I don’t indicate on the roundabout and my brother raises his voice just like he did when I gunned the engine up the hill in the wrong gear and with the clutch not down far enough. The Fiesta bucks angrily. U2 are on the stereo talking about a New Year’s Day. We swerve into the Halfords car park and I leave our ride with the front bumper pushed hard against the bushes, diagonally, and I prepare myself to enter in the odd blue light of a shop full of masculine things. Sunlight is sloping down making the 24 hour Tesco look unreal. There’s a fog in the air, or a smog. I can’t tell. Inside the shop, I walk past a whole row of oil filters of various sizes. I can barely understand this place. There is a set of £600 chrome rims mounted on the wall. I touch them, gently, and try to feel what I should or shouldn’t feel.
I don’t swerve that hard on the Greenway, or else my bike would lose its grip and I only have one working brake which always complicates the mathematics of stopping distances these days. If I forget which hand to brake with I will crash, it’s inevitable. I sit, front wheel crossed and I’m stationary as the Eastbound District chugs into the parking bay at Plaistow. Another chugs past, Westbound, leaving sparks on the metal, metal on metal, metal on metal on metal as it brakes and squeals. The c2c blazes past to Fenchurch Street.
I don’t swerve much as I reach Westfield. I just stop, and turn back, rather than go through Stratford town centre and navigate the broken cycle lanes on the High Street, loop around to the Bus Terminal and park my bike, staggering around shops that have no real place, or time, or meaning. I might buy a tie. I might not buy a tie. Get a late lunch in the Food Court or get some FroYo with blueberries? I don’t swerve much as I reach Westfield; instead, I sit on a two-person bench noting that there are ants everywhere and oddly a propeller plane that looks vintage does laps over E12, droning. Vapour trails criss-cross the sky and I realise the reason why children are shrieking and that I can hear them shrieking is that there is the top of a slide visible from where I sit. I think back, a long, long time ago. The disused track ways across the Black Country, a lot like this Greenway. That sinister patch of dug out land that ran past the canal, green and choked with algae in summer. I remember running down a hill alongside a slide. I remember hitting a bump with my feet and sprawling onto the tarmac, splitting my thumb open from top to bottom. The dirt in the cut, the thickness of the skin totally cut through all the layers. The scar runs right down it, even now. I can remember the sun and the metallic taste of pain.
I don’t swerve at all, that’s the problem —