I’m just about at the halfway point of this semester, so it seems like a good point to check in. Not least because next week is Reading & Writing week and that’s usually when I get a little “All work and no play make Rosie go crazy.” It might be nice to have one more relatively sane post. Also, it’s kind of a nice feeling that I have nothing of consequence to post about. (Feel free to wander away at this point, I’m not above talking to myself.) I don’t know about you, but I like reading about people’s lives, the significant and the mundane both. People are pretty fascinating. Small things are just as intriguing as huge things. They’re just as character-defining, if not more so.
Now, to set the scene: Well, my formerly tidy room looks like a bomb site. I need Nick Knowles to come and build an extension for me. There’s some pretty sunlight canting through the blinds and illuminating the door—it’s pale and sharp like dawn, but that was quite a while ago. I have a can of Irn Bru with a green straw craning out of it because of the carbonation. I’m wearing a jumper which is, if I’m being honest, blackcurrant. But I like it because I never usually wear anything on the ‘feminine’ end of the colour spectrum. I’m listening to Jon Hopkins’ Contact Note. I’m thinking about having that MilkyWay right by my left elbow.
So, remember the friendship I thought was over? I’m happy to report I was entirely wrong. For a few days I was fine with having lost them; it seemed that with the end of my book came the end of his role in my life. I guess maybe I had to look at it like that because it was the only way it made sense and the only way I could deal with it. But inevitably the high wore off and something so trivial I can’t even recall what it was sparked off this deluge of emotion. All I kept thinking was He’s never going to make me laugh again. It all seemed to come down to that one point. For a few days the world didn’t really make sense; it looked different, it felt different. I’ve heard the expression ‘it was like being in a nightmare’ so many times but never truly understood what it meant until then. Everything was distorted. I couldn’t really get my head around the fact that everything had possibly been a lie, or that it could so quickly and unforeseeably capsize on me, or that it would never be the same again. And then it began to feel like he had died. The person he was now was someone else, someone I didn’t want to know. That was how I grieved. Let me tell you, I am a horrible griever. I don’t know how to go about doing it, so I just don’t. But grieving is good, it’s part of the process etc etc. However, I suppose like with any loss there are things left unsaid, and so I said them to someone else. I got my thoughts straight. I got the cold and my head went all fuzzy and I felt like if I did something crazy, I couldn’t really be held responsible for it. So the night before my birthday, in my fuzzyheaded state, I thought, fuck it, I have nothing else to lose, and I said everything I had ever wanted to say, and even after I was fully convinced I’d been furtively evicted from his life (no, really, it was like coming home from a challenging backpacking trip in South America and finding an unsigned eviction notice tacked to my crappy apartment door), I sent it away into the cosmos. Why? Because when I talked it over with my friend on a bus ride home, I realised that in spite of everything, the anger and the hurt and the confusion and all those lovely cliché things, I still cared. And when I care about something, I am stubborn. I chase it right to the ends of the earth. I don’t give up. Maybe that’s really selfish, but whatever. I’d rather be selfish than be a pushover. I’d rather know what could happen than wonder about it the rest of my life. To me, regret = paralysis. And that was exactly what I’d told him I wanted to avoid three months before. If there were any walls, I bulldozed through them. When you give everything you have, you can have no regrets. Ball was in his court, so to speak. Except, I wasn’t waiting anymore, and I wasn’t hiding, and I didn’t have to pretend. I thought I’d been at that point so many times before—that pivotal point, balanced on the edge of a cliff—but until I was completely honest and until everything was out there, how could I be? I could never have conceived the feeling of liberation that came with that.
So the next morning I wake up and I am nineteen. My birthday was magical. Simple, but magical. The whole concept of birthdays is just lovely—a whole day when people celebrate your singular existence?! And give you presents?! Great! It was a quintessential autumn day too. Dark, foreboding skies? Check. Trees that look on fire? Check. A puckish wind that changes direction every two seconds? Check. Seriously, sitting on the bus into uni I imagined the world was saying happy birthday! when all the leaves gusted along beside me. Fast forward four hours and I’m finished up for the day. I have an email. Reluctantly, wishing I had an elephant to squash down that trickster joule of hope I can feel rising up somewhere in my ribcage, I check the sender. And I kind of explode. And then run to the bus stop, because I need to be moving. This email contains within it words that have power I don’t even want to comprehend, and I have to be near something that will propel me away if I need to. It’s good news, guys. I’m shaking all over from the relief. I wasn’t evicted from his life—his phone was broken and several other complications have so far prevented him from getting it fixed. (This is completely typical of him. So typical I start to doubt its veracity, but it’s later corroborated by unequivocal evidence.) He sincerely wants to remain friends, he actually knows what I mean about not being reassured enough, he tries his hardest but still finds it difficult, he is so fucking proud of me for finishing my novel, and he will pick me up something for my birthday. I tell him don’t bother, that was a pretty good birthday present. I don’t care now if nothing comes of it. The only thing that matters is we didn’t part on bad terms. And that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the day. People I hardly speak to remember it’s my birthday, there are scary clowns in lab coats and officious charity workers laid out like landmines all over Buchanan Street, Kirk sends me birthday greetings via a Mail Boxes Etc and the Rocky theme tune, Jurassic Park is more amazing than I ever thought it could be in the cinema on the highest floor in the most isolated theatre, I receive wonderful, thoughtful presents from people I care about. And the other night a potential horror movie scene turned out to be an intimate surprise party with jumbo straws because I love them and a scone with two candles because I detest cake.
