Jesus is a Rochdale Girl – Elbow
I have a single heartbreak
I celebrate and mourn
A single shining sister
And all the tricks of dawn
Someone’s poured bubble bath in the fountains near Urbis again.
Just another Saturday.
Something ripples through the city.
In the shadow of the Printworks, someone’s giving out free hugs. And donuts but no one takes them.
Come on, our kid. I bought them from Tescos. They’re fine.
It’s in the messages of the city.
Text messages. Hidden messages. Brain messages. Heart messages.
A million messages all up in the air.
And it’s that Vimto smile. It’s sitting next to Alan Turing for a Saturday Selfie. It’s sharing a Diet Coke you bought from the Arndale food court, two people to a chair and discarded sauce packets and twenty chicken nuggets between six of you.
It’s looking at the posters you’ll never buy in Afflecks. Laughing at the pick’n’mix johnnies and getting your first piercing. It’s running around with your school bag that’s as big as you, nearly causing a scene in the bead shop.
It’s following the rainbow flags, over the cobbles and over the canal. It’s the cakes as big as your face. It’s running through the AMC, sneaking into an extra film, popcorn nosebag and refillable drinks.
It’s the Big Issue seller who tells you if you buy the magazine the staples come for free.
It’s doing things differently here.
It’s the libraries, it’s the shops, it’s the galleries, it’s the history, it’s the people, it’s the strength.
It is the strength.
It’s the buzz.
And it’s the pulse of the city. Racing, tearing through veins. Exchanging glances with the one that makes your own pulse roar.
It’s queuing outside Fifth Ave wearing your best friend’s dress. It’s too small and your palms are sweaty and you’re nervous. It’s not getting ID-ed on the door until you’re eighteen. It’s spilling double Malibu and coke on your bag. Plastic cups with cracks in them.
It’s that love that’ll tear you apart. It’s all that static in your heart. It’s that feeling when the earth begins to move.
It’s Live Forever before the blinding lights come on and everyone scatters into the Northern night.
And it’s the peeling posters of gigs gone by stuck over with posters of gigs yet to come.
Layer upon layer upon layer upon layer until we all run out of breath.
There’s music archaeology in this city of ours.
It’s the trains. It’s the trams. It’s the connections.
It’s running down the stairs to get the last train home. It’s the flashing bunny ears and the glow sticks that light the way and it’s the six missed calls off your dad because he’s waiting under the arches and where the hell are you.
Where the hell are you?
That’s how it should be.
And it’s the heartbreak. It’s the heartbreak you talk about over hot chocolates. Cookies that you can’t afford. The packet of crisps you rip at the seams so everyone can have some.
It’s the heartbreak you hold close. That single one that sticks with you. It’s your own private heartache as this boy looks at someone else the way that you look at him. It’s real. And it’s there.
And it’s as solid as the skyline that provides the backdrop to your everything. The warehouses, the chimneys, the wonky hotels, the strange ways, the bars, the mills.
It’s your history, it’s your DNA.
It is your emotional wiring.
It’s one o’clock at Nobles.
Or is it a Morrisons? Or is it now a Premier Inn? Everything’s always changing around here. Fuck it, let’s meet near Victoria. And ignore the pigeons that sit and shit on her shoulders and the people in red vests and smiles in Piccadilly Gardens who I swear I don’t want nothing except a chat and do you have a spare minute?
It’s the heat that sweats out of the pores of the pavements; the loose ones that soak you when it rains.
And it’s the rain. It’s that bloody rain. And we love it. We love that bloody rain.
And it’s fumbling to find your Megarider in the bottom of your bag. And it’s running for the last bus, pegging it up Market Street because you’ll get screeched at if you’re late. Your mum’s waiting near the Prince of Orange in Ashton and if you’re not here in half an hour you’ll have to make your own way home.
And it’s the bemused bus driver who couldn’t care less. The one who makes a big show of closing the door just as you get there and opening them with a roll of his eyes.
Cutting it fine, aren’t you?
And it’s the banter. Because he thinks he’s so clever.
At least you gave him a story, eh? At least you gave him a smile.
And it’s the girl sitting on the 216 wheezing down Ashton New Road. And it’s the boy on her mind. The one who lives in an estate that you’ve never heard of. The one that only the locals know. The ones who know this place better than the breaking news stories ever will. And it’s the boy with the jacket and the hands in his pockets and the trainers and the jeans.
The one with the smile when he reads her messages.
And it’s that first fizz. That first twist of something.
The start of something.
The sun sets over Shudehill.
And it’s her phone shuddering into life. A message from her best friend, the one who’ll always be there.
Text me when you’re home safe, pal. xo
And it’s home.
It is home.
I’ve been away for a while but my heart stayed put.