After All This Time

I didn’t expect it to strike me so immediately, so irrevocably, but there it was.

The compulsion to press my face against the train window and drink in the timeless view. The string of ‘Remember when’s that tumbled unbidden like diamonds and pearls. The feeling of coming home.

Walking down station steps, it seems there’s no street in this quaint cathedral town that isn’t laced with memories, the ghosts of former selves still waltzing in place, reliving moments that time has urged us on from.

Still strains of wine-inspired song echo from Silver Street, marking the bounds where town meets gown and the best nights meet their ends.

Still castle and cathedral rise beyond it, sisters dressed in mismatched floodlights and wreathed by the river’s run.

One drink for old times’ sake: heady imports and heavy metal, setting for firsts and twenty-firsts. Purple tinsel and Times Like These, a stab of unexpected jealousy. Or blue velvet and panic as we took to the stage for the first time. Love notes on the back of beer mats and poems in eyeliner scrawl.

The Bailey draws me magnetically near – my first home away from home, all cobbles and stained glass and broken glass commingled. The proud blue terrace – my Neverland – all parties and prayers and fledgling friendships.

I steel myself for memory lane – first job, first loves, the empty space where the cinema stood. Reckless summer heat despite the February chill.

The house we shared, though never together, and the windowsill that I missed you from while writing my dissertation. The corner you waited on, grinning despite yourself as I thundered down the hill in studded sandals.

One day we’ll return to retrace our other steps – the secret ones through darkened parks, to wonder on turret-tops and roam between graves. Or the tentative ones that ascended from doubt and rage and heartache, onto the ancient fortress and into cleansing rain.

Until then the fact remains, like a totem in my pocket that my fingers know by heart: A part of us still belongs to this ancient seat of love and learning. And a part of it to us.

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