Came to Leeds, day out. It’s my old stomping ground, where I came to waste away my uni days.
I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds.
I mean, not constantly. There were weeks I’m sure when I was fine.
But I got ill here, and I didn’t appreciate how ill; a lot of my time in Leeds was barb wire and static and me trying to convince myself it was silk and cool water. Still; time dulls edges and smooths wrinkles, soothes stinging memories. Now Leeds is a city of fond nostalgia, the ghosts of friends I wish I’d kept up with, and lifetime and a half away there’s a thin memory of me; less heavy with regret, although maybe just as wound up with uncertainty. And wilder, so much wilder than the man I am now.
At times, I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds.
I’m at the Union. I meandered up via the gallery and City Hall (my first night in Leeds, adventuring with PB, off to meet T at the union, we passed the city hall and neither of us had a clue where we were). Up through Millennium Square (drinks after D3 meetings, V hitting the double or quits button), over up to the uni (walking to the seminar but the world’s too big and brittle and I just have to stop I have to stop and sit, I have to sit, under the tree, and stay). I’d meant to come to the Old Bar but it’s under renovation – not before time – and so I’m having a pint up in the Terrace bar (Lunch with T, please help T I think I’m going mad) (Me and L on the terrace outside, drinking and drunk and laughing loud. I wish I’d kept properly in touch with L. I wish…).
There’s a spot in between the Union and Michael Sadler; little sunken area, trellises, grass. They’ve done it up now and it looks nice, but when I was a student here it was tatty, forgotten about. Still. Somewhere to sit. Still.
I remember sitting there once, the world electric and quaking, my body brittle, soul keening, and I could I could I could just about see, the way the patterns snake underneath the visible. Like vipers coiling behind the air, I could just I could just I could just about see how everything connects and fractures, sickly sweet rainbows, poison alarms, the name of god on the tip of my tongue. Driving me mad.
Back in my student days I was a wilder man than I am now. Off my fucking rocker.
In Hyde Park, I once passed some graffiti when I was 21 and going mad. Just Keep Breathing it said, scrawled big and basic over some rotting wooden hoarding. Just Keep Breathing. You know you’re in trouble when graffiti speaks to you.
Time blunts all sharp edges, mutes colour, softens. The past can be many things but never dangerous, always safe. I was off my fucking rocker when I lived in Leeds but now it’s all translucent memories and laughter and, if I let myself, self indulgent regret. I could have done it better, I think. Couldn’t we all?
I remember C wheeling me in the goods trolley, up from Brotherton and to the Union, on to Star. Laughing and laughing, and laughing.
M slicing mushrooms and half watching Pokemon through the kitchen door, earl grey and ginger biscuits.
Slamming the front door shut and pulling J to me and kissing, and kissing, and kissing, drunk and spinning and sloppy. E slicing tac in the kitchen, big hair and big tits and laughing and laughing, and laughing. Convincing N to stay just 10 more minutes, half an hour after he dropped his first pill. Podiums and sweat and bliss, and shisha smoke, warm bread.
And watching R leave, in the rain, and knowing it was over.
I was off my fucking rocker, trying to convince myself that sandpaper was silk, but for all the grief and tears I had a damn good time. I could have done better, for sure. But couldn’t we all?