The last time that I lived in York without maggots of doubt nibbling away at my core feels like a lifetime ago.
Essentially, it was a lifetime ago. Back then, I lived in a house that shook when buses drove past; a house that practically had fault lines running from the door frame to the ceiling. There were two staircases and one of them led to nowhere. We had a red brick for a lock behind one of the bathroom doors. There was no kitchen bin, just a black bin liner which one of my ‘creative’ (male) friends would periodically hurl through the window of the first floor kitchen instead of taking it outside. Eleven of us lived there.
Back then, I was living on a student loan and a part-time job. I had to buy the cheapest of everything in the nearest supermarket and I always ate leftovers the next day. I used to buy ‘posh’ bread when it was reduced to 20p a loaf, and stick it in the freezer. We drank special offer alcohol at student nights, and if we had no money we drank other people’s pints, left carelessly at the side of the dancefloor. Our feet stuck to the carpet as we moshed at the Thursday rock night.
Back then, it was a different city for me; alive on weekdays and dead to me at the weekend. It was filled with a magic that pulled me back like a magnet from any other city that I visited. I could stay for weeks, sometimes months, without leaving the medieval, magical ambience of York.
Now, now it is different. The city is no longer my playground but a trap. A trap which ensnares us with its smooth, middle-class inertia. Now, the walled-in whiteness bores me, frustrates me, has lost all its charm. And the question that everyone, everyone keeps asking, “So, are you settling down; are you staying for good?” sends me mentally searching for my passport in a panic. For why would anyone who has lived outside these walls think that they could shoehorn themselves back into such a tiny, white space???