Wednesday, 22 October 2014

I Resolve This Much

Laura Jane Williams
Last night I went to a reading of The Opposite of Loneliness. Do you know Marina Keegan? A Yale graduate who died in a car crash two weeks after she walked the commencement stage, in 2012, 22 years-old, a job at The New Yorker waiting for her and her boyfriend in the driving seat, whose parents assembled her work posthumously

Her high school English teacher read. Her college best friend read. The girl she grew up with read. A boy she met sailing at ten years old, and the au pair she had at five years old -- they read, too.

Her mother, sparkly eyes and a smile that dropped just the other side of okay when you weren’t looking, told stories of her attitude and her aspirations. Her sass and her hopes. Her car. Her love. Her life. Her father, fondness on his face, missing her in his ever-moving hands, as if he were trying to grapple, hold on, to something nobody else could see, said he cried when he read the pieces on memories they’d made together. He laughed as he remembered her belligerence out loud. Her politics. Her questions.

Marina Keegan was in that room with us last night. She was in the hearts of every single body in attendance. Her energy was palpable.

Shit, I thought. I can’t imagine what mum and dad would be like if they were ever – touch wood, God forbid – hurtled into such circumstance. My eyes pooled at the consideration, heart skipped double-quick time. Maybe it’s true what they say about death being mostly about the living.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Tribe

“Fucking hell,” she said to me, as they huddled outside for a fag and I finished my risotto on the sofa. “It’s like four Laura Jane Williams’s in one room. Like, who’d have thought? There’s more of you! I’d never have guessed that was possible.”

Me neither, I said to my housemate, laughing. Me. Fucking. Neither.

She was talking about three of the most kick-ass, creative ladies I know, who this weekend I invited to my house for a grown women’s sleepover, because: tribe.

Some people just get you more than others, you know?

It started with the women who made me, on my travels. A group of girls who should never have crossed paths, really, different as we all are, and yet there we found ourselves, on the Italian Riviera, bonding over Nutella-laced gelato and building each other into the women we were always going to be.

Then that woman, the one they built, came to London, and the world was my oyster. But how do you find the people just like you in a city of over eight million? Travellers are easy: they’re out on the road. Who would my London friends be? I tried everything I could to figure it out: dance classes and supper clubs, book meetings and volunteer sessions. My people must be out there, I wailed in the lonely hours, desperate to be understood in the place I now called home.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

From Russia, With Lust

Superlatively Rude
I didn’t want to go. I asked the universe, silently, that she not need me after all.

When my friend emailed to say, I see you’re travelling and teaching English again – wanna come do some stuff at the University of Essex for me? I said yes because you guys: the cash for a gig like that is huge. Enough to work for four weeks, but to fund twelve more. And that means my favourite thing in the world -- time for writing. But a month’s work became three weeks, became two, became one. And I was tired: I’d spent two months in Italy, living out of a bag, and just come back from a trip to Austria with a drama group who only had one volume setting: really fucking high. I was in need of my own bed.

She called me on the coach, on my way home. Can you come the day after tomorrow, she said. I know it’s hardly worth your time but I’m desperate. I’d already given my word is the thing. So I didn’t bother to unpack. I headed off. My bed had to wait.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Six Month Check-In

Superlatively Rude

There’s a reason I'm posting pictures of myself in my underwear on the Internet.

When I first wrote about wanting to lose weight, people were kind. But then, a month later, I accompanied my tales with pictures of my 180 pound self in just knickers and a bra, and my feeling of not-being-alone-ness skyrocketed. I was overwhelmed by the love and cheerleading I received. This is what a real woman’s body looks like, I declared, and my inbox was set alight with men and women both. Thank you for being wobbly and proud, they said.

I realised that accidentally, by mistake, I was using my own narrative to maybe, possibly, help other people with theirs. The story of my body image battle reflected that of others reading me.

I didn’t know there were more. Thank you.

The emails and messages that popped on my screen were deeply personal, charting struggles and wars, deep-rooted emotion and doubts and fears and suddenly, it felt – feels ­– like a responsibility to keep on being honest about our bodies. A responsibility to keep telling the truth. To represent real tummies. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Retirement Home

Laura Jane Williams
It didn’t smell like piss and the loss of all mortal hope, like I’d thought it might. Feared it might. In fact, it was dead normal, really – it was just that instead of hustle and bustle there was a slowness to it all, a gentle deceleration. Like looking at eighty years of memories through steamed up glasses.

“Hello, Nanna,” I said, and from her chair in the corner she stopped talking to my Aunt, mid-sentence, and looked up, smiling. The kind of smile that doesn’t hold you up to the responsibility of not having visited in fifteen months, and floods your very bones with regret because of it.

“Ay up, Laura,” she said. I could hardly hear her over the theme tune to This Morning on the flat screen beside her. “Have you seen the chicks?”

All that time, passed, unrecoverable, and the first thing she asked me about was the birds.

“Eeeee, don’t you look lovely?” she added, satisfied with me.

A nurse came and asked, in broad Derbyshire accent, how she was today. Nanna nodded. Introduced me. “Another one who does her make-up all nice, Joyce. Beautiful family you’ve made, haven’t you?” Nanna nodded again, appeased. I suppose at 86 that’s what it comes to, isn’t it: family. The people who are your proof. This is the result of my life, this is what I made, this is what I will leave behind. I thanked the nurse for her kindness. Let that be her legacy, I thought.

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