This weekend I said goodbye to a huge chapter in my life, and a formative chunk of my youth. Every Sunday I would go with my mum and dad to their warehouse and either sit in the office doing my homework or help to pack orders. Excited, I would sit in this hub of commerce, graffiting my name on to hidden parts of the warehouse, or clamouring over boxes, climbing up on to shelves in my own private action thriller where a man has to pose as a lowly warehouse worker to infiltrate the gang. Even when I was old enough to develop a social life, I would still once a month visit the warehouse to help out, as did all the family, every Sunday. We would sit and chat and pack orders for my dad and we would do so without grumble. Soon the lure of the place wore off and I went off to be a teenager instead. This weekend, the business folded after financial issues, the warehouse closed its shutters for the final time and dad said goodbye to the last twenty years of his life.
And he did so with sadness. When we arrived to help him, he looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you dare say this is an end of an era or I will lose it with you.’ I bit my tongue. It was sad. I felt sentimental. I walked around the warehouse trying to find those little pockets of graffiti that were mine that showed I had existed. They weren’t there anymore. I searched for twenty minutes while some of the final tasks were carried out. I couldn’t find them. I saw out of the corner of my eye, the coat hooks lining a wall as soon as you entered the offices of the warehouse. Above them were labels with the names of previous employees from over 20 years ago, before we had moved into this warehouse, the employees of a fridge company now based minutes away in a bigger facility. They were ghosts and embers now. This was no longer their space. I needed the next tenant to know about my dad and his brother and their wives and the lives they had fought and spat to forge and the sacrifices they had all made for their children. Brimming with sentimentality, I found some new labels in the stationary drawer and covered up these fridge magnates’ names and I wrote in marker pen: my father, my uncle, my mother, my aunt- their names written clearly for posterity, surviving forever in the memory and breath of the warehouse.
My school was around the corner, my Beatles tape was still in the broken tapedeck, and on the wall was a framed photograph with a foreboding proverb: ‘Just when I make ends meet, someone moves the posts’. Dad and I remarked about how seven or eight years ago he and I had been moving my sister’s bedroom mirror and we had dropped it, smashing it on the floor. We wondered whether the dark cloud of bad luck was now firmly behind us. He angrily spoke about the UK and how it wasn’t geared to deal with small businesses, especially ones with vaguely ethnic names. Now, in liquidation, the vultures of finance were gathering around him like a flapping feather of doom, trying to lay claim to their pieces of silver, draining anything possible out of the zero balance the company possessed. One particular supplier, an Indian, who I had visited during my travels, who had taken care of me, had emailed dad and said he had ruined his life. The claws were out. The knives were sharpened and yet no one seemed to care about the centre of the storm: a broken old man, a few years away from his retirement, now faced with the dissolution of the last twenty years of hard graft and sacrifice and less than nothing to show for it, only debt and direct debits and no future. Dad had regret. He had mental lists of what should have beens and what could have beens and what was wrong and what would happen next time, only now, there was no next time. I asked him if he wanted to take the sign down outside the warehouse, advertising the business. ‘No f*cking way,’ he replied. ‘I want nothing to remind me of this place. Not even a business card.’
Before we left, I found a undiscovered corner of the warehouse, my favourite spot to disappear to as a child and read and I wrote on the wall, ‘We gave it everything we had; it was enough’ and I looked out at the warehouse and said goodbye forever. Dad closed the door on the last twenty years of his life, holding back a tear and wondered aloud if it had been worth it, he had nothing to show for it. As if she knew my private thoughts, mum held his hand and said, ‘We gave it everything we had; it was enough.’
Brain Drain #3 - Photos
7 years ago