Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester; Manchester, England

It's the side details that really sting; how for many last night this was a Christmas gift; children calling their parents during the interval, thanking Mum for letting them go.

Last night would have been the first gig for so many there; the first real gig; the first gig without a parental chaperone. Becoming an adult; becoming grown-up.

Learning to be in a different sort of crowd; in the dark, sharing an experience. Learning to be.

It should have been a story; a throwaway line on a first date ten years hence - "my first gig was Ariana Grande... I know, I know... there were massive pink balloons bouncing off people's heads". It shouldn't have been a horror story.

Ten years hence, it should have been a half-defiant smile at the musical taste of your younger self - because you never really lose that love for the songs that carry you through your teenage years, because there's always a debt there; because those songs, those moments, those gigs are part of you. Your warp. Your weft.

In the dark, in those clubs and arenas, you learn who you are. You learn how you are. You feel your wings spreading. You feel lifted.

And not everyone in those spaces is pure and honest, but alliances are formed. Strangers look out for each other. People you will never speak to, whose names you will never know, will form partnerships with you to push back the bullies and the louts.

You learn who you are. You learn how you are.

There's no shortage of love letters to Manchester in popular culture. Hell, a lot of popular culture is a love letter to Manchester, and its environs. And seeing Manchester rallying in the face of the unimaginable, you're reminded why.

The families of 22 people are waking up to a world changed, unexpectedly, inexorably. Thousands more have many dark and difficult times ahead.

But listening to the radio; reading Facebook and Twitter, you could see Mancunians coming together to help - small acts of kindness; amazing acts of generosity. Caring. Helping.

Alliances with strangers. Partnerships to push back the horror.

In the dark, you learn who you are. You learn how you are.