When Autumn’s golden gown drapes over Scotland, I think of you. The rest of the year, I try not to.
The early morning wind stings my cheeks as I stumble into Ibrox station and, just like clockwork, I think of you. It still aches that we couldn’t figure each other out. We wanted to. You wanted in and I know that and I am sorry. I’m not convinced I’ll ever be comfortable with how little control I had over our connection. The rush of the subway feels like a metaphor for our attempts to nudge our way into each other’s souls. It’s urgent and it’s ugly. If you’re sentimental enough like I am, but you’re not, there is a kind of intimate beauty to it. Like us, briefly.
I try to not look around too much. I’ve changed since you knew me. I’ve changed because you knew me. I’m more confident and kind but I still would rather not smile at strangers on the underground. I’ve changed but I’m still me. I never was comfortable with connecting. The dark irony of peers believing that you were difficult and I wasn’t was never lost on me. I’m sorry you saw through me.
Still, this carriage rickets and it shakes. It smells, it looks dated and tourists seem to love it. It carries on despite all criticisms and has stood the test of time. It carries on because, in it’s own wee way, it works. That’s what you always did. My relentless need to be liked and loved by everybody was challenged by your relentless search for the truth, no matter the cost. You always carried on despite what others thought and I admired that about you. Even now, I admire your determination.
I swear, 12 minutes feels longer every day. After six brief intervals across Glasgow, I’m finally at my stop. I sometimes wish I was still whimsical enough to daydream. Being late to the office would be worthwhile if I missed my stop because I was lost in my own head. Teachers always hated how much I daydreamed. I just miss it.
On more tender days, the city feels like a punch to the gut. I have so many ghosts here that my reality is in a constant state of distortion. Autumn offers me the opportunity to hide from them. Layers upon layers of security. I try to make myself so invisible in the hopes that one day, maybe I’ll become one myself and lose the all-too-heavy weight of existence.
I love Glasgow, and Trongate especially because I identify with struggle. I identify with pulling yourself up from the ground and never being quite the same. I identify with the kind of solidarity it takes to rebuild a broken city. I haven’t ever shaken off my demons because, in my mind, they make me who I am and struggle is an essential part of being human. You resented this side of me, it turned out. It still stings that you believed it all, now, means nothing. It still stings that you believe I use it as an excuse for how I was. I can tell you now, far too many years later, it wasn’t an excuse. It was, though, the reason I acted the way I did towards you. I didn’t know anything that wasn’t constant struggle, really and sometimes created my own. I was a lost soul but you saw cruelty. The line could blur but like I said, we never really did understand each other.
I knew your sore spots, your weaknesses, your frustrations and I prodded at them because unlike many others, you hadn’t learned to not give in to it. You hadn’t learned that the poison you spewed at me was my own creation. You loved me, you liked me but worst of all, you needed me. It scared me so much that I chose to struggle. Again. It’s not your fault and it’s not mine. We were both just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Overall, we were wrong. We just didn’t want to be.
I don’t like to think of you because I don’t like to think of me. I don’t like to think of us. I’ve been thinking about you since I woke today and I can’t tell if the bitterness on my tongue is from the coffee that I don’t want but need or from the sour reminder of us. I need you to know that I didn’t just forget you. The bruise is still there and when I prod it, the sting still leaves me winded. In my mind, our friendship will always be Autumn. It was beautiful, it was fleeting and it was always destined to leave us destitute.
Morning commutes should be spent thinking of the day, the week ahead. Maybe even thinking of the weekend. All I can think about is you. The years since we’ve spoken have passed in a blur and I fear the ones ahead will, too. I think a lot about how short and fleeting life is. I think about how distinctly tragic it is that there are some cracks we’ll never fill. My envy towards those who can comfortably move on from these things churns in my stomach.
You should know that I’ve now learned that being kind leaves you with fewer regrets.
I’ll always be sorry. Sorry about me, about you, about us and about how little control we had all along. Hey, maybe that’s finally the thing we have in common? Why were you always so concerned about how little we had in common?
I work at the Barrowlands. To me, this venue symbolises hope. The rough times the venue has experienced are evident on the exterior. It’s dated. It’s beautiful. It’s still loved despite a somewhat shady history. It’s coming back to life in the only way buildings and humans can; it has been nurtured. So have I. I’m a better person because I knew you and because I lost you.
I hope your leaves changed too.