Thursday, 4 July 2013

Crossroads (1 of 5)


'Had such a hard few weeks, but today we have reached a crossroads and had to make a decision. Life is never easy, but sometimes that just makes it more interesting.'

Facebook status, Tammy Rainbow, 12th June 2013


I've only ever been in this room once. Buried at the back of the school on the way to the Biology lab and the fourth year toilets, it's small, poky and painted pale blue. There's above sign on the door outside it. It says 'CAREERS ADVICE'.

As I'm called in and invited to sit at a desk, I briefly recall my last visit a few months previously. The school had hired a trainee teacher from France for a year. The idea was that she'd take small groups of 'O' and 'A' Level students from time to time, and talk with them, thereby improving their linguistic skills in French conversation.

I'd a big thing for French girls, the highlight of my almost non-existent social calendar being the one time each year when the school's annual French exchange students descended on the local roller rink on the night before they boarded their coach and hopped off over the channel. In terms of romance, it was never a successful night unfortunately. Fisherman's jumpers tucked into stretch jeans, Our Kid, Yorkie and myself would endeavour to make an impression by lapping the rink with nonchalance, with the odd attempt at skating backwards, whilst being studiously ignored by the very girls we were trying to woo.

The French conversation class had been similarly successful. As a shy and awkward 15-year old, I found it impossible to talk in English to reasonably pretty English girls, nevermind talking in a foreign language to a gorgeous French mademoiselle in her early 20s. I'd managed to stutter, 'Bonjour. Je m'appelle Christophe,' at the beginning of the session - my only words of conversation for the best part of an hour - but had then fallen into a glorious reverie, gazing at this exquisite vision in front of me whilst just two thoughts jousted for prominence in my head. 'Isn't she beautiful?' was the first. 'What the hell is she talking about?' was the other.

Now, sitting behind that desk, an overweight middle-aged woman is hoping to steer me towards the correct path in life. Her faint smile only partially hides a look of terminal boredom. She talks to me in that kindly, patronising way that nurses have mastered when speaking to a patient or care-workers have finely tuned when conversing with the elderly.

'Well. Have you any thoughts about where you see yourself going in the future?'

As is often the case when I'm trying to hold a conversation, the internal dialogue running through my head bears little resemblance to what I actually say.

I'd like to be a runner. Yeah, I know that it's impossible to earn a living at running, but it's the only thing I can see myself doing.

I pause.

Well, apart from being in a band. We've got a Moog synthesiser set up in the garage at home. And a coronet from when we used to be in the Salvation Army. And a set of drums. I've already learnt the synth part to Soft Cell's 'Sex Dwarf' and the drumming part from Blondie's 'Sunday Girl'. Woody's on about joining and writing us a song. A bit underground, you know. Like B-Movie or The Associates.

The woman's waiting for an answer.

'Errr...not really,' I tell her.

She studies a computer print-out in front of her. It's got my name on it. Christopher Martin Rainbow. Class 5B.

'That's a strange choice of 'A' Levels. Biology, History and Economics. A science, a humanity and something in between. Do you realise such a hotch-potch of subjects might limit your future career prospects?'

Career prospects? Career prospects! Listen, I chose those subjects because I'm good at them. And because they're marginally more interesting than the rest of the drivel they force-feed us with here at one of Lincolnshire's most prestigious establishments.

She's waiting again, but I've not finished.

Oh...and because Babe from 'The Marathon Man' studied History. I thought it would be cool. I love that book. Don't suppose you've read it? You might have seen the film. It stars Dustin Hoffman. Ace it is. I love Dustin Hoffman. 

Ok, I've finished now.

'Errr...not really,' I tell her.

She turns over a page of the print-out and studies the results of that questionnaire we all had to fill in last week. Hobbies. Interests. Row after row of pointless questions and 'Circle A, B, C or D's.

'According to your interests and hobbies, I've two main job suggestions you might like to consider.'

Fuck me, here we go.

' A librarian..'

Jesus Christ.

'...or a teacher.'

Even worse. 

'Have you ever thought about either of these as a future career?'

'Err...not really,' I tell her.

'Well, maybe you should,' she replies.

In an instant, a sinking depression fall upon me. I've reached the crossroads that we all come to when we grow up - the point where all the things that make who you are are expected to be tossed aside while people who know fuck all about you encourage you to become something that, frankly, you'd rather not. The point in life when the signpost you've reached has just two fingers pointing in opposite directions, one saying 'Dreams' and the other saying 'Job'.

 A job? I don't want a job.

For the first time in my young adult life, the crushing inevitability of what my future holds hits home.

There's a small window behind the woman. As she goes on and on, I stare blankly in the direction of the dirty glass pane. Outside, it's raining.

Is this it? When it boils down to it, is this what it's all about? Is this what we're supposed to bow down to? Respectability and a pay packet? No wonder all the adults I know are so fucking miserable. 

Heaven knows I'm miserable now too.

She's about done when there's a knock on the door.

At the second hesitant knock, I turn round. The door opens slightly and the French mademoiselle pops her lovely head through the gap. She's got a group of 'A' Level students in tow. Obviously thought the room was unused.

'Oh, excuse me,' she says, apologetic and embarrassed.

She goes to close the door, but not before she sees me. I manage a small smile before I have to look down.

'Oh, bonjour Christophe!' she sings in the way that pretty young French girls do in late-night films on BBC 2.

Alright gorgeous!

I try to reply but, tongue-tied, I can't get any words out before she's shut the door.

The woman across the desk brings our interview to a close and pushes over a pile of leaflets for me to look through. I thank her, stand up, stick the leaflets in my Head bag and make for the door, daydreaming.

I hear her voice again. 'Oh, bonjour Christophe!' And I see her smiling face. She obviously fancies me.

I leave the room labelled 'CAREERS ADVICE' and lope down the corridor, a swing in my step, thinking not of my future career but the living that lies in front of me.

Suddenly, the future doesn't seem so bleak.

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