Leeds, United Kingdom, 2007
Three years ago, the night before Christmas, I remember the air being cold and languorous. The city was a ghost town; people had retired home early, last minute shoppers scrambled in and out of the supermarket, the streets were empty and wet. So much for festivity and gaiety, the only thing that seemed to sparkle were the fairy lights strung across the main square. It wasn’t the coldest winter, so to say, but there was something fug about the atmosphere. You know, you could feel that silence penetrate right through your coat and slice into your heart – well, yeah, the sodding scene was such – melodramatic to the hilt.
‘T,’ I said to my flatmate, who was with me at the time, ‘This is bloody depressing.’
She nodded, pulling together her coat and tucking her arm into mine, hoping it would feel warmer. ‘This is sad. It’s not even snowing. We’re supposed to be having a white-freakin’-Christmas.’
Then, we turned around the corner and saw this guy. Everyone had gone home, and there was this guy, wearing a hat, an open guitar case in front of him, singing Dylan's 'Tambourine Man' to an empty street. We stood near him listening to him sing, his voice soft and soulful, filling the intersection near Next with a kind of warmth that I can't quite describe.
T turned to me, and said, 'You know..it just struck me that it's the last Christmas we're spending together.'
We introduced ourselves, dropped a quid and paused when he looked at us. 'Please,' he said, ' would you like to buy a CD?'. T and I looked down, and in his guitar case, he had cut CDs and put them in self-made covers. The Black and White print read 'Jonathan Walker -The Ashville Sessions 2007'. He looked at us smiling, adding softly 'It'll be a real one some day'.
As I stood, trying to make up my mind, T took her wallet and asked him for a CD. It is for you, she said when were home, everytime you listen to it, I know you'll think of this Christmas.
Later that evening, I searched for Jonathan's Myspace profile and sent him a message thanking him for making him for making our Christmas so special. He replied, thanking us for our kind words and wishing us for the year ahead.
It's been three years since I graduated. Three years since I saw T, as she now lives in Italy. Yet, every year, around Christmas time, we still talk about that walk to the city square, and turn on Jonathan's CD to listen to his voice. This year, I learned that Jonathan has gone places with his singing. He sings on the streets of Leeds and Liverpool, and has recorded a live CD. On Youtube, youngsters who've had the chance to say hello have recorded videos of him. To those people who walk that corner by Debenhams or Next, he is now a known face. These days, I figured, they stop to listen.
I wrote on T's wall this morning, asking her if she remembered our last Christmas. Hours later, I got a reply that said, 'How could I forget?'.