The place gets really busy weeknights, weekends, whereas in the week you could read a book undisturbed, and the outdoor rooftop patio is fairy light-strung, and I’ve met many an eye line there, though nothing concrete, no-one who hasn’t upped and moved to London, or gone further north. So this is my place now, and it’s up to others to end up here too, or leave, but just be decisive about it. Right next to the Jazz Café, on Pink Lane, just pick the right corner.
The night that I find him again, I’m with 5 friends, some of whom have brought friends, who’ve bumped into other friends, so that we’re a tricky weave throughout a heave. He’s surprised, too, to find my shoulder, then face, though he shouldn’t be. We’ve inhabited similar spaces for years and those years have sped like a tape recorder high-pitched fast-forward screech.
I ask what he’s been up to and he shrugs like it’s impossible to summarise and I realise I couldn’t start either, to tell him what I did, what I’ve done, between those messages and now. The last five years have been a gorge, not a fast, and I’ve been retaining as much knowledge as possible in case I ever have to leave. I want to remember the plethora of options every night of another bar or show or reading. The feel of the theatre stalls, and the cabaret style candle-lit tables and the walks along banks inland, or at the coast, and the different kinds of light at both. The moments the train pulls across the bridge and everyone picks a side and stares, and the sheltered section of the station and the outside and the Mining Institute Library, stained glass that’s street hidden, and the taxi rank tunnel and the shopping trolley sculpture and the steps, like a cliff edge, the unprecedented steep drop to the Quayside and the Cinema, alley-tucked, with it’s red velvet seats and its coffee stronger than gin, and poster sales, all-night showings and the people I’ve met. Kerry and Jack and John. Hannah and Matt and Tim. And him.
I was in The Forth after watching ‘Matt Stalker and Fables’ in The Jazz Cafe. I was taking a round back to the lads, looking down, concentrating on the 3 pints in my hands, when I heard a ‘Jake?’
It was Amy. Bloody hell. What had it been? 3, 4 years? More? We hugged, which was awkward, but it’s funny what the body remembers, what it reads like braille from another’s touch: the way her head perches on my shoulder, how my arm fits the small of her back, her perfume. We discussed the usual things: the storms, the last films we’d seen at the Tyneside, how rehearsals were going for her new show. But there were all these questions. All these questions I did and didn’t want to ask:
, ; ?
and, of course, ?
All these questions, hanging, just out of reach, banging in my head, like doors rattling in drafts, like an itch you can’t scratch.
We said our “Yeah, it was lovely to see you”s, our “Definitely, coffee would be great”s, but I felt like I’d let Amy in on a big secret.
I sat down, took a sip of beer, watched her rejoin her friends. I remembered how we’d discussed film tropes – slow motion kisses in the rain, flipped cars that always landed on their wheels, as long as Jason Statham was driving, that sort of thing – then I remembered her favourite: the one in the bar, where the girl takes her drink in both hands, holds the straw to her mouth and turns, turns just enough to smile at the boy on the other side of the room. I waited, and her head was so far back in laughter, her hand reaching for the arms of others in her group, her head so far back in laughing, loving, living, and her back to me.
I smiled, said, “Next pub, lads?” I was greeted by a unanimous “Aye”, and before I knew it, I was out on Pink Lane, the whole of Newcastle spread out before me.
Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061
Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 4