Another week gone, the days arduously ticked off like items on a to-do list, the endless countdown to each Friday night, only to leave us with one glorious Saturday and one anxiety-ridden, dread-full Sunday before we’re back in the machine. That ain’t no way to live.
So I’m outta there. One more week, and on my birthday I will go out with a bang, a pile of cakes, and two bottles of Kava Brut. I am temping for a reason – I’m a free spirit, a drifting creative, a non-committer, a quitter. I refuse to devote my life to the service of others – especially when those ‘others’ are petty lawyers, earning their daily bread by feeding the rapacious beast of bureaucracy which is holding us all in its swelling grip.
On the long, gently bobbing train rides to and from work I read, swallowing words like a hungry child, noting them down in my journal, savouring their meanings and origins; adding them to my ever-expanding bank for future use and abuse. Certain sentences and passages grab my attention and I am compelled to read them over and over before highlighting and leaving for a later re-read, and I long for careless days when I can spend seamless hours tapping away at my keyboard, nailing words to stories, pouring the contents of my brain into cookie moulds and watch them rise in the heat.
Inevitably, one part of me is wondering, will I ever be able to make a living off my writing? But the other part of me is saying, I can do anything I set my mind to, and a new mantra has emerged: I have something to prove.
When life is miserable, it’s okay to spice a Thursday with some gin and sparkling lemon water. Now I’m gently tipsy, have finally put on some laundry and the dishwasher is empty, and The People’s Key is rattling through our flat.
Work is dragging on and I’m not sure how long it will be before I find a successor to claim my threadbare secretary throne. Every day I’m dreaming of faraway locations and unfathomable adventures, or just of simple pleasures such as spending a day at home with our French press and the steady clickety-clack of my keyboard. Yet every day I find myself, inescapably, pressed up against sweaty strangers on the DLR, shuddering beside sniffling zombies on the District Line, and sighing forlornly before a screen which is shouting at me, ‘same shit, different day’.
This morning I started reading Getting Stoned With Savages, where the author is trapped in the horrific daily grind of Washington D.C.’s banking world, when he realises that he is not a “soft Italian leather shoe man” but a flip-flop man, and escapes to the silent, white beaches of Vanuatu. I can’t help but think that everyone would be better off in flip-flops, sipping coconut water under a cordial sun.
Mike and I went to Greenwich for a spontaneous date night. Mike was cute as ever and I had butterflies in my hair. Greenwich, true to form, had nothing much to offer, and after considering various menus and meal prices, we ended up in our much-trusted Wetherspoons, where fresh-faced students were catching up after a long Christmas break.
Karin and I took to the pub for a pint of Winter Warmer, and had a play with my precious camera I got from my darling Mike. Woolwich doesn’t have a whole lot to offer, but the Dial Arch down by the river is a bricks-and-brews wonder pub.
English pubs have a special place in my heart – especially when outside is dark and bitter, and cold is seeping in through our draughty windows at home.
It’s been ten years since we moved to London together, K-dawg and I. We’ve spent a third of our lives here. What a ride it has been.
My skin feels raw today, and our dry January is drowned in a glass of whiskey. It soothes my antennae, which every evening feel as though they have been split into a thousand and all streams of input are exaggerated to the point of pain.
A few weeks left at work, then I’ll be free. Free of commuting pressed up against fetid zombies three hours a day. Free of forced company and shallow conversation. Free of mindless toiling and endless longing. Just a few more weeks; a few more pounds in my pocket. Then I will write. Then I will socialise. Then I will tidy and clean and wash and organise. Until then, my boy takes on the evenings’ tasks and cooks me meals and I am so very grateful, because I would have done a terrible job myself.
Fleur feels far away. Later this week I will take my camera and hit the streets of Greenwich and see if maybe I can find her through the viewfinder; capture her on some bright LCD screen.
There are corners of the web which contain words that make my heart sing – people who tell their stories in ways that remind me of goosebumps and heartbeats. There I find, underneath the protective layers of compliance and sarcasm, that person I used to be; the girl who ran through the woods at night in search of magic, the girl who talks to oceans and trees, the girl who dreams bigger than her heart can contain. The girl who watches a movie and feels it fill her soul with magic and romance and remains in that movie for weeks afterward, hearing its music and dreaming of its characters, whispering dialogue into dark mirrors; the girl who allows herself to create a fairy tale in which to live because why not?
I have lived on the edges of London for so long now, and I thought the city was pushing me out of its all-consuming noise and clamour towards a quieter life. But it was I who crept out of there on my bare knees and hid under my blankets and dreamed of silent forests and glinting stars. Well, the stars can glint even in London, and the neon signs shine all night long in all the colours of the rainbow, and I am ready to go back. I put plasters on my scraped knees and walk right back into the mess I left.
I remember now, life was exciting once. Once upon a time I worked for the mafia in Knightsbridge, losing myself in late-night VIP events surrounded by Russians and champagne, fresh into the city and ready for adventure; long ago I worked in the porn industry and had carrots being heated in my microwave for ungodly reasons; once I used to stay up all night and make love in hallways and have my heart broken and call friends for help and feel lonely and lost but alive, and we spent many nights on the hills around the city watching millions of glittering lights, and everything mattered.
But thicker skin was layered upon me and things felt less, and I laughed more, but something was lost.
I’m going now to find it.