Harp Strings

It’s been so long that I almost convince myself I’ve forgotten how to write. Not altogether. Just in the way I always have. The way that comes spilling out of the tips of my fingers like I don’t know what’s hit me. The way that leads me blindfolded through a museum that only exists when I close my eyes and slow my breathing. The way that illuminates all the hidden recesses of my mind.

I’ve neglected this space for nearly two years now. Let ivy grow over the windows as sleeping dogs lie. I convince myself I’ve forgotten to write, but that’s not it. The truth is, I feel so distant from the person who wrote half of these posts that I’m not quite sure how to pick up the story anymore, let alone where from. Reading back through them is like revisiting a book from my childhood. The events are familiar, I remember what happened. But the author has lost the soft shimmer that made their voice seem absolute.

But that’s not to say it wasn’t true. I always wrote as me, but my sense of self was so different back then. Based almost entirely on stories I’d read and loved so much that I wanted to crawl into them and stay forever. Stories of adventure, stories of wandering, stories of entire lives lived out in another language. But we all do this. Craft our personal narratives based on what we value, what society values, what we think will most paint us as the favourable protagonist we long to be. Once, when I was still a kid, I moved overseas on a whim and took all my flawed complexities with me. And in my mind, I built castles around my decision to do so.

But now?

Now, a few years have passed and I've outgrown all my old narratives like the homemade woollen jumpers of my childhood. Now, I live within the quite ebb and flow of my hometown. I thought I’d be long gone by now, only because familiarity is a whole lot harder to romanticise. But still, there is so much wonder around me. I am lucky, the kind of lucky you get so tired of waiting for that one day that you decide to create it yourself. When love comes, it is not in the form I thought it would be. An old friend and I become closer and suddenly, everything is different. Neither of us sees it coming. But it is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and I am in constant awe of his ability to uplift and calm me. It is the opposite of all the relationship tropes I grew I believing – that love is a hurricane, that vicious fights and mind games are inevitable. Instead, things that were once hazy come slowly into focus.

In the middle of winter I move house, not countries. I find it to be the bigger adventure by far. Although we’d been planning it forever, the day hits me out of the blue. Suddenly life is lived out of boxes, we talk about bills, we talk about what we’re going to buy at the supermarket each week. We marry our bookshelves into a single library. We wake up together and fall asleep together and although everyone told me it was going to be hard, it’s easy. And even when it’s not easy, it’s worth it.

The harp arrives in December, a lifelong wish delivered in the form of a new hobby. It’s an impossibly elegant instrument that I hire from a woman who lives in the hills. It sits straight-backed in our spare room, taller than even me when I stand up. The strings feel strange between my fingers at first but they sound so beautiful almost instantly. With piano, I struggled for years to make sounds that I thought were interesting. With flute, it was an uphill battle to even get a clear note. But harp is different. It gives away its secrets early, and even Chopsticks sounds like a song from the beginning of time. Although I tend to give up things in a heartbeat, the physical commitment of having a concert-sized pedal harp in the house keeps me coming back most days, tentatively attempting my scales and squinting at sheet music. It’s a language I know well, although it’s been kept in a storage container at the back of my mind for years.

And so, the days pass in much the same way. I am at the tail-end of my degree, not quite studying full time but not quite finished either. I mostly have nothing new to report. But instead of bursting out into the world like I usually do in times of limbo, this time I retreat. I turn down invitations. I do a lot of sitting, a lot of reading. I watch my love grow over everything like ivy, curling around the corners of my life until I can’t remember what was there before. The days are long and a heat wave comes eventually, later in the season than usual. I make a lot of plans and then scrap them almost instantly.

February comes and I spend hours one night trying to seduce sleep, balancing on the razor edge of consciousness. But it evades me like a hunted thing. Lying there in the dark, I realise nothing in my future is certain except the inevitable ebb and flow of more messy life. It's up to me to make something of it. The arc of my boyfriend’s back cuts a silhouette in the dark next to me, rising and falling gently with his breath. Moonlight filters dimly through the window. It’s like an ultimate storybook cliché except I’m here, and I’m living it. All this. These flimsy moments framed by the gentle whir of the fan. It’s cool at this hour, but I like the white noise anyway. I like the way it fills up the uncertainly around me.

