I must have been nine or ten years old when this happened, as I was still at Trinity street school in Enfield, but I don't think my mother's accident had happened yet. I guess my dad would go to work at his library by bus every day, and catch it at the bus stop just around the corner from my school. I don't, for some reason, remember that always being the case, but it must have been. We probably left the house at very different times in the morning, because we never left together, even though much of our route was the same. I would say goodbye, walk down the hill, turn right, along chase side, pass the car dealer, the weird hotel, and the Chinese restaurant, and then right again, across the road and there was school.
That morning I did that, walked through the big iron gate painted with so any layers of dark blue paint that all the edges were soft and rounded, and into the noisy playground. I remember - vividly - saying hello to Paul Gianotti. Then, for whatever reason, I looked back through the gates, up the street to the corner, where the bus stop was. There was my dad. I walked out back out of the gates - knowing this was not allowed - and started back to say hello to dad before the school day begun. I crossed the street, meaning that for a few moments, the corner bus stop was out of sight. My walking pace increased. Almost jogging now. Wanting to be near dad. Wanting to give my home life another few moments before I would have to surrender it to school for another seven hours.
When I reached the corner he was gone, and the bus he was on was pulling away. And here's the thing: I felt such heartbreak. Really way more than the situation deserved. That feeling when your chest aches just before you start to sob. That. But no crying. Just that ache. So indelibly is this feeling burned into me that whenever I feel that way in adult life, among the mess of things that flood though my mind is that moment on the corner.
I walked back down Trinity street to school, though the gates. I felt sad all day, and couldn't really explain why, not that anyone would have asked.
And that's what it's like being away from home. It's much more easily dealt with these days, of course, but it's the same little skirmish. Work life stealing me away from home life. Not a new concept, I know. But whenever I feel that I've been too far away from home for a little too long, which is how I feel now, I become the nine year old me walking back to school, denied a few little minutes talking about Errol Flynn, Star Wars and Atari with dad.