by Kate Perris
Tickets for London had sold out instantly, so I grabbed two for Manchester without even thinking about it. All around me people’s timelines buzzed with whether they’d got tickets and where for.
Manchester wasn’t my first choice but it wasn’t a problem because my parents were there so we had somewhere to stay. It wasn’t a problem except…
“You’re kidding me,” Tasha said. She pulled back her rowdy curls, fixing me with a green eyed glare. “You’re introducing me as your friend?”
“They won’t assume anything else unless you say something, so it’s not a lie, just…an omission. You don’t know what it’s like.”
“To have parents? No, I don’t,” she said, and I was sorry I’d said it. Tasha was a foster child and no parents trumped traditional parents.
It was true that I’d taken boyfriends back to theirs and introduced them as such. I was trying to compete with my siblings, show that I could be normal and successful. With them being nearby and married with kids and homes I had become the younger child, even though I was the oldest child. I was the one everyone worried about, living in a room in London, single.
Except I wasn’t really, only officially.
“I realised she was right. I was supposed to end up here, with her.”
“They’ll let us share a bed,” I said. “They won’t know what happens in it.”
“I’m not going to role play we’re teenagers.”
I sighed. “If I could afford a hotel I would. Do you want me to sell the tickets?”
“Nooooo,” she sighed. “It’s the triumphant return of Sleater Kinney.”
And the ignominious return of me. At least I could show Tasha the haunts of my youth. Afflecks Palace, where I bought my first pair of big boots. Jillys Rockworld, where I danced until the first train back in the morning. It was now closed, along with the place I’d gotten my first tattoo.
“I don’t suppose your parents know about that either?’
“Do you even have to ask?”
I had gotten Dig Me Out tattooed because I had heard Carrie Brownstein had it tattooed on her ribcage. I wasn’t brave enough to get a tattoo there so I had it tattooed on one side of my lower belly, fleshy then as now. I knew I would never wear anything that revealed my belly in front of my parents, so it was safe, both a gift to and a vision of my future self who would be able to display belly flesh without shame.
And, I thought, touching it through my layers of winter clothing, I had. I mixed in fat positive circles where bellies could be visible and valued.
We arrived early and splashed out on the cloakroom so we could enjoy the show without the encumbrance of winter layers. We clenched hands and grinned at other queer couples doing the same.
“Where were you fifteen years ago?” Tasha whispered to me.
“I was right here, wishing I had someone exactly like you instead of a boyfriend who was surprised that girls could play.”
“We’re both here now,” she said, squeezing my hand.
“Where are all your old friends?” asked Tasha.
“They ended up where they were supposed to. I didn’t.”
“Nobody is supposed to end up anywhere.”
And as the guitars swept over me I realised she was right. I was supposed to end up here, with her.
I had to throw myself into the closing gap to catch the last train, just like I’d done in my youth.
“That was brave!” said Tasha.
“That was stupid,” I said.
“I’m so excited to see where you grew up,” she said.
“It’s not as exciting as you think,” I said, thinking of all the times like tonight I’d returned to its quiet oppression after experiences that took me out of its grip. And yet Tasha who had never had a home expected to find one everywhere she went.
I rang the bell.
My parents gave me stiff hugs and then turned to Tasha.
“This is your friend?” asked my mother.
Kate Perris | @mskateperris
Kate Perris is a librarian and writer living in London. She is a member of the Write Like a Grrrl community.