It’s almost a year since I last posted, and truthfully, I wasn’t sure I ever would again. I’ve been flirting with the idea of archiving this blog for a long while now, even before I
fell off the end of the earth moved to Bacup.
We moved last August, as the long, hot, summer drew to a close. After months of uncertainty, wondering if we would ever achieve that lofty and ridiculous goal of ‘owning a house’, we suddenly had everything I’d spent the better part of the year aiming for, and – predictably – I hated it.
I think I cried every day for the first three months, and have continued to, sporadically since.
In September, my lovely friend Jo invited me to Verbose, the spoken word night she was running at the time. I’d been along to one earlier in the year, before leaving Manchester, but only as a spectator, and at the end of the night she’d suggested that next time I should take a slot on the open mic. The theme was going to be ‘weird love’, and drunk on three cans of Red Stripe and on a delicious nicotine high from passive smoking, I promised I would, and that I would write a piece about my epic teen crush on our cross-eyed wheelie-bin cleaner.
Fast-forward to September, in our new house in the hills, and I couldn’t sleep. Our new black-out curtains obliterated the timid glow of the streetlamps, and even the occasional passing car failed to make any impact on the deafening silence that poured in through the open bedroom window. In the pitch black silence, I wondered if I’d moved, or died.
One night I got up at 3am and made myself a mug of warm milk, wrapped myself in a blanket, and sat down in my new, yellow armchair with a notepad, determined to prove that even if I couldn’t sleep in this new place, I could still write.
I wrote without thinking too much, aiming to just get some words down so that I’d have something to clutch in my shaking hands at the spoken word event, which was now looming on the horizon.
I never went, of course. Moving house had raked up my anxiety like a plough. The day came, and my excuses flowed like Bacup’s notorious fountain of yesteryear. I’d been off sick from work the Saturday before, my voice still hadn’t quite recovered, I was tired, anxious, I’d never done spoken word before, Chris might not get home from work in time for me to leave anyway, why psych myself up for something all day only to miss the bus and not go? I felt bad, as I always do, but I still broke my promise.
Today is the last day of the school year. Unlike me, the kids have adapted beautifully, settling into their new school just as though they’ve always been there. Accepting what I can’t (won’t?)- that this is it now.
All day I’ve felt acutely aware of the minutes and hours ticking away- my last chance to get any real writing done before the lazy chaos of the summer holidays begins, but I haven’t been able to settle to anything. I’ve opened google doc after google doc, flicking through old notebooks, looking for that elusive spark. It was in the back of this one – hastily scrawled in black Biro – that I found the piece I’d written for that night at Verbose.
It’s untitled and messy. At the top of the page I’ve written ‘Loving places- Manchester vs Bacup??’
I read it and I cried (for a change).
I can’t go back and force myself to take the stage, but maybe I can go forward?
So here it is, unedited:
It’s a strange thing, to promise yourself to one, when your heart already lies with another.
Perhaps I’m to blame, but it seemed obvious to me that it wasn’t mine to give. That if it could be won at all, it would be after a long and bloody battle that saw it clawed, still beating, from my chest.
After fifteen years its rhythm is hardwired, and here I am, changing the beat.
Suddenly all the irritating habits are quirks, idiosyncrasies, softened by distance. The faults of my new love, jarring in their strangeness. Not worse, but different.
I don’t yet know this landscape, these roads aren’t mapped and printed in my mind.
Wrong turns are catastrophes, and I ask myself how long until I know this new place, and myself in it.
‘Good on you,’ people say, when I tell them I’m leaving. But they stay. And I wonder, is it envy I see in their eyes, or pity- at walking away.
And so I find myself sneaking back. Mutual friends, a sense of obligation, convenience…the excuses are as plentiful as my visits. But I never stay the night.
We both know it wouldn’t be right. This isn’t home anymore.
So I drift between my old love and my new, loved by neither, loyal to none.
But not without hope.
When the sun sets over the valley, like a lover’s eyes closing, peaks- and cheeks- tinged with pink, I remember why.
Why I chose this new love over the old. The beauty in the strange.
The kiss may feel unfamiliar after a lifetime. Teeth bumping and lips bruised. But it is, after all, a kiss.