Years With No Head
Sean had left the summer of the bomb and it was fifteen years before he came back, and only then because Sweeney was dying. The git had installed himself in a suite in Wythenshawe but Sean didn’t want to be an onlooker, one of many waiting around for that last swish of the curtain, the rattle in his old friend’s throat, so took his time, avoiding the moving footpath in Piccadilly Station, as clean and bright as the future they’d been promised, trusting his old feet more.
As soon as he stepped outside he was lost. Oxford Road still ran from east to west, but Sean recognised little, not even the Midland, the sooty glow it had once given up at twilight replaced by a corporate shimmer. The ruin of Central Station (a vision of the future they hadn’t been promised, he’d once thought) had remade itself in the image of commerce, a replicant dedicated to globalised commerce and piano-driven power ballads.
Walking south, he tried to find the place they used to live, but that had gone too, the whole street. Even when he’d lived there with Sweeney, they’d changed the name by rearranging the letters, and found they lived in Burn Out Close. (It had seemed appropriate, though in truth the letters didn’t quite match, so the sign read Burn Oertt Close, but the name had stuck, aurally at least.) Now everything had changed, his Crescents replaced by the kind of endless low-rise that gave him nightmares.
It might have been the drugs that had made him love the Crescents, not the ups or the downs but those in-between comedown states, dreamlike and nightmarish. The endless walkways and vertiginous depths, the tiny front doors and windows. Sean had argued with Sweeney in favour of brutalism, of clean lines, exposed surfaces, modern materials and big windows, but even then knew these were no machines for living: rackety tenements sprung from the unholy alliance of bent councillors and private construction companies, flat pack slabs of badly-poured concrete, the damp built-in, rusty bolts shooting skidmarks into the walls. Perhaps it was better gone.