The next day I arose to sharp sunlight gleaming through the gaps in my blinds; a damn near rare occurrence for late March in England; especially considering only weeks ago there'd been snow storms that had come down from Scandinavia. The sunlight made me feel like going outside and doing something, but none of my friends were really outgoing people, either that or they had work. Great, stuck inside on a day like this, I thought to myself.
After breakfast I decided to do something drastically exciting and check my Facebook. Strangely enough, my usually stone dead notifications tab was telling me that I had a new friend request. It was Anna. That made me smile on an otherwise extremely boring day.
Mercifully, Anna proposed that we hang out together seeing as it was such a nice day. I instantly agreed and then, in an attempt to look less desperate, added, "I mean, I guess." Smooth.
Taking a shower, I began to get ready for my second meeting with Anna. I remember tearing my room apart looking for a shirt that wasn't a black band shirt, settling instead on a chocolate brown band tee. I could use some brighter shirts, I mused.
Brushing my wild mane of black hair, I donned my trusty beanie hat; even though it was likely going to be warm outside, I needed my hat to keep my hair out of my eyes. Nearly fumigating my house with deodorant, I slipped on my field jacket and left for the bus station where Anna and I were to meet.
A short walk later and I was at the bus station. The place was far from glorious and the faint scent of urine lingered in the air, but that's just the way things are in stagnant towns. Nervously I checked the time on my phone. Anna was late, and I was stuck in a dirty bus station; it was hardly an auspicious start. After ten minutes she finally showed up, emerging from a bus gasping for air. I guess it's just a universal thing that buses smell bad.
"Sorry I'm so late; the stupid bus driver took the piss."
"It's fine, I've only been here a minute or two anyway," I lied.
"Cool," she smiled. "So what do you wanna' do?"
I shrugged and explained that anything was fine by me, as long as I wasn't stuck in my room all day. She took a while to think, there wasn't exactly a lot to do in this town. "Hmm. I have an Idea!" she beamed. "Follow me!"
I was impressed with how well she knew the place. I understand now why she was so adept at navigating the local areas, but at the time, it was just another mystery that made her so beguiling. She led me to an old abandoned colliery that had been there since before the Second World War.
"I've always wanted to explore inside," she said, mesmerised by the towering headstocks.
The area was fenced off, but we crept through a gap that we found behind some bushes. I remember standing underneath the headstocks and hearing the wind howl by. Even on a day with next to no breeze, the headstocks were tall enough to catch the air that was moving higher up. The wind roared through the titanic metal frames, the noise amplified by the way the steel was shaped. Looking up in awe, I felt unsteady; I've never had a head for heights, and even though I was on the ground, just the thought of being up there made me sway.
Anna beckoned me over to a door that was unlocked, and we stood together looking in at the abandoned building for a few moments. It was dark and creepy, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit scared. Remembering Anna was with me; I set my fears aside and took the first few steps in an attempt to look brave. She followed closely behind and propped a brick against the door so it couldn't slam shut and trap us inside the decrepit building.
It was an eerie experience being inside that place. The only evidence of recent human activity was some faded graffiti that somebody had daubed in permanent marker on a rotting desk. We walked by a stairwell that led to the creepiest looking basement I've ever seen, and Anna wanted to see what was down there. We gingerly crept down the stairs using my smart phone as a torch to guide our way. The last few steps were submerged in murky water, and the whole basement area seemed to be flooded, halting our decline. We managed to peer around the corner to see some nasty looking fungus creeping up the walls before we decided to get out and make our way back up the steps.
Our exploration of this building ended when we found the entrance to the mine shaft, though it had been well fenced off and there was no way around it- not that I'd have dared go down there anyway. We stood for a while looking down into the great maw of the mine shaft. Looking down into that pit I found myself thinking of the men who would venture down there on a daily basis, risking life and limb. My thoughts then turned to those who inevitably would have met their end down there, and a shiver ran down my spine. I think Anna must have been thinking something similar, because she took my hand tightly as we continued to stare into the mine.
Eventually Anna made a move, leading me by the hand out of the first building, and across the courtyard into the next. Entering the second building through a collapsed section of wall, we ventured into what turned out to be the control room for the headstocks. All the power supplies for the winders, along with the winders themselves, were housed in a large central room with a high ceiling and broken glass dusting the floor. We milled about separately for a bit, exploring as we pleased, before meeting together in a booth that harboured all of the buttons and meters for operating the winders. I found it strange to think that a decade ago there would have been somebody sat here working the machinery, which was now nothing more than a dust-covered, rusting wreck.
Meandering our way through this building, we found a room with a large wrought iron staircase leading up to the upper levels. It was a stupid thing to do, but we made our way up the creaking staircase and found ourselves on the topmost floor of the building. Empty rooms and ruined machinery were the only things inhabiting this floor, though from the mess on one of the windowsills there must at some point have been some pigeons. Standing in front of a window and looking outwards, glass from the pane that used to be in place crunched underfoot, echoing through the empty building. It was late afternoon and the sun was just starting to begin its descent, Anna spotted a grid path on the roof outside that led to the staircase of the headstocks.
We carefully climbed out of the window and onto the roof, making our way up the stairs. At this point we were pretty high up, but with Anna, I didn't feel nervous. The staircase that led up to the top of the headstocks had been cordoned off with barbed wire, so we resolved to sit on the roof and watch the sun set over Maunview, my home town. Anna laid her head on my shoulder and took my hand again, as the warm orange glow cast by the sun washed over us.
Darkness fell, and we made our way back down to the streets, beginning the trek back to the bus station where we would part ways. I didn't want the day to end. When I was with Anna, I felt invincible, which, as I would find out, would end up getting me into some tricky situations. For now though, it was a nice feeling, and as we reached the bus station I felt saddened that the day was over. As we were saying our goodbyes, Anna threw her arms around me and kissed me. I was surprised at first, but pleasantly, and so I kissed her back, and then she left. The taste of her lips lingered on mine as I walked home and I remember thinking 'my god, I'm in love'. I'd never really been a big believer in love, yet here I was, finding myself head over heels for a girl who'd appeared out of the blue.
I arrived home and wasted the rest of the night on the internet, talking to Anna and agreeing on a day for our next meeting. She told me there was another Rise Against Censorship march going on in the city the next week, so we decided that we'd go to that, but promised to bail if it turned out as bad as the last one. That night I climbed into bed with a smile on my face, and drifted into a peaceful sleep. Oh, how I'd love to be able to do that again.