Monday, January 21, 2013

Is That All There Is?

I feel that this stolen week (this week I wasn't supposed to be back here yet, this time that forced itself into my life) retaliated from my intrusion and tried it's very best to beat me into an insignificant pulp. Blow after blow rained down, and even after I was lying on the floor, out for the count, it continued to kick me in my metaphorical balls.
This morning, as I have every morning for the past 10 days, I got up early. But this morning, unlike the others, instead of lying in bed with still-tired, burning eyeballs, dreading what new horror would unfold over the course of the day and mentally planning how to navigate the burning remains of the previous day's horror, I sat up warily.
For whatever reason, I had this sense that the worst had passed.
It didn't fill me with joy and happiness. It wasn't like I was sad either, it is just that when you get so used to the idea that whatever you do, or touch, is going to go wrong, and you resign yourself to facing a pack of demons you thought were buried far in your past, you just don't care anymore.
It is an apathetic kind of protective shield.
You tell yourself- hey, it's all burning up around me, you've hit me with your worst shots, and I'll still come out alive.
Bruised, tired in your very marrow, sluggish and slow with wrinkles on your face that weren't there before, falling into new habits that you never dreamed would have to form, your bedside table overflowing with the detritus of what you had no time to clean up the past week- cups of mostly drinken water, mugs with an inch of tea in the bottom, a thermometer with the lid off, books discarded after only a few pages, a bowl with the tell-tale neon yellow ring around the inside that says: chicken soup from a packet was here, mountains of used Kleenex crumpled up with snot and tears, sweaters, socks, a travel magazine, forms for government-issued passes half completed, and at the foot of the bed a heap of all the bed sheets from the bed, greasy with fever-sweats and sadness.

But alive. Not broken completely. There must be something about facing what seems to be the worst, and realizing actually how strong you are. You can give that special, bitter little laugh used by those who walked through flames and say: is that all there is? Really? That's the worst you can do, life? Ha!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I think I should pick up B a present before I go. He has been so good to me while I've been gone; helping me with resume, job, school, life. He likes old things, so it shouldn't be too hard to find something. Maybe at an antique shop? I was going to get him something from the Viking museum in town, the 'Jorvik Centre', but I couldn't remember if it was him who liked Vikings as a boy, or J. Both of them kept pumping my brain full of information about themselves this Fall, and since it was virtually simultaneous, I'm finding it difficult to remember who liked what. I'm pretty sure B liked Vikings, because I am 70% positive that J liked dinosaurs.
I am a terrible person.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I sometimes get the impression that I've painted myself into a corner, so to speak, by the actions I've taken, the way I've dealt with the things tossed my way. I get this sense of claustrophobia and see doors slamming shut, windows being locked.

It's scary to care about people. It's frightening to have people in your life. They seem to send off these invisible streamers that catch, grip your skin, knot in your hair. You can't run with their emotions hanging off you. It's heavy, it weighs you down, pulls you down, like quicksand. Ties you to the ground. In one place.

Maybe that's what is so appealing about getting on a plane, or train, or in the car for a long trip. For a few hours, or even days, weeks, you get the sense that you've lost those ties, those tails dogging you. And it's exhilarating to be so light. Dizzy with the freedom and with the loss of other people's feelings, you can accomplish whatever you want in the manner you'd like.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


My wonderful mother has been constantly showering my sister and myself with little gifts ever since we arrived here. Just little things, like new stockings, or new make-up; luxuries neither of us can afford since leaving home.
Yesterday she presented me with a little red book she picked up at an Oxfam: A first edition, signed copy of A Book About Books, by Robert Blatchford. She knows how much I love used books- the feel of them, the smell, the falling-out pages, and if you're very lucky- marginalia by previous owners.
I was trying to read some of it yesterday, but written in 1903 by someone who educated themselves by reading Charles Dickens, it was slow going. Still, this passage jumped out at me "as if it was written in my soul, from me to you" (Tangled Up in Blue, Bob Dylan) :

"How London grows upon one! At first the endless whirl, the cruel rush and greedy hurry of it, with all the misery, vulgarity, snobbery, and vanity of the crowd, the tragedies of its dismal streets, the poverty and ignorance of the workers, and the monotonous ugliness of their surroundings, sicken and dismay you. The pain and the shame of it are more than you can bear. You want to get away- away to the cool beaches and unsullied seas, or to the clean and quiet streets and the clean and quiet life of some sleepy old market town.
But, imperceptibly, London tightens its grip upon you. The mysterious and awful magnetism of the crowd hold you. You mix with the unnumbered, nameless millions until the swirling tides and feverish currents of the great human sea seem to carry you away."

(Robert Blatchford, A Book About Books)

Having gone to London this weekend for the first time since I was 17, I know just what he was talking about. And, really, replace "London" with the name of any major city- Rome, Athens, Paris, Istanbul, Cairo, York the Saturday before Christmas, haha- and it feels the same.