08 May 2009

Billy's Walk

If you ever watch a film about 1980s working class British hooligans, say an Alan Clarke film, you’ll notice the walk is a defining characteristic of the identity of the trouble youth. It is more than a swagger. It is cocky, on edge, ready for action, and ‘do not fuck with me.’ The walk is everything. A self-defense mechanism. A projection of confidence. A statement of defiance.

Billy had that walk but it was combined with the awkwardness of an ostrich and a slight fear of the world. Maybe it was his height. Maybe it was his bad posture. Maybe one leg was bigger than the other. But with a slight hunch, he’d bounce up and down, pounding down the street, arms at the ready walking The Walk with his own confused and cumbersome take on it.

I’d spot him from a far distance. It was hard not to. No one else in the village walked like that. Sometimes, I’d hide or change my path so I didn’t see him. Sometimes, there was nowhere else to go but straight towards him. When this was the case, I’d enter a mild panic.

Will he recognize me?

What will he say?

What should I say?

Once I was with a friend, walking along the prom, just talking shit-talk going nowhere In particular. Along came Billy bobbing up and down, bottle of vodka in one hand.
I stopped talking. My friend could tell I was on edge.

What’s wrong?

Nothing, c’mon let’s go to the surf shop.

Still Billy was heading our way. A giant unwieldy hooligan walk.
When our paths crossed, he briefly squinted at me through his big thick glasses, blinked once or twice and then carried on.

Who was that nutter? My friend asked.

That was my older brother.