My worst memory

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
My worst memory

Submitted: January 07, 2010

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Submitted: January 07, 2010

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My worst memory
 
Busy cities and urban centres threaten me. It is not the swarms of humans, the dominating buildings, the trees, the constant din or the unyielding traffic that scare and intimidate me, but the wildlife. I have a paralysing phobia of pigeons. Pigeons make me feel trapped in a haze of ominous vulnerability. The task of trying to recover my worst memory, a time when pigeons became my worst enemy, takes me back to a childhood visit to Trafalgar square.
 
For years now, if a pigeon approaches me, I feel a sudden fear. My hands tremble violently and I experience dizziness and nausea. I sense the need to react but my body doesn’t know how. I want to escape but I am paralysed. I have a complete lack of control. When I see a pigeon, I go into a state of tension as if becoming a primitive animal, tense, all instincts on alert. Sensing that my predator is near, a grey blur surrounds me like a hood coming down, the noise of traffic disappears, and all that I can see clearly is the menacing bird. I can see it squaring up to me. The pigeon is spot-lit in the fighting ring, direct confrontation its only intention. It is me versus the pigeon.
 
Because I am always in a public place when this happens, I am aware that people notice my embarrassingly abnormal response, and wherever I have been – Brighton, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Watford- these animals seem determined to humiliate and scare me. When I’m with my friends or family, the experience changes as they turn into an army of supporters; stamping and clapping, fighting off the enemy until we reach safety. Sometimes they herd the creatures to one side or force a path through, shielding me on both sides.
 
Even in these situations I am intensely aware of where the birds are. Often I raise my searchlight eyes, knowing that they are staring down at me from ledges, shelves or lampposts: or I have to swivel round, alert to one pecking under a bench. Cunningly disguised as just a normal bird it smirks at me, one has slipped through my army’s defences. It is greyer than most, with scruffy tail feathers. One pink claw is gnarled, deformed with no toes. I watch it wobble as it walks towards me like an injured but determined soldier until it pauses before me. It is just waiting. The sudden flapping startles me. “Where Is My Army?” The noise and the wing too near stops my heart so that even as I’m writing this my eyes are screwed shut.
 
Crossing a road can be dangerous if I am on my own. My attention is all on the pigeons, I’m not watching the traffic, my eyes flitting, checking the ground and the air. My knowledge of these birds is extensive. There is a sharp image of them in my head, even though I cannot bring myself to look at them. I know that pigeons have perfectly smooth feathers on their heads, much smoother than their tail feathers. The pigeon that I see has sharp pink claws, metallic purple or blue feathers and a pale pointed beak.
 
So I have returned to Trafalgar Square for the second time in my pigeon-plagued life, trying to sift from the present bustle of birds and people, a clear image of my most terrifying moment. Looking around, I see the enemy gathered to one side, intent on harassing me; all about, people are purposeless and indifferent. A group of birds like this moves very oddly. They have a disjointed, jerky rhythm, smooth heads going up and down, forward and back, bloated birds rolling from side to side.
 
Suddenly, the motionless lion springs a recollection. Now I can visualise a man, with pasty skin, wearing a suede jacket with a white T-shirt, holding his arms out like Christ on the cross, a pigeon on each hand. His hair is ginger and curly, and upon his head, standing proud, another pigeon, its claws nestled in amongst the strands of hair. In a white china bowl, he holds the seeds that draw them to him. Dozens of them are now bobbing around him cooing and scavenging hungrily for food.
 
Now I’m scanning for further images from my worst memory. As I look at the colossal lion, I recall as a tiny child, having problems climbing onto it, as my shoes slipped because they had no grip. Eventually there I was, astride the lion like a jockey, clutching on to my brother’s waist desperately hoping not to fall.
 
I clamp my eyes shut, trying to remember more but nothing comes. My worst memory is still a blur, still terrifying, still out of focus. When I finally see it clearly, will it be more or less terrifying?


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