International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Childhood
Purple Rose of Baffins
1985 I moved house with my family to a street near Baffins Pond,
Portsmouth. I was ten.
One day I noticed a particular house some way down the street,
on the other side of the road from my own. What made it stand
out was that it was almost completely purple.
It was a rather
drab purple though, not really gaudy or eye-catching, but fading and
dour. It was as if that was the only colour paint available and therefore
what was used; it was thoughtless, unconcerned with outward appearances.
Like the inhabitants perhaps? The curtains in all of the windows were
a similar purple too, as was the front door.
As time went on I grew more curious about who might live in this house,
if indeed anybody did. Id still not seen anyone going in or coming
out of there, and began to notice what an empty, uninhabited impression
it gave off. In fact I couldnt remember ever having seen any lights
on through the windows or curtains, even in the evenings.
One afternoon during the summer holidays, I saw a huge caravan parked
outside the house. It seemed odd that somebody living in such an apparently
neglected house should own or even be able to afford such a luxurious
vehicle. It was so big that it had obviously been parked in the street
because it wouldnt fit in the driveway at the side of the house.
My friend David Oxon and I were playing in the street. I cant
recall that we were playing anything in particular. We had our bikes
and were just having as much fun as can be had from a kerb, a pavement
and a row of forecourt walls. It was unusually quiet that afternoon,
with very few other kids outside. I suppose people were out shopping
or at the football or away on holidays.
"Theres that caravan", David suddenly said, letting
his bike drop from beneath his legs.
"Where?" I said.
"Lets go and see it", said David.
We were about fifteen houses away from the purple house and the caravan
had just pulled up outside it, with the front facing away from us. I
was apprehensive. Obviously I was curious about who would get out of
the caravan, but in my mind Id built up vague, unformed ideas
about this person or people. Were they murderers? Child molesters? Monsters?
Two figures got out from either side of the caravan and went into the
house. All we could make out from where we were was a rather elderly
lady, probably sixty or seventy, but certainly not frail or slow. And
the driver seemed to be a woman.
David was ahead of me, approaching the purple house and clearly intent
on finding some answers.
"Lets have a look down here", he called out to me, now
standing at the opening to the driveway.
I was now with him and we were looking at the front of the house, perhaps
expecting to see a light come on or a face appear at the window. But
as usual there was no sign of life from within.
The next thing I knew David was up at the end of the driveway, climbing
the metal gate that closed off the back garden.
"What you doing?" I asked, halfway between a shout and a whisper.
Now I was worried, curious but worried.
"s alright", he answered, with one leg over the other
side of the gate and his t-shirt caught up halfway up his back.
"Lets just go", I said, glancing nervously up the street
and back. But he was already over the gate.
A moment later I heard a voice, a nasal, slightly posh voice that sent
a shiver down my spine. It sounded female but deep, old but strong.
I then heard a metallic scrape and the door opened. David ran out straight
past me. Then this face appeared from behind the door. It was a woman.
But it was a man. A man dressed as a woman. I felt like I was going
to shit myself.
"Get away from my house", she or he said.
I stared at the face for about a second.
It was the nose I remember most, absurdly big and so obviously that
of a man. And I noticed the hands, again obviously those of a man.
Then I turned and ran off.
It was the first time Id ever seen a trans-sexual, although even
then I didnt know that word. It scared me to death. I stayed away
from the purple house after that, although I saw her a few months later
coming out of a shop in Fratton and going off on a bike. Since then
Ive come to feel quite sad for her. I think shed been living
with her mother in that house and so she was obviously a caring but
maybe rather lonely character.
But if I ever see or hear her again I dont know how Id react.
And I know that the house is still purple.
© Paul Martin November 2006
Paul is studying for his Masters in Creative Writing at the University
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