F sleep

Any less than four hours of sleep and I am subhuman. Expressions fail to materialise, lips pressed into a hard line. I am unresponsive for the most part.

I cried on the way back from the Christmas party. It was cold, I was tired, and the thought of the trek in heels made me weak. I thought I hated her too. All of a sudden, I’m the better friend for bearing the brunt of her mood swings. I can’t wait to fly home and celebrate Christmas with my true friends. Maybe I won’t ever come back. Fuck social pain. Fuck irrationality.

I didn’t play White Elephant because I didn’t get a gift for anyone; I watched on the sofa with a heavy belly and a drowsy head. Sick from all the sugar I ate to compensate for the sluggishness. This. is. Defeat.

I dredged up all the frustrations in my heart and threw them at her in my mind. Then I forced myself to remember that I am loved with unfathomable depth. That He was loved least by men. That I can learn to love without expectation (sleep erases the accusations).

I slept in, skipped class this morning and drank some coffee. My skin is amazing because ovulation. Music is wonderful. My research investigator called me an Honour Student. My friend invited me to free-load off her sorority for lunch and my schedule is working itself out. It’s like magic.

I pledge to take better care of myself, to be invested in what my friends are doing and to write more. Today is a better day.

Happy camper

You can take the girl out of the campfire but you can’t take the campfire out of the girl. Traces of it in my hair, my (roommate’s) silver padded Patagonia jacket. I’m back with gritty nails- half bitten, inedible sausages. I’ve accrued mysterious bruises along my side and the confident gait of one who has traversed mountains.

I’ve walked amongst the dead, charred bodies of pine cones, black as tar. Amongst micro-forests, little colonies of plants like shrunken trees. I found myself on the set of Brother Bear, surveying creeks and slender trunks on which feral grey squirrels darted back and forth. I dared myself to drink from the fresh ice-water rushing along the granite and imagined the bacteria settling in my stomach, teeming with protean life.

I learned how to roll a sleeping bag properly- a laborious affair. In America, it’s a standard mom thing to pack sleeping bags for their children, I’ve been told. I remember my favourite blanket was a padded princess sleeping bag my dad would sometimes zip me up in. I remember the pink and the baby blue, the yellow of her crown, the cotton lining a hot cocoon around my body- I learned the hard way that my feet like to breathe.

I used my electric toothbrush, lined up for hot cocoa and breakfast oatmeal- thanks to the portable water heater. Snap-stories failed to post… But I peed a couple of times in the bushes to make up for my sins. Let’s pretend it’s not my first rodeo.

Sept 11th

Clouds, floating grey asteroids in a changing gradient of green, blue and yellow. Van Gough, Money, Degas could not have painted a sky like this, a picture in transition. God, You know beauty like no other. Thank you for the glorious display, the shocking beauty of the sky, like glaciers bathed in warm sun – think marigold, maybe a tangerine before it is ripe- with dark fissures for clouds. Is this the stretching plain of dawn or the falling curtain of night? My grandfather said today that never in history had the clouds been this way, and never again will the pattern be the same again.

Beach day

Sand dunes, mountains with pot holes. He’s skidding along the slopes, his tiny feet plodding and skipping over death.

A little girl piles onto an ever-growing bucket of sand, a castle in it’s own right. “Cover the seaweed, cover the seaweed”, she chants with a rhythm and inflection that births a jingle.

Pink sun-hat on her head, she grabs at star-shaped biscuits the with little crabby hands. Hand to bowl, smash to mouth and repeat.

The young leaders: “guys!” They keep digging. “Guys listen!” They pat at the walls of the trenches they have dug. “Guys listen to me!” This time exasperated. “Let’s dig a third hole, right over there!” He gets started and the others nod.
Another girl whips her head around to her friend and says “I’ll show you where to go”. She jumps into the sea without looking back to see if anyone is following.

He wades in tentatively. Stares as the sand suck at his feet. Forwards, a cool flush, backwards, the liquid rolls.

A watering hole. A puddle surrounding the pipe. Good for washing hands and feet, he’s discovered.

Things flow downstream. Just dig a line towards the sea and pour water from the very top. Watch as it flows like a viscous substance. Slurred, languorous.

Little boy follows the trail, the dip in the sand. It must lead somewhere, it’s a path after all.

Dark barley grains, black almost. They must be collected and separated from the lighter sand. How else does one layer the cake?

From time immemorial, the fetching of water. To the sea they go, and back to home base. Used for building. Used to refill the temporary well, the water mysteriously disappearing underground.

On understanding the obsession with English weather-talk:

Only 2% of gingers in the world and they’re all congregated in London. You’d swear it was at least 34%. Although they comprise a substantial portion of the population, London teems with diversity, bearing the unmistakable face of globalisation.

London presents the historical backdrop on which the modern man walks: Ed, adamantly against Brexit (and sadly, his grandparents), gets on the Tube and sits next to a tanned Australian. He catches a little Italian in his ear on the way to work and eyes Hindi on the menu for a plate of steaming samosas during his lunch break at Borough market. He wonders whether it used to be a train station (it wasn’t; the market’s been around for 1000 years). After work, he rides a bike past St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Monument for the Great Fire of London, and finds himself flying through the East London markets where hijabs and crates of all trades abound. Vegetables, pyjamas, fake handbags, check. Home at last, he calls his Chinese-born-French girlfriend and greets her with a few lines he’s picked up from his colleague. Ed is a happy Londoner because he doesn’t have to lie about being culturally conscious when interviewed.

