Tales of Clay 3: Watching the cool kids

At the skate park three teenage lads were doing stunts on their BMX bikes. As I fumbled around in my bag for one of the children they stopped and watched me from a distance. I set him down on the top of a high wall overlooking the track and beckoned them over. They asked and I explained what I was doing, hoping to evoke wonder, but they shrugged. Then I suggested that I could take photographs of them jumping the ramps whilst the figure looked on and they agreed. He watched, from the shade of the urban shrubbery, as the cyclists jumped and twirled. When I thanked them and left they watched me go with a sullen air and I feared for the little one’s safety. 

But I judged too soon and when I passed a few days later the child still gazed across the tracks watching the everyday dramas of the subculture as the young crowds gathered each evening to smoke and talk, drink and play.

On the fortieth day he was no longer on the wall, but had fallen amongst the bushes. Whilst the skaters and bikers rode and rumbled across the tracks I pushed my way through the undergrowth to find him. The trunks and branches tangled and I stretched myself out to reach him until I was full length on the ground with my fingertips straining for his fallen body. Branches scratched my face and I could feel the damp soaking through my jeans where my knees pressed into the soil.

It puzzled me why, on a dry day there was so much mud and then the stench and the realisation struck me that I was lying on the ground in dirt and piss. I shuffled and stretched to grasp the fallen child before struggling to me feet, smeared with the filthy earth and hoping that none of the skater boys had seen my scramble through their makeshift WC.

But the child was safe, if just a little battered like my pride. 40 days watching a community then falling, forgotten, into their piss/mud to provoke the wilderness question of how the hell did I end up here?


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