There are days (like today) when you just want to keep walking. Days when you and the weather are one: languid. That’s what it was like after you left the gym; you didn’t want to go home, you didn’t want to stop. The work-out had been good, and as much as you miss running and like the cross-trainer, the gym never really satisfies your cardio lust, at least not as long as your knees aren’t in good enough shape (yet) to go back to pounding the treadmill. (Okay, admit it – you had sex before lunch, so it’s not as if your cardio hunger was that big.)
After the gym, you changed out of your sweaty top, put on a dry T-shirt, and headed for… well, you landed up in the Park, but you weren’t really sure where you were heading when you set out. Finsbury Park was an option, and a walk to Sainsbury’s in Haringey was another (for what, though?), but you went from Blackstock Road to Mountgrove Road to Brownswood Road, where a block of flats has taken the place of the Brownswood Library, and you wondered if there’d be a reminder of the library in that new building, though you couldn’t imagine what. Maybe they’ve called the building something like Library Mansions or Biblio-Flats, but no. (There’d been a moment on the cross-trainer when you’d thought to yourself: I will not pass this world on to any children. I am not responsible for bringing more people into this world. This is not the kind of world I’d want to leave to anyone. These were just thoughts, without regret and without sadness, just facts. And you wondered if you should be doing more; more, for example, that leaving a record of what Clissold Park was like at this moment in history.)
The evening was warm – it still is – and to walk along quiet streets in early September, passing people chatting outside their houses on Queen’s Drive, feeling the lightness in your step, the Park visible at the end of the road, was a real pleasure. It really did make you want to sit down and write something. What you wanted most, though, was to keep walking, to keep moving, to enjoy the shield of stillness around you, the kind of euphoria that happens after a good work-out when the air is warm and the day seems to revel in the coming of evening.
It seemed as if the people dotted all over the grass in the Park, and the couples on benches, and the mothers and their kids huddled over an unwrapped parcel of fish and chips,might any minute now burst into one big Bollywood number, a flash mob on the lawns of Clissold Park dancing to some hit out of the movie Fame or Hair. The elation was palpable.
It’s a kind of connectedness and solitude that happens sometimes when you feel you are exactly where you are meant to be. Nothing can harm you. It’s like swimming in the sea. The world contains you and carries you along and all you have to do is move your limbs, just lightly, without great effort. Obviously this wasn’t the case when you broke your foot last year and you had to get around on crutches. Which makes you think about people who live like that, who cannot move freely through the world with just minimum effort. The Paralympics is on now, and you’ve seen the way some people manage their movement in the world. Even water is a struggle when you have no arms, no legs.
But for that half an hour or so that you ambled through the Park there was no struggle, no distraction, no anxiety, no dread, no responsibility, no fear. You were present, aiming your camera at the ducks, but you were the ducks, you were the pond and the grass and the line where the path meets the lawn, and you were the iron fence around the water, and you were the couple making out on the bench, him with his blonde hair and blonde beard and bright red T-shirt, and she with her dark brown hair and white cardigan. And for brief moments you knew you wouldn’t know what to say if someone asked you a question, because you weren’t there, you were not yourself, not the man taking pictures, not the man who’d just been to the gym, not the guy who’d just bought party poppers for his friend’s birthday tomorrow, not the guy who had to get home to write his daily 2,000 words, not the person who worried how to resolve the relationship issues that have been troubling him for a while. You’d have nothing to say if someone approached you, because you were nothing, not human, not a creature amongst creatures, not for those moments as you walked through the Park, being the Park.
It was a good day. It was a good day. It was a good day.