If you’re not bilingual, you’re probably biracial. Or maybe you’re a Briton through and through; it doesn’t matter. You’re not special for being different. Or perhaps you are- but so is everyone else.

But what about the rituals? What about tradition? Well, there’s Sunday Roast and Day Drinking and Drinking At All Times. Coffee and tea are not opposed. You’ll see friends, waiters, hobos, crouching with their smokes, men with stiff quiffs and absolutely no bins anywhere. The bins were my greatest disappointment; I will not be returning.

Just kidding. The weather determines all.

Your eyes

I thought: gorillas. Or guerrilla warfare. The kind you must shield your ears from. Laughter like bombs going off, cackles and obnoxious shouts of jubilee. I flinched at every sound, ears turning inwards, conch shell cochlea spiralling towards a fine point.

Overwhelmed by my own discomfort, I could not see the beauty and triumph of the moment: a revolutionary shout. A carriage of black people, celebrating themselves and their togetherness; rowdy, group effervescence. The football stadium kind, when your team make the goal and boy, you’re so proud. When it’s girls night and yes it’s really about the dancing. When the Theban women gather for three nights with their baskets and torches to revel in the magic of womanhood.

“It was kinda cool. I thought that this must have been what it was like for Rosa Parks”, she said.

What an insightful thing to say, I thought. What an awesome picture. With that, my anger cooled, my heart glad.

Wake

In the morning, there can be no Taylor Swift. She is banned. I will take a dose of Thrupence, a gentle waking, the tinkle of wind chimes. My husband needs to know to cure me with morning sex and a bit of coffee to nudge me into existence. A good roommate knows to leave me quietly on the bed, Bible on my lap.

An apple in the morning is the ticket to swelling in the belly- straight to the second trimester. Lunch feels like second lunch. Will this ever pass? Will there be good in the world?

I will yet praise Him. Ah, there it is. The lamp switched on; I am loved. I walk with a small smile for I have inherited the world.

Mini fist pumps

[Hong Kong post]:

Thankful that there was only one other person in my Muay Thai class when my body was processing the alcohol, so I wouldn’t have to kick the bag a hundred times as we usually did in a group effort. So I didn’t have to vomit. Thankful that I had an extra hour before class to drink a Pocari Sweat. Although it reminded me of chlorine and nausea and high school P.E.

Thankful someone got off on the same bus stop as me so I didn’t have to yell at the bus driver.

Catcrawling

I just locked myself in the shower with a fart. I let the water run along the grime on my skin from the oily glares of men on the streets of London, men on bikes risking their health insurance. Craning necks out of car windows- about to break. What a time to have small boobs!

Theres an inbuilt revulsion to lust in the eyes, uninvited. Intrusion, violation. So different from the relish under the hot, hungry eyes (like glowing coals) of the good looker across the bar. The ephemeral power in arresting his attention. No, the wolfish hoot of a predator makes me small. I lower my head, tail tucked behind my legs. I want to disappear so you can’t have me at all- not so much as a wispy silhouette.

Why can’t I wear my shorts, my body hugging skirt? Why must I wear turtlenecks in the summer? We brace not from the chill of night but from the assault: “nipples!” he bellows. “Wow you’re hot, where are you from?”, “Chinese!”, “Japan!”, “can I hang out with you guys?” A whistle. A scuffle and a greeting: “OII!” When we walk away, we are “fucking rude”, lips tight, fist clenched. It could be worse. Boy, it could be much, much worse.

Sarcy Darcy

Tongue like a viper. I haven’t spoken to a quick witted male in so long I’ve forgotten how to flirt. I think I might be flushing. I’m particularly taken with ‘darling’ and ‘my love’, even though that’s what bartenders and fathers do. The English have a way, don’t they, even when they’re ginger and not particularly good looking.

***

I had a crisis moment. She said something that could have been sarcastic. She wasn’t. I used to be able to tell, easily. The Brits are superior.

***

“I love colours but only if they’re black”. She said Jesus did Jewish magic and that she had Wicca friends. Went to a festival for druids and witches. Believes in communism and disagrees with old fashioned social categorisation. Gender fluidity, unidentifiable sexual orientation, a child of the 21st century. She thrived in Catholic school- the parties were wild. I listened but I was two strikes away from saying “don’t talk about politics and religion on a first date”. I hadn’t seen her in so long, it might as well have been our first meeting.

***

I missed the train by one minute. One. I ran/ jogged to the station as fast as I could in my sandals, slap slap on the concrete. I had to focus on retracing my steps from the station but was distracted by the sun skimming over the sea, the belly of a boat nestled in the streaks. The sky a dazzling blue.

***

It was getting dark- the first time I’ve been anxious on my trip. What would happen if I missed the stop? Would there be a last train home? How will I find my way back from the station to the house when I am blind to streets in daylight? My stomach lurched when the guy spoke through the speakers overhead, horrified by the thought that I might have been on the wrong train. Romsey. Thank God! I scrambled out and saw my grandad on the bench, waiting for me. As we walked home, he said “I know you would have found your way back, you’re a big girl, but I do feel a little responsible for you”. I nodded in gratitude, hushed into contemplation of the child I still very much am.