Life writing: Darlington, breathless

Colour photograph of a blue sky and bare tree branches seen through a wet window

Everything here is red brick and I half expect to notice you standing on the platform as I turn my head and try not to think about it being over a decade since I saw you last. This time, again, I’m just passing through and the man next to me mutters under his breath through gritted teeth into his phone,

It would’ve been easier just to keep the dog, wouldn’t it?
I’ll talk to you later. I’ll talk to you when I get home.

But here I am. I’m kind of leaving and it’s unusual to have so many things to go back for. I feel them pulling much more strongly than when you knew me. It’s a comfort to have these anchors now.

Would you even recognise me after all these years? I sleep at night now, most of the time. No more skin dripping from vodka-soaked bones and no more desperately cutting all ties with myself, with everything.

Maybe you’d look up and our eyes would meet at the station or on some busy street and we’d both know it made more sense to just keep walking.

I’ve written so many letters to you, to myself, to us-at-nineteen-and-lost. Some I kept for years and some I tore to pieces as soon as I finished writing them. This is just another pile of wasted words, before the fire.

From the window of the train, the world slides by under the watery light of a tired sun and I remember that my life is something else now. Something different. Something more.

And as I drift off to sleep, I hear in my head the chorus of a song we used to play on repeat with the curtains closed against the blistering late afternoon, our bodies curled in my bed like a tangle of sadness, wishing for anything that might be easier than this.

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