Ah, Bromsgrove Street. Bromsgrove itself was ok, had some kind of living museum, a church where once he had heard the operatic contralto, composer, painter, and basically living goddess Susannah Self present an inchoate roaratorio of new music. But all the way up the A38 from there, the bits where your legs get tired as you pedal the hill into Selly Oak, studentland, cars slamming past you horns blatting for nobody in this outer quarter understands the bike, past Bournville College or where it was ... Quaker country. Stop still and know your God is one.
Bunny thought he knew but it was a long, twisted road for him, he had Attended Quaker meetings many times but somehow fell out of the circuit after a few, moved on, city to city, the City always calling him back, far from perfect, far from nowhere. Beyond Selly Oak, past the University and where Pebble Mill was at one occasionally .... inward, ever inward, over the ring road, and avoid the tunnels. Up through what he always thought of as the Meatpacking district but really the meatpacking went on further in, Hurst, Canal and Environs, mind yer boots going in.
Ye could make a comment about that, came a small voice. Ye could say something about ...
but the voice was fading on the wind already. He walked under the vast luminous eye of the reborn New Street Station, up Hill Street, blues music of course in his mind. Be careful out there? He always tried. This was not exactly terra incognita for him, and a thousand miles away he would remember it, feel the cold air blowing in from the Marches as he reached Chamberlain Square, something vast and furry reaching up to the skies. The City ignored Wales for some reason, the country being so close. An echoing palimpsest, walking on the bones every second of his life, a charged city where in 1998 he'd drunk with Aidan McConnell in a bar that was no doubt not even there any more, but even now he remembered it and could see the echoes of that place on the corner.
What happened to Aidan McConnell? He heard from him every so often, the boy grown coarse and yet somehow more at ease with himself, Morocco Tunisia Egypt, from the youthful wish for boy and more boy he had somehow taken on a social conscience and was working with farmers to improve their yield subverting Monsanto's monopoly on the seed trade. How the hell did that happen? Whatever, it was good. A Yardley Wood boy, spun out to the desiring self of the world.
He parked the bike on New Street and walked up towards Pigeon Park. Spaces detonating in his mind every few paces, the memory of kisses in doorways, the glimpse of a Sroon or just a policeman back in the bad old days. Needless Alley? There had been a lot of need, back then, saliva exchanging, hands ripping at trousers, the night-time bounty of Cock.
We only had a need for Love, he thought, sighing. Then he was at Pigeon Park where the mexican food stalls and the art stalls vie for the attention of this suddenly new middle class which we didn't have a while ago.
I love this city, he thought. The thought was as sudden as a blow to the heart, as real as rain and beers. With all its faults and its too much traffic and its suspiciously small middle class and its stupid accent and all that. This is my home. This is me.