There's a famous quote by Billy Bremner that says:
"Every time Leeds concede a goal,
I feel like I've been stabbed in the heart."
Now you don't need to have stepped much further than your own front door to know what the man was talking about,
and you don't really need to be a football fan either:
this is when you’re nothing but a vessel,
and nothing in existence compares to that one thing that holds you hostage.
I leave my hotel room at eight in the morning,
hand my key into reception.
The thought of a fried breakfast makes my stomach turn,
so I order a nice cold pint of lager instead.
I sup it in silence; that fat fuck Eamonn Holmes on the TV behind us, punctuating the awkwardness between me and the barmaid.
She looks startled and uneasy; not wanting to leave the bar for fear of what I might do behind her watchful eye,
but she needn't bother; I’m no danger to anyone besides my own sorry self.
I step outside and light a cigarette;
first shielding the flame from the hint of a sea breeze,
and then shielding my eyes from the early morning sun.
I walk up South Parade towards Fitzgeralds.
I catch a flashing glance from the old boy who sits outside.
He looks right at home there with his pint of ale and his morning paper,
but his eyes look lost;
as if he's waiting for something, and yet he knows it'll never happen.
He's got a Newcastle United badge on his coat,
so he probably isn't too far wrong.
I type out a text and delete it, stood opposite the York House Hotel.
I try calling and don't get an answer, but that's probably just as well.
She told me about him last night, but not of her own volition.
And the thing that winds me up is that I didn't feel a hint of suspicion.
On those nights we spent alone, we were the only two alive;
in this sunless hole, this paradise, and with only love to survive.
I remember the first thing she told me, as we both gazed out to sea:
"they're all just Nymphs & Thugs."
Well what the fuck does make me?
I climb aboard the 308 and buy a single ticket.
My head rests against the window, which gently vibrates.
Waves crash against the slim Northumbrian coast in the distance,
and seagulls float around gracefully in ravenous packs.
She didn't tell me his name; she didn't have to.
That doesn't bother me in the slightest.
His very existence is my moistened Adam's apple;
The saliva in my throat that's ready to wretch at any given moment.
I think of all those nights when she told me that she was crippled by her loneliness,
and that she felt suffocated and buried alive whenever she contemplated her future.
When she told me how scared she was,
and how nobody would even notice if she necked a bottle of Bombay;
leaping from the Pier, never to be seen again.
And all the while I believed her. Christ, I even cried for her.
And all the while she's been texting me,
and then not answering her phone because he's fucking her in her Mum's box bedroom,
and then texting me back once he's fallen asleep,
telling me that her phone had slipped under the cushion whilst she was watching TV,
or that she'd left it upstairs and not realised,
or, there was no signal in the pub when she was out with the girls...
They're the words that she used to describe them:
every single man she’s ever met.
"They're all just Nymphs & Thugs;
you're the only decent one I've seen yet."
Yeah, well that was then, but now I know the truth;
now I know about him, the other man,
the man who holds her:
keeps her stowed away in this soulless shithole.
And now I'm on my way to win her back.
I get off at the Bus Station on Bridge Street,
I cut along Union Street to get to Plessey Road,
I walk alongside Croft Park where the Spartans play,
past the clubhouse, and through the back alley leading to Cypress Gardens.
I turn left onto Princess Louise Road,
and then straight across the big green roundabout at Broadway Circle:
"they're all just Nymphs & Thugs."
I walk past the broken cash machine,
and then further down Princess Louise Road.
I turn left onto Newsham Road.
This is where I start to feel sick:
my heart begins to palpitate, I find it hard to breathe,
I light another fag;
a lengthy queue at the bus stop scowls and observes,
confused and concerned, disgusted but reserved:
fearful maybe, but they needn't bother:
I'm no danger to anyone besides my own sorry self.
"They're all just Nymphs & Thugs."
I reach the Co-Op on the corner of Southend Avenue.
I try calling her again; no answer.
I send her a text telling her to expect a knock on the door.
My throat wretches, and as I double-over,
I leave nothing but beer and bile in the bin.
I loiter outside the Co-Op, and then turn left onto Wordsworth Avenue.
I decide to take the long way around. I check my phone, but no response.
Wordsworth Avenue becomes Shelley Crescent,
I follow the curve around the green, and then I'm stood on Byron Avenue.
This is where she lays her head at night.
This is where she cries and this is where she dreams.
This is where he holds her close,
and where she's used me as a Councillor and a Therapist:
always there at the end of the line,
just to make her feel a bit better about herself.
And whilst I'd been building us a future,
this is where she dwelled on nothing but the past.
She told me that she was scared of the future,but I knew I was gonna make it better.
It was outside that clubhouse when I thought I'd stolen her away;
beside the lamppost and the bushes, safe from all the disarray.
And I told her:
"it's never enough for me just to know you're nearby."
But her shoulders were hunched; she couldn't look me in the eye.
This was tension that she carried, not the usual mystique.
And then her lips became a blade, and the beautiful was bleak.
And that's when it hit me.
That feeling that Billy talked about:
that sickening sense of loss;
that despair that just leaves you feeling redundant.
And now I stand here, outside her house, all alone.
And I've never felt so alone in my life.
And I can't help but thinking,
maybe she's lying; maybe she's just scared that I'll fall short,
and that she'll end up even worse than she was before.
Maybe she's just shacked-up for a fortnight with a local loser;
hoping it'll scare me off and leave her alone for good.
Her curtains twitch, and then her cool, cold face emerges.
Hers is a radiance that makes you forget yourself in an instant.
She stands there like a porcelain statue;
from here, she looks breathtakingly beautiful.
But up close, she's riddled with cracks.
Her front door flies open, and he's frog-marching towards:
"they're all just Nymphs & Thugs," and these girls are their rewards.
I use every muscle in my body, to stay here standing still:
one half is fucking petrified, one half's inclined to kill.
He measures me and sneers, and it's almost like he's pouting.
She's still inside her bedroom; crying now and shouting.
The neighbours ponder my demise or ITV,
and then he breaks my nose like you might make a cup of tea.
And as he beats me, I fall towards the floor;
I kiss this bed of concrete, lie begging him for more.
This sends a wave of rage to his Neanderthalic brain,
but for his woman that waits above? This is a fraction of the pain.
He finally stops; he spits and takes a breath.
He leaves me here defeated; an inch away from death.
He walks inside, and I just crawl towards the curb;
like a dying dog, I'm graceful: not wishing to disturb.
I wait for her to come down and help me lick my wounds
but there's an eerie silence, and that tells me everything I need to know.
Well he's just given her a damn good reason to be scared.
And who knows, maybe she does want to come down and see me, but she can't;
maybe he'd raise a fist to her as well.
But then again, she could've told me sooner;
she could've prevented this.
I guess love's a pretty terrifying burden,
and by Christ it doesn't half fuck around with your brain.
"It's time to take the bit between the teeth,"
that's what I told myself all along.
Yeah, well more fool me for going where I wasn't wanted.
I hope she's rife with guilt, lying crippled on her floor:
I hope she dies of shame after fighting a fifty year war.
But as I drip blood in the gutter, it's too late to pretend,
that in this world of Nymphs & Thugs, I'll love her till the end.