What happens when you revisit an old haunt, steeped in memories from your past?
For over a decade, the thought of walking back into this specific pub, The Angel, terrified me.
I wasn’t afraid of the building itself, or the people inside, or what I would see there.
I was more afraid of what wasn’t there.
I was afraid of memories from the past crashing into my present. I was afraid of feelings that I did not want to feel.
I did not need the reminder that my best mate is dead. I did not want to know that he will not be sitting there waiting for me with a pint in his hand and a big smile on his face.
Today I sat at a table by the fire, alone, with a glass of coke and a bowl of soup. The pub has a new carpet, but otherwise it looks pretty much as it did over a decade ago.
Yesterday was my best mate’s birthday. He has been dead for ten years.
For the longest time I could not step foot in this pub. I went there once, about three years ago, with a couple of friends; I was hesitant to go in, but decided to face my fears.
We three sat a table, and my vision blurred with tears. The mists of time swirled around me, like a fog leading me through a cold graveyard. I was there, but my best mate was not. I saw memories everywhere I looked, but of course, I could not see him. We had one drink and left.
I went there again around the tenth anniversary of his death, this time with his parents, for lunch.
This time, the pub was not a chilly graveyard, but instead I felt a warm and welcoming hug, that bridged the terrible gap between the past and the present. It felt right to be there, and I know my best mate would have approved. We had a lovely lunch, his parents and I.
Today I happened to have a few hours spare in my home town while I waited to collect my youngest son from a party.
I needed to eat lunch, and after debating about it in my mind, I found myself walking through the door of The Angel.
I walked up to the bar, ordered my coke and a bowl of soup, and sat by myself at a table near the fire. Two older women were sat in the window seat, where my best mate and I used to sit. I glanced over at them, momentarily envious that they still had each other, but then I felt happy for them for the same reason.
My soup soon arrived, and I ate it, greedily, mopping it up with the thick slices of buttered, white bread.
I was alone, yes, but I was OK with that. I had conquered my fears. I was alone in The Angel; alone with my thoughts and my memories, and there was comfort in that, beyond the nourishment of the soup and the warmth from the fire.
I was home.