London

This morning: the wail of a siren rising in pitch, the image of a chest expanding upon inhalation.

***

We walk onto the footpath, under the bridge and by the water. Enchanting in the sun, forbidding under moonlight, where shadowy figures blow smoke and talk to themselves.

***

Regent’s Canal: A Shiba Inu scampering with it’s tiny cute butthole. A fluffy baby duck floating amidst the algae, a linoleum green bank. Rustic, the rubber of a tire encircling a patch of soil. Some green shoots. Do the pretty weeds fight for life or does the stone give way? Embellish the mouldy brick, the chipping wall paint with some flowers and graffiti.

***

We walk by a bar of morbid things. Drop anything into a mason jar and it will become an artefact. I read something I wish I hadn’t. I have a gross fascination with disgusting ideas- I hate them in reality. Like, bad things are funny when they’re not real.

***

Chilli plants like a crazy head of red. We are drawn to any sign that says: coffee. And my enthusiasm for walking fizzles out with the rain. I am on a one-man mission for food. I do not do well without breakfast, it seems. A third of the way into the chicken schnitzel and laughter bubbles inside me. Her name is Aquel.

***

Buckingham palace: I spilt coffee on the monument. I learn that she hates holding cups. You can learn a lot about your friends on holiday.

 

Trust

Nothing could have prepared me for the blood on my sheets yesterday morning. Fantastically red, smeared all over my thighs as if my skin were canvas. Splatters like cherry trees. I had never seen periods in this way: kind of beautiful, actually.
Though a little annoyed that I had to clean this up (and to think I’d want a puppy…), I got on with the task at hand. Sometimes you just have to do it. Like, cleaning your flatmates plates and taking out the trash before anyone else for some peace of mind. Like, starting a ten paged report, bulking up your skeletal resume, and going to that 9am class when your body feels like lead.

I praise God for a more adaptable attitude and an optimistic problem solving style. Instead of shying away from challenges and feeling defeated, I’ve noticed that I now respond to failure and disappointment in a more level-headed way. Am I stressed out about my Linked-in, the looming GRE and grad school applications? Absolutely. But I’m not going to be paralysed by anxiety. There is no ultimate deadline: success is growth at whatever pace works best for me. Most of the problems I’ve faced aren’t unsolvable, my screw-ups unsalvageable. And best of all, my God has planned every day that lies before me.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:16

Maybe I should’ve planned my winter holiday better. But hey, I’m on holiday. I’m trying to relax here. I’ve finally finished my two songs and posted them onto Soundcloud- now I don’t feel like a fraud when I tell people I “write songs for fun”. I just can’t find the time for personal hobbies during the school quarter- it always feels like I should be doing something else. Anyway, how frequently do you have to do something for it to be a hobby? How long ago was that a habit? Do you currently write/sing/hike/draw/read? Erm not really.

At least I’ve replied all the important emails and I’ve seen some important friends- though I tick them off the list and think I’ve done my part after one meeting. I’ve done some Christmas shopping, crafted some cards, watched The Intouchables (brilliant French film). I’ve still got Dim Sum and a massage on my mind. Another song. A book to finish. But I’m not going to fret if I don’t complete everything; last summer was a bummer because I couldn’t do it all. This winter will be different because I’m #chill.

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 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 certain 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; pure, 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.