I was recently in a train station in the North – the Actual North. (Chester, to be precise. I’m from Birmingham so I know the North when I’m in it.) Stations in the Actual North have a carbon copy quality. Apart from Newcastle, which is MASSIVE. And mortal, like, pet.
So. I was recently in a train station in the North - in Chester - when I was struck by a quite overwhelming memory. A ‘pang’, if you will. Maybe a memory. Was it a memory? A thought? I don’t know. If you can describe ‘My mind placed me somewhere I did not ever want to be again ever and with it cut my heart out and threw it on the ground and spat on it a bit and shot it with a catapult with a really really tightly folded piece of paper and several hours later I am still yet to recover’ in one word, then that is the word I’m looking for. Anyway, the statement in my mind can be summed up by the exact statement in my mind:
'Chester station is exactly the same as Durham station.'
Now, this may be true (it probably most definitely is not) or may be completely refuted in a number of ways – and you may be all sitting there thinking, and for good reason, ‘yeah but so fucking what?'
Well, I’ll fucking tell you. Just you fucking wait.
The last time I was at Durham station, I was – quite simply – an absolute emotional wreck. I had, by my own volition, just split up with my girlfriend at the time. I was 20 years old and I was 80% mucus, snot, unintelligible ‘is that the sound of a newborn puppy?’ noises, tears and dribble at around 11.30am. Though they were all aware of where I was and what I was doing, I’d called both of my parents and my two best friends and none of the fuckers had picked up. I left messages for them all. Well, noises. Something to do while my tears temporarily stained the concrete beneath them as I awaited the return journey to Leeds.
My one best friend sent a text to me shortly after listening to my answerphone message:
'I’ll put the PS3 on and the whiskey in the freezer.'
My dad never called back. That’s okay. We weren’t good with emotions back then. And the short sharp phone call I had with my mother certainly pulled my socks up.
“Mom, it’s over. We’re done.”
“Well. That’s that then.”
“’That’s that then?’ For fuck’s sake”
“What? I’m only sayi-“ click
I got on that train, never again to return to Durham. Two hours later and the tears had dried up, to be replaced by tumbler upon tumbler of Jim Beam. My flatmate had assured me that killing virtual soldiers in a first-person capacity would hugely benefit me. I wasn’t so sure. A text came through. It was my other best friend, who’d thought I’d panic-bought a puppy and it had run off with my phone.
Durham was a nice city. (Is it a city?) I’d spent roughly four days of every fortnight there for the last eighteen months, haunting the annals of The College of St Hild and St Bede as an extra curricular add-on during our first year at university. I’d gotten to know this little town really rather well. We’d walked the canals hand in hand at night, we’d eaten in Spags (it wasn’t even called Spags. Was it? I don’t know) by candlelight – hell, I got to know the takeaways better than I did in any other place I’ve actually lived.
And I’d consciously taken a flame to this perfect tableau I happened to find myself entwined in.
I found the next month or so incredibly tough. Incredibly tough. I don’t think I left bed for three, four, five days. But I didn’t sleep. Of course I didn’t sleep. Five more days went by, dust settling, and I had found my mind absentmindedly preparing for another trip. It all hit me again. I was never going back. So to bed, laptop full of torrented movies in hand.
I’d had breakups before. Not only did this one take the biscuit, I’m surprised McVities didn’t have me for theft. Few things since have been as tough as that. I got by with a blessed trinity of red eyes, an empty stomach and a hangover.
But...it’s five years later. (Five years. Even elephant could have had two kids.) No one could have predicted where either of us would be now. As far as I’m aware, we’re in the same city, and we’re both happier than we ever would have been together. It felt extremely weird to be thrown back to a memory that, at the time, hurt so much - but now, it just puts a small smile on my face. I lived through it. I survived.
Feelings can sometimes be so powerful as to make you think that nothing else in the world will possibly ever be that good ever again ever. Ever. But now? Now everything is better, brighter and bigger than it could have ever been back then. Decisions that seem so important to at twenty years of age - that you lose nights of sleep over, that you struggle for a month with - are now…well, relatively trivial at 25.
Emotions change; so do we. Never be afraid to move on. And don't ever let memories get the better of you.