In the tradition of Evelyn Waugh, Colin Dexter, AS Byatt, Dorothy L Sayers, Philip Pullman, Philip Larkin, Javier Marías, Dan Holloway, and … um … Evangeline Jennings, Andie Berryman’s Walking Without Keys in my Hand trips through the city of dreaming spires, pulls up its skirts, and takes a piss on the steps of the Ashmolean. Enjoy!
Walking Without Keys In My Hand | Andie Berryman
“Sure you don’t want this taxi and I’ll call another?” she slurred.
“Nah mate, I’m alright.”
I could fucking run home, it’s only a mile and a half; I wave to her as the car pulls away. Fucking legend that woman, always buys me drinks and makes me feel like a queen.
I look down the road, it looks longer than it is. I could run faster than the fella who ran the first four minute mile on the sports ground this footpath skirts a quarter of a mile towards town.
Down to business, feet, please desist zig-zagging, people will notice. Those two blokes noticed. They crossed the road to avoid me.
Should I get a bus? No, fucking bus drivers sneer at people who have had a good time, especially women, like we’re some kind of subspecies. Besides, staying still is more dangerous than being on the move.
I’m at the dodgy takeaway with a name I can’t pronounce, how the fuck do you say Tsang? I’m laughing out loud and spy the bloke across the street as he looks briefly and hurries on.
God, I need to sit down for a minute, roll a cigarette, my bag is like the fucking T.A.R.D.I.S. What’s with all this shit I carry around? Fucking cereal bars, tissue, pens, notebook, shitty phone. Oh hang on, text message:
Are you home yet, are you alright bitch? xxxx
‘Course I’m alright, I’m thirty-eight years old in a safe city, why would I be anything but alright?
Not yet, will text when
Sent, fuck it, she knows what I mean. I can’t be arsed rolling a cigarette, should have bought straights, do I need to put all this shit back into my bag? Yeah, probably.
Back on yer feet, girl, and get over the bridge.
Magdalen bridge is burning down,
Magdalen bridge is burning down,
take that you elite bastards
Oh my God, I can’t stop laughing and a taxi beeps at me crossing the High, I give him the finger, one thing I know about being out at this time of night, always make yourself look like too much trouble. The cobbled stones do their best to trip me up as does that fucker going a mental speed on a bicycle. I look up and see the round library. It’s odd that the periphery isn’t full of tourists taking selfies. Why don’t I come here more often? Because it’s full of tourists, you stupid cow. Remember that time you did come here during the daytime, when the students occupied it and you told the whinging fuckers who were complaining why the students were occupying it? They didn’t care, it was their privilege the students were having a go at. The rich white folks didn’t like it. Rich white folk don’t care for me even though I can pass for one of them. Well, until I open my mouth and bare my poor, cracked, rotten teeth.
The Cellar is still open, if Paul isn’t on the door, I could get in. A nightcap, nothing more. Yeah right, you fucking eejit, go home.
Ignoring the martyr’s statue, a porter is swilling down the pavement outside the Randolph Hotel, quite expertly avoiding wetting the homeless Asian man just centimetres away and the packed bus shelter. I should take a picture, but I’m an arsehole and I should be home by now.
Turning the corner I have the great privilege of looking at the oldest museum in the world—apart from churches and Cathedrals, that is. I’m as tired as those sculptures of antiquity perched on the roof. I see the clock at Exeter College. It says one twenty—where the fuck have I been? Did some time thief take an hour away? Is that what they do to propel themselves from realm to realm? I live eleven minutes away. I should time this shit.
I magically transport to the old University Press. The press that won’t give me a job because I’m not young and I’m not Oxbridge. They have plenty of money, I reason, as I throw a stone at an opaque window—a satisfying crash of glass that makes me smile. A little anarchy is what the world needs.
I look at my front door. I’ve got the keys out. What would happen if I didn’t come back? I’ve done it before, disappeared, lived under the radar. What if this isn’t my life? What if … What if this is the Matrix? Shut up you silly cow, you’re drunk.
Andie Berryman gets angry at the injustice in the world, and whilst gathering an army to storm the ivory towers of Patriarchy, she writes angry poetry and stories. Andie’s work has featured in Three Drops from a Cauldron and Pankhearst’s Slim Volume: No Love Lost.
Her ramblings and reviews can be found at andieberryman.wordpress.com