What does anyone know when they are young? If 'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there'
, then the future is another world altogether.
It still seems that way.
I might have thought that a lifetime lived would have taken some of the mystery away. I can kid myself that it has, especially when living what seems a sedate and ordered existence, but deep down I know that it has not.
So let's acknowledge that.
I might also have thought that a lifetime lived would have blotted or smoothed or chiseled or expunged emotions experienced decades ago.
It has not.
All it takes is a trigger, such as these two photographs taken in the summer of 1980 on Brighton beach. I've no idea of the names of these people, and I know I met them only briefly. But I can remember the day very well, from lounging in someone's flat to spending a warm afternoon on the pebbles. At least I think I can, but then again that's memory for you. What I remember above the actual events of the day is the sense of loneliness and directionless that had crept over me, increasing in intensity, as I finished my final exams and waited for graduation day. I didn't know where I was going to go or who I was going to go with.
The future had no form whatsoever.
Yet within six months of these photographs I had left the UK for the US, within a year I was married, within two settled in another college town with a new job and a new life.
That did not quite pan out. The job ended, the marriage ended, and it took another decade to semi-settle. A further decade to truly settle.
None of this, the good or the bad, was evident on that summer day. If someone had told me this was going to be my future, I might have believed them. I could have believed anything at that time.
What happened happened. You don't get to do it over. I'm OK with that now, in truth I have remarkably few regrets. Twinges of longing, imagining a path taken with a different woman or in a different place. But nothing that impacts my day to day life.
Until, of course, I come across two photographs of Brighton beach.