It was on my last time in Glasgow that I was sat on the Clyde under the Glasgow Bridge. I was staying at a friend’s who had to work in the mornings leaving me on my own. I didn’t know where to begin or what to do. It wasn’t my first time there. In fact, I’ve been to Glasgow so often that I’ve lost count. It was my safe house during my time in Britain.
I’d walk around – mostly in the centre or spend the day at the Gallery of Modern Art and then, walk down to Glasgow Bridge (also known as Jamaica Bridge), and sit watching the trains go in and out. When the sun’s about to set, I’d walk down Broomielaw, to the Glasgow Harbour, passing by the Clyde Arc (which always seemed out of place on the River Clyde) the Hilton, Crowne Plaza and the Tall Ship. Or I’d head the other direction from the Glasgow Bridge, follow a sign which points to Glasgow Green but never reach it. When it becomes darker and colder, I’d turn back, to return to Glasgow Bridge and make my way back to wherever bed was. A hotel or a friend’s house. Rennie Mackintosh station hotel or Ibis.
What did I do there? Why did I go there? I never had answers to such questions. But every time I was about to leave the city, I’d make concrete plans of returning, in a busy tone of mind, as if there was some serious business at Glasgow. Some clandestine one-of-a-kind relationship. The kind you don’t talk about.
But this last time, was the time I didn’t have a job, not much money or a plan. I had one last exam to give in Birmingham and then, I’d decided, I’d leave Britain. I’d go home, to India, where it should all fall in place. This was in November 2014. Just a year since I’d first stepped into Glasgow. Knowing my attachment to the place and the fact that I was leaving Britain, my friend invited me over, for one last Glasgow.
By then I’d read a bit about Glasgow, knew about its shipbuilding history, wars, its architects, its Glasgow smile, the murders, the afterdark; dated a man there, became a regular at a few places, knew bus numbers, trains and important routes, visited the Glasgow Cathedral often and peaked into the Necropolis when brave. Of the many things that stuck strongly from the Glasgow obsession was the song Feather on the Clyde by Passenger.
There’s a river that runs through Glasgow
And it makes her but it breaks her
And takes her in two parts
And a current just like my blood flows
Down from the hills
Round aching bones to my restless heart…
On all those walks, I carried this song. I was sure, that of the many people it was written for, I was one.
One last Glasgow lasted five days, during which I sat under Glasgow Bridge, on wet grass covered with leaves, fingertips pink and numb. Now and then, in exaggerated emotion I’d ripple to lean against the railing and catch my reflection on the water. Reflection, water, bridge and I shook with every passing train.
Runners, dogs, walkers, prams, cyclists, lovers, people in hurry. I stared at them all.
It wasn’t the usual Glasgow. Comfort did not gather like water drops on the leaves I played with. Instead, there was unease. When would I come back? Who would I be then? Would I be taller? Wiser? Perhaps stronger? Would I be in love? Would I forget all this? Would I come with someone else? Would I be any richer?
Would I come at all?
I was sat on the Clyde, asking it these questions, in the space of my mind open only to the two of us. Portland street suspension bridge glowed in the setting sun. Today wasn’t for a walk. I just wanted to sit there and one after the other, think of all the things that I’d done. The roads that I’d walked, the people that I’d met, loved and left, the places I’d seen, the little things I’d laughed at or broken down at, the things that I’d miss. I gathered all this and left it under the Glasgow Bridge, whose seven arches cut through the River Clyde. Now, now, I will have to come again to take them back.
So that’s how one last Glasgow became another Glasgow – perhaps more important than the rest – when I left promising to be back. Back to this unexplainable city – to our questionable affair – where I’d left behind some of my stories.
The sun sets late in Glasgow
And the daylight and the city part
And I think of you in Glasgow
Cause you’re all that’s safe
You’re all that’s warm in my restless heart
That’s how the song ends…