It was during said surprise party that I was persuaded to have some
cornflakes coffee. I don’t know about you, but to me coffee is like wine, in that it is a means to an end rather than a means of pleasure. Plus, if I were to habitually drink coffee I would have to periodically punch myself for being such a big fucking stereotype. Glasgow Uni? Check. English Lit student? Check. Dabbled in Philosophy? Check. As well as becoming a masochist, I’d also have to rent a room in TopShop, stop brushing my hair (or at the very least let a raccoon sleep in it), make sure I have a perpetual pity-me cold, take up bar crawling as a hobby and still tumble into class looking like a Neutrogena ad, vomit (black) on a regular basis and in front of witnesses, start listening to generic indie pop, and kill my tongue with The Accent. Basically, I’d have to turn into a Yah. Okay, that was a total exaggeration, and I know many, many exceptions to my completely horrible judgment, but if you were around The Accent as much as I am, you’d forgive me. On the other hand, I hate those people who say they hate something when they’ve never actually tried it or done it or read it or seen it or—you get the drift. The brief encounters I’ve had with coffee before have all been heavily diluted with milk or so buried beneath foam you never actually get to the coffee. And since then my tastebuds have begun to tolerate wine, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Plus I needed a zap of energy and everyone in my life keeps telling me to start drinking coffee, so in order to shut them up, I did. Meh. I’m not completely closed to the idea; I may strive to find a type I can tolerate, and in time maybe actually like. But every time I drink coffee I can’t escape the horrid sensation that what I’m drinking is out of date hot chocolate. Next thing people will be trying to coax me into eating a hamburger. IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
You know, I never thought I’d get to the point where I would think of leisure time as a chore. Doing two reading subjects means I have barely enough time to sleep. I don’t have leisure time. I don’t even make it. It just defaults to leisure time when the whirring of my brain’s engine stops and I am too exhausted to think intellectually, but it’s still way too early to go to bed. So the whole time I am doing something leisurely, I know there is something more productive that I should be doing. I am too tired even to feel guilty about that last point. However, I have other obligations besides coursework. Like all the DVDs I have to watch (Shirley Valentine, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Misery, 500 Days of Summer, Thelma & Louise, Buried. So far I’ve scored off The Magdalene Sisters, 28 Days Later, Monsters and Educating Rita) and all the books I have to read (this list is like the population of China walking in a line past your window—it will never end). Also, when I do have time, I have to restrain myself from writing, because I know if I start something I will either not be able to give it my full attention, or I will and the rest of the world will fall away. But time away is time to think. And what I’ve been thinking is I’d like to split The Novel up into two or three or four, meaning each section would be more digestible and I could explore some of the issues more deeply. I’m also thinking I know exactly what I want to write next, so I’m going to use this time between now and next summer to lay the blueprint. Ah, possibilities! As an aside, in classics we were asked to give anonymous feedback on two of our peers' essays on who their favourite Greek hero was (I picked Athena, because she is awesome). This meant I got to exercise my pedant side without any casualties and at least I now know that if this whole writing thing goes to shit, I can make a career out of resentfully polishing up the grammar and word choice in other people's prize-winning novels. That sounded much more appealing in my head. Hm.
Before I go, I just want to make one recommendation: Ever Fallen in Love by Zoe Strachan, and I’m not just saying that because she’s the writer in residence at my uni. No, really, I’m not. Before you judge it on the title, it’s not chick-lit, it’s borrowed from the Buzzcock’s song and it’s meant in the same slightly cynical, ironic way. It’s beautiful and bleak and it tore me apart. Maybe that isn’t much of a selling point. Well here’s one: it’s unflinchingly honest.
(Okay, two recommendations. Buy or rent Monsters. It's amazing. The acting, the soundtrack, the budget, the special effects, the concept, everything! It's stunning.)
Snaps for everyone!