“Laura! Where are you?”
“Just on my way to Mum and Dad’s from the airport. Landed ten minutes ago. What’s new with you?”
“Not much. Just packing for my holiday. We go to Portugal on Monday.”
“Do you need a house-sitter?”
“Why, do you want to come and stay?”
“Thanks for asking. Yes.”
So basically, in less than the time it takes me to shower (an every other day shower, obviously. The one with the hair washing and armpit shaving. Not the body-rinse shit-I-just-got-my-FUCKING-HAIR-WET shower of all the other days, which aren’t very long at all) I bought myself some time.
I cried when the plane landed back on British soil last week, but I don’t know why. I think the guy next to me was trying to hit on me- he kept staring and smiling sadly, wistfully, and looking at me sideways when he thought I wasn’t looking at him. He was too young. Every time I saw him inhale and then open his mouth I’d suddenly find myself so incredibly intrigued by my hands. The in-flight magazine. The welcome sign to East Midlands Airport. I knew he’d ask me why I was crying (maybe he could rescue me from myself?) and I didn’t know. He was just trying to make small talk. I had nothing to say that didn’t feel huge.
Ten days ago I closed the big chapter of my life called Italy, and How She Will Drive You Nuts and Crazy With Contempt and Desire After An Accidental Sixteen Month Extended Stay, and started the next one: Life From Scratch.
See also: you said you were gonna make it as a writer, Laura, so GO MAKE IT.
Except, starting a life from scratch- a life where bank accounts and mobile phones and places to live and jobs and income and dreams and, and, ANDANDANDANDAND- was the absolute last thing I wanted to do after getting off of that plane.
So I copped out. Pressed pause. Took my ball home and said I’ll play another day.
I’d psyched myself out.
When I went to get her house key off of my aunt the next day- a day that was full of aches and pains after a night on mum and dad’s sofa- and she asked me what my plan was. I was all, don’t really have one just urm… sell my book? and she was like so, it’s your parents’ sofa for how long then? And then my brother rang and said his housemate was moving out suddenly and did I want to come and stay for a few weeks, just to get settled into London and see if I could fudge some sort of a plan for myself? And I said YES and then got back to my aunt’s conversation where miraculously, instantaneously, magically, I was all yup. Totally have plan. Gonna be around for three weeks then move in with Jack. So how does the hot water system work again?
A friend wrote to me in an email this summer, after his own adventure abroad: Now that I'm home again, I find myself replaying memories from the summer over and over in my head, unwinding them and finding and synthesising the snapshots, sensations, and emotions into meaningful memories. Sometimes, it all feels like a dream.
For a week now I’ve been locked away in a cottage that isn’t mine on the edge of the Peak District, safe in the knowledge that in two weeks, I’ll have a new home. I ate avocado every day, and sometimes read my book, but mostly I just sat on the back porch in the early autumn sunshine and looked into the distance and processed my own snapshots, sensations, emotions.
It felt good.
Mum laughs. Aren’t you a loner? she teases. Maybe. Or maybe I needed seven days to sit in the quiet, have the September light sketch patterns on my face, and stop putting so much pressure on myself.
Walking up and down the cobbled paths of this Derbyshire village, cooking real food for one in a kitchen where I was Queen; exchanging morning greetings in a language I am fluent in as I buy milk and the day’s paper, ambling down the road to eat cheese on toast with my Nanna; it all added up to make me realise something. This isn’t Life From Scratch like I’d thought it was.
I don’t have a home, and my best friends- the ones I’d call at 3 a.m.- are spread far and wide across the globe. They don’t all conveniently live in one tiny pocket of the country, a place where I can return to and quietly slip into, like Kayne West into any given supermodel. My parents don’t live where I grew up, and any belongings I have are in boxes, stacked high in a garage I don’t have the keys to.
But, one week and some days of staring at this view and I realise it now: it isn’t Life From Scratch when I’ve already done so much. Have so much. Feel so much. I didn’t know that. It took that view and doing absolutely nothing, alone, just me and my thoughts, to figure it out.
I guess sometimes you’ve got to stand still for the rest of the world to catch up to you.