Tuesday, 1 December 2009
20. Once Around The Block, Badly Drawn Boy (2000)
New Years Eve, Manchester, 2000. A year after the day when nothing went right. Now, a cold car snaking from Swansea to the North on treacherous, snowy roads. The cold burn of a winter after a summer in which anything, anything, seemed to be possible.
I had fallen for him – WHACK – between the students' union bar and the Star and Garter, the two of us kissing at Smile as if it we'd invented it, a weekend in a daze, my whole life all mapped out. His name in my head constantly like a neon sign, blazing as brightly as his bleached, blonde crop, the halo of it protecting me for the next week. And then, five days later, him arriving in London. Smoking cigarettes by the sculpture at Euston while I waited for train, his sweet face arriving, the woozy wander home, wrapped up in each other, giggling ourselves daft. Sharing falafel at Holborn that we could barely afford, sharing whisky at a Turnham Green bus stop to keep ourselves cosy, listening to Badly Drawn Boy when we got home to my basement room, my housemates not seeing us for days, not wanting to escape, not wanting to leave, until he had to go home, until he made the call.
It had only been a fortnight. He came back after his exams, like a homecoming soldier, for two more attempts, for two misty weekends. The first – his face at another train station, his kiss on my forehead, his bony, skinny body back in his messy bed. The second – the Glastonbury Festival, the £2 Tiny Tea Tent truffles, everything unravelling, Black Box Recorder singing for us about a girl in the wreckage. Him going home, me moving to Muswell Hill, a tiny, fairylit bedroom with barely enough space for a folded-up futon, endless tears on the shoulder of my best friend, Alex, our legs dangling out of the window to our overgrown garden, cigarette ashes on the windowsill, red wine dulling the pain.
And now, six months later, I was returning. Welsh Dan driving a car of us up to Richard's new house, far away from Longsight, far away from our short time together. He teased me, he mocked me, he put tinned spaghetti on my cheek like a madman, he grinned when I cleaned it, when my eyes welled up. And then we went to the concert. In the Castlefield Arena it was minus three degrees, and no cornershop Scotch could keep my bones warm. He disappeared into the crowd just before Badly Drawn Boy came on, and when Once Around The Block began, Welsh Dan held my arm, and my cheeks iced with tears.
When midnight finally came, just like the year before, there were no fireworks for me. But as the minutes ticked by, something had to change. I grabbed a policeman on my way out for no particular reason, and gave him a big snog to general merriment. It made me smile for the first time it ages. It also made me realise that if I wanted to go on, then I couldn't go back.
I fell asleep in my clothes, and woke up with a purpose. Later that day, my train pulled into Euston, I left his ghost on the platform, and I knew I had made the right decision.