I’m not sure if you’ll remember me. It’s been eleven years. I remember you though. You left a lasting impression on me. You changed my life. You, and the next alcoholic I lived with.
When I try to remember what brought you to Manchester back then memory fails me. In my mid-twenties, I though was just keen to rekindle some of that old university magic. But dreams of house sharing with old uni friends never came true. And so it was I found myself holed up in an attic room in a posh part of town with some roomies who kept themselves to themselves.
Shortly after they said their goodbyes, we said our hellos. You seemed pretty normal. Anyone who shared my interest in football and beer, probably would have done. When you mentioned about working in a call centre too, we bonded that bit more. Do you remember how civilised our first trip out was, to the restaurant next door? If only they’d all been like that.
As spring turned to summer our relationship turned sour.
On reflection, there was an inevitability to it all. After all, the signs were there.
I’ll never forget the time you persuaded me to sink super strength lager together on my bed one day. Now don’t get me wrong, I liked a drink (still do) but that stuff’s just not healthy. Or tasty.
Venturing out of the house with you would really inject some fear into my everyday life, one that was playing out some two hundred miles from my loving family down south. My memories of that night out in town are vivid. I’m not sure if the booze had affected your mind or perhaps there was a goodness in your heart that I failed to see as I entered my own personal nightmare with you as its architect. Sharing a pint with that homeless ruffian was scary but offering sanctuary to him, in our home, was even scarier. Fortunately you chose not to go through with your plan. You must have heard my plea, like the time I ever so politely declined your invitation to a local crack house.
Ours was not the only relationship in its early days. Luckily, I had just started seeing a woman from work. Often, I’d escape to her place in town, which felt a world away from the horrors of my existence in the suburbs with you. Yes, we were cut from different cloth. I was never any good at fighting although as things got worse I wish I was.
You put me through hell but I’m in a much better space now.
When I think back to those months I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. Now, I sleep in my own place with my beautiful, loving girlfriend beside me. Then, I desperately tried to sleep as you partied downstairs through the night with the worst type of people. Tiptoeing down my steps I once encountered one of your drunken guests who chose to urinate all over the toilet seat. Petrified of him, I said nothing. Then, I cleaned it up.
Not sure if you knew but I used to lock myself in my room, jamming the radiator up by the door. I’d toss and turn through the night, all hope of being rested and alert for the menial job I despised, gone. When I heard your key in the door my night would turn dark. Questions would race through my mind. The first would be, ‘who had you brought back’? I heard you talking to two women one night and was certain they were prostitutes. Maybe I was wrong, but I couldn’t help but think I was right. After all, I’m pretty sure you told me where the local brothel was.
I never did find out why booze took you on the path it did although the answer might just have been in that conversation we had one breakfast. You were obviously hurting, a pain visible to me and your friend who sat beside us. Your heart opened briefly when you spoke of a love lost. The sympathy I had for you dissipated quickly though. That feeling was replaced by fear as you said how I wasn’t the kind of person you wanted to hurt. A compliment in a way. Just to me, it was one wrapped up in a threat.
Little wonder then that you listened to Radiohead on a loop in the wee hours, as I slipped further into my own despair.
I was torn. And I blamed you.
Should I stay in Manchester trying to make it as an adult in a relationship? Or should I go home to the security of my parents’ place?
You may not know but I broke down on the phone to my parents once as I wrestled with this question. Dear dad was happy to drive up there and then and rescue me. I think only my relationship prevented me from saying yes please.
At least dad had my back. Our landlady and landlord were inept for ages, caring little for my wellbeing and a lot for their rental income.
Eventually though I ground them down and the bruiser of a landlord drove over. He must have seen all my desperate calls and texts in a different light as you opened the door to him, super strength lager in hand. I stood upstairs, quivering, like a child, as the tense conversation played out.
I felt relief as I walked out the door to my girlfriend’s that night, knowing you’d been evicted. For ages I thought of you as deluded. You must have been, to maintain, as you did with your last words, that all you’d ever done for me was good.
I wonder what you really thought of me though.
Maybe you liked me. Maybe you respected me.
As for now, maybe you’re alive. Maybe you’re dead.
Maybe I care. Maybe I don’t.
One thing’s for sure though, I swore never to share again with random people after living with you and briefly with another alcoholic the feckless landlords parachuted in while I was in Scotland celebrating your departure. Despite his bruising appearance, he was a quiet man, generally much friendlier and respectful than you. Not one to be crossed though.
And so my old roomie, I’d spend several years living alone, in cheap and nasty accommodation.
Ironically alcohol would see me through those times.
Like alcohol saw us through ours.
Your old roomie,