked them down.”
“They’ve been down months,” he was told, “and empty a year or two before that. I don’t know this street very well. I live in the new flats over there.”
“We all used to play in this street. I broke a window with a caseball. It was Inscoe’s house – there.” He pointed, deliberately, at where it should have been.
A little down the road, by the still-standing lamp-post, he had taken off his jacket and plunged into his first real fight. He was nine and took a thrashing but refused to cry, then spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the five and six years olds, his head hung down.
When his eleventh birthday had passed, he could feel the bunch of playmates breaking up. The signs were too vague to name. After the gang had dispersed, he put it down to the motor-cars using their street playground more and more.
In reality, the 11-plus divided their paths and the new schools taught them from different angles, so they had less in common. They were even embarrassed when they saw each other and remembered the things they had been happy doing together.
Family deaths, work, the Forces, marriage – he moved away: his home to another town, his mind to another world. It was only in passing that he was here now.
Turning, he walked to his car. “She used to live here,” he said almost to himself, “and I never told her how pretty she was.”
* * * * *
Written in the early 1980s (I think).