We met in a frosty pub beer garden on Christmas eve. Pulling the sleeves of our jumpers over our hands to keep them warm to as we held our pints, we talked and talked. About The Smiths mostly. Her favourite song, she told me with glowing red cheeks, was 'What difference does it make?' whilst mine was 'Well i wonder'. She shivered and said it was sad the someone so lovely loved a song so sad. It could almost have been a Morrissey lyric. As she left she kissed me on the cheek, blowing out smoke as she said goodbye. I felt something shift in my heart as i watched her wobble away. She was the first thing i thought about Christmas morning.
Almost exactly a month and a half later, im invited to a party. It just so happens to be held by the girl i met Xmas eve. It was fair to say this was interesting news. When i got there, she was drunk and full of vibrancy and life. She blew smoke out as she told me how i was too intelligent for this town. I didnt know what to say to that. She then grilled me. Really grilled me. About my politics, my beliefs, my morals and what i stood for and believed in. When she finished i gave her a badge with the sleeve of 'What difference does it make?' on it. Then we kissed and fell in love. It was as simple as that.
But of course love is never quite that simple. There was the small matter of her living in London which, on a good day, would be four and half hours from my front door to hers. Ive never liked London. I find it cold and elitist, a city driven by money and a hell bent desire to cripple the weak. But for her i would dart down when ever i could. I watched the video for 'love without lies' by Comet Gain and London with its scenes and cliques stared back. I pulled out the 7" and put the flip side 'Books of California' and soothed. Ah, romance and words. Love makes everything alright doesn't it?
I tried to get on with London. I really did. It was like trying to get on with her annoying best mate. I hated the pubs, the shops, the way the tube would turn me from bright, hopeful and buoyant to dark, jaded and knackered in ten minutes. In six months, i never once feel comfortable, accepted or at home. Well, almost never.
It was only the second time i went down, and i had tickets for us to go see Camera Obscura. All those times dragging myself through work, my heart aching from missing her, i dreamed and dreamed and dreamed about this night. Now it was my turn London. Going to gigs was my thing. Not even London herself could make intimidated at a gig. They were like a womb to me, a place i felt safe, warm and protected.
To kill time as i waited for her to finish work, i made myself feel all grown up and cosmopolitan by catching a tube to Camden and buying some CD's. I only bought a couple, and bought both for her. Not an education as such, but music i thought (i hoped) she may like. I put one on as she got ready for the gig. It was the album 'Fuzzy' by Grant Lee Buffalo. I finished my wine as i looked out through her big window with candles running along the ledge and over the greying Islington sky. "Tonight" i thought "Tonight London you are mine".
With that, and a split second before the 'crunk-crunk' opening of 'Jupiter and Teardrop' i heard a voice behing me say "How do look?". I turned around to see her, glowing with love, glass of wine in hand, in her favourite hat, her prettiest dress and her little red boots. I'd never seen anything so beautiful, she looked perfect. We kissed and deep in my heart i knew this would last forever.
Its a funny thing, the passing of time. And a cruel one. On the odd occasion i find myself thinking about her, waiting at the bus stop in the pissing down rain, say, or staring out of train window, or when works particularly shit, its that image of her that i see, haunting me. Not the stink or the stains of her beige stairway carpet, not the afternoons passed in petty argument, not the mouse shit in her bottom cupboard, not the post work pasta and wine or the homous on toast or holding hands on the tube to tired to think and our heads in different places. Different worlds. Slowly, i got used that image and the sinking in the heart it brings.
I was forced to think about her the other day. I was watching telly in the glow of the rarity of a good day at work when the phone rang. It was my mate, who through a fug of extreme drunkenness managed to tell me that her mum had died in a terrible, random, cruel accident and he 'thought i should know'. I felt sick knowing there was nothing i could do help, to console.Too much time had passed.We were different people. Had different lives.
What else could i do in that situation? I bought and wrote out a condolence card and took myself for a pint to let it all sink in. I supped thoughtfully alone and looked out of the window at the train station clock. Beneath it, hiding from the rain, a middle aged man read a newspaper, a kid talked on his phone smoking. Two lovers kissed and parted and someone waved goodbye.