Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Purple Gum Boots Of Destiny

It was raining again. Some days it feels as though the rain will never stop in this town. It just pours and pours.All day and all of the night. They have been saying its been the wettest period since records began. I suspect they mean since Noah started keeping a diary. It just comes on so quickly too. The sky darkens over and the rain clouds burst spilling their contents on we mere mortals below.
I was on my way into work when I got caught out by a sudden cloudburst. I had no umbrella and was not carrying a walking stick. I had intended a leisurely dander to the bus stop so I was not prepared for the sudden imperative to get under shelter. I have arthritis in both my legs so if I push it by suddenly hurrying up I end up lurching from side to side as I perambulate. Its not my favorite way to get from A to B as I believe shanks-mere should be an altogether more graceful affair. In my own head I hear circus music played by an organ grinder as his monkey in a fezz dances.
After an interminable wait for a green light I managed to cross a very busy road. I had my head down against the rain and the wind and did not notice until I got to the bus shelter that it was almost full. There were four blokes in track suits and hoodies huddled together beneath the sheltering heavy plastic roof. Each of them clothed in garmets made from no fabric found in nature. If I had seen them before making for the bus shelter I would have kept moving. Feigning indifference I would have faux-casually made my way to the next stop despite the biblical downpour. Now however I was committed and had to sit down.
The four blokes not only wore the same clothes they wore the same expressions. Snarling smirks with cats-eyes embedded on the road to perdition. They were in the zone. The every day party zone that most spides live in where linear time means nothing. Elvis time without end.
My stomach was full of butterflies but I did my best to look unruffled. I knew what was coming. Not the details but the general gist. I tried to concentrate on the cars flashing by in the rain but the game was afoot.
One of them helpfully pointed out to his chums.
His colleague begged to differ.
To be honest I have been called much worse. This was nothing. There was much more and worse I suppose in  among the general sniggering and swearing. The Jango-Jango speak of collective spides. It always sounds a bit like crab claws plucking on violin strings punctuated by swearing and hilarious blasphemy. This continued for a bit. The four of them mocking me as we all waited together for a bus to arrive. The whole time there was the back ground pitter patter of raindrops on the bus shelter roof. Even the shelter seemed to be mocking  me as their in-house ad lied with the words one bus every twelve minutes.
Out came another insult accompanied by a chorus of guffaws.
Said another to an encore of hoots.
I have had moments like this all my life. The mocking laughter of strangers(Which sounds like a southern gothic tragedy by Tennesse Williams.) I flashed back in time to my first day at school.  My first morning at Holy Cross Boys. That dark morning many years ago when I had paraded around our living room in my new school uniform. New clothes were something of an occasion for me as I had only ever worn second hand or hand-me-downs. Clothes that fit were a new sensation. I stood on the arm of a chair and posed in front of the mirror that hung above our fire-place. I thought I looked very smart and felt sure all who saw me would agree. The only item of new clothing I refused to wear were the new shoes. Sensible black school shoes. They were not real to me.
I wanted to wear my favorite pair of purple gum-boots. They were a pair of bright shiny purple boots. A bit like wellingtons only better. Up until that day I had worn them all my life. At least that is how I remember it. I  could not recall a life before them. It was as though my own sense of being began when I put them on. They were my day wear. They wear my night wear. I wore them when I thought I was a pirate on the Black Swan. I wore them when I thought I was a spaceman on the Forbidden Planet. I was the only member of the Magnificent Seven who owned a pair. I even wore them In Sherwood Forrest evading the crooked sheriff. I loved my purple boots and would often fall asleep wearing them. Someone would slip them off my feet and there they would be at the side of the bed in the morning. They seemed indestructable too. They never seemed to wear down and no matter how dirty they got all it took was a wipe down with a wet cloth to make them shine like new. This probably meant they were made of some cheap nasty plastic but to me they were priceless. 
My ma tried to get me not to wear them into school. That my school clothing grant bought shoes were the ones I ought to wear. That the purple ones would be waiting for me when I got home from school. I would not hear of it. I was looking forward to school. It was going to be a whole new adventure and for that I would need the proper footwear.
The purple boots of adventure.
I may have believed I was born to the purple but no-one else at Holy Cross Boys did.
The first day of that big adventure did not go quite the way I thought. The older boys were very aggressive to all the new boys but there was something about me that singled me out for special treatment. Because my ma and da were from the country and spoke with accents this identified the family as gypsies. And my purple boots confirmed this. All gypsies wore wellies. Everyone seemed to know this as one of those for-certain school yard facts. Everyone except me and mine.I was not even sure why being a gypsy could be percieved as being a a bad thing. As a child I imagined the life of a gypsy to be one of great adventures all beginning and ending in a colourful moving house on wheels. At break time and lunch time a crowd gathered to tell me how wrong I was. They loomed above and around me. Pushing and shoving, jeering and laughing.I tried to get away but they blocked me at every turn. I was terrified of them and felt butterflies in my stomach for the first time. Since I could not escape them in the school I escaped the only way I could. I turned and faced the wall and tried to tune out. The insults and the jeering continued even as I raced home through a gap in the school railings at the bottom of Brompton Park alley.
This first day set the template for the rest of my schooldays. It pretty much continued all through primary and all through secondary. I never talked about any of it at home and have not since. Until now. 
Malachy Moondust with his head in the clouds.
I never wore my purple boots again. I stuffed them under the bed and wore the school grant ones.My purple boots were eventually thrown out. I wish I had a different end to that story. That I could say I stood up to the people who mocked and won their respect.That would not be true. It was too late by then. I had been singled out for good
I was snapped back to the present by the arrival of three buses at once. The four blokes got on the first bus. I got on the second. The third bus whizzed by. No reason to stop.
One of the boys shouted at me as I made my way with giddy motion to the second bus.
Even I thought that one was funny.
It was then I noticed that one of my black suede brothel creepers was letting in rain.My sock was all sloshy with rain water. Oh for reliable footwear whos only weakness is molten magma. Hot lava being the kryptonite of gum boots.
My purple boots are probably still out there somewhere. Quietly refusing to rot in some landfill site buried under decades of discarded rubbish. 
My brave and loyal little purple boots whom I betrayed and threw away.
Wherever you are I salute you.