And so perhaps all this purposelessness does have a purpose. All the long shifts stretching into the next, all the days off where I have no energy to do anything but sprawl out on the couch and plug myself into some television drama. A lot of the time I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel so over-caffeinated and checked out, so naked in the absence of direction now. To be free of deadlines can also mean to be free of structure. I rarely drink these days so the nights that I do tend to hit me harder. Always I have a mental hangover for days after, sifting through the minutiae of trivial scenarios that I’m not even sure I remember right.

But numbness never prevails. Soon a realisation slaps me hard in the face and I look at all I have in awe. This little house built from white bricks. This pile of unfinished books. This life stitched together with a thousand different kinds of love. I have choice and freedom and generous helpings of some strange, undefinable faith that is always up for trial but never found guilty. No matter what the allegations are against it, I always find morsels hiding in the most unusual places – between fresh notebook pages and tucked behind harp strings. Every now and then, I give up playing the cynic and humour them. And like cherry trees in September, they bloom. 

In My Own Backyard

It was time to go away again. Just past New Years I woke to a text from Mickey. It was short and simple.
Run away with me to Byron Bay?
Of course, I replied, not even knowing that he really meant it. But he did. So by evening, we were sitting in his house by the sea listening to records and pouring over flights and places to stay. He wanted to go surfing and see his favourite band. I just wanted to get on a plane again. It didn’t matter so much where to. But I had brief memories of a trip at twelve years old to see family, of tropical weather in the middle of winter, of beaches and lighthouses and strawberry ice cream and untouched sand. They were blurry, but ticked all the boxes. I needed somewhere to recharge for a while, a reward for standing – knees locked – while the last six months crashed into me again and again like waves I had no idea how to ride yet. It had been impossible in ways only my closest friends knew about, but I found myself again at the end of it, still squinting into the sun. Surely that, if anything, warranted a little lazing around on the beach for no reason.
It didn’t even matter that I’d probably seen Mickey, like, all of three times in the year I’d been home. Born ten days apart, we’d always been strangely connected in a way that you can never explain but only know. Always, there had been sentences said in unison. Things we seemed to go through simultaneously without consulting the other about it first. First there was our Richard Dawkins phase at fifteen, when we both discovered atheism and spent hours discussing it with sweeping gestures and lit-up eyes. Later, this gave way to a fascination with the mind. The strange powers we knew it kept like secrets. Years went by and we capitalised the U in Universe, we marvelled in synchronicity, we sent messages across the oceans even after I went away and found our stories were still being written from the same notes, just set in different worlds. Our lives had traced gentle parallels for years, and I’d always thought that if I truly had to have a twin, it might as well be him. So when his housemate drove us to the airport, it felt like we’d done it all before.
But it was so long ago now. The days have mummified and left crumbs in my mind, so nothing I write now can be trusted. This is more a story about a story than a firsthand account. But I do remember this: heat so hot that my skin (Irish by nature if not by memory) turned red within hours. Then, days later, bronze. We woke up each morning drenched in sweat. Crashed into the ocean before nine without fail. Like clockwork. Mickey was an early riser and it forced me to step out of myself a little, yield in my nocturnal ways to meet him. I always stayed out later into the night. But I was still up at the first smell of surfboard wax and ready to hop out the door. In the afternoons, I’d go off on my own. Walk through the streets in something worn and drifty. Floppy hat. Jewels bought on the side of the road. I walked into New Agey stores and ran my fingers over the spines of a hundred books I’d never read, because touch is memory and sometimes you remember things that haven’t happened yet. Shop clerks complimented me on my energy more than my appearance. Then, as magnets do, I’d meet Mickey somewhere without even organising it first and watch him slice through the waves while the sun faded down. More than once I fell asleep, beer in hand, waiting for him on the shore.
I saw glimpses of a different life there, one I could step into and claim as my own easily. One in which I was some other person, hanging out the passenger seat of a near stranger’s car in bathers. Soaked, still salty. Rolling flavoured tobacco in the sunshine and only wearing shoes to the bars, where the pints weren’t Coopers and people smiled when you told them where you lived, because on the coast, there’s something so small-town-charming about a place like Adelaide. Or perhaps I was walking through the tent sea again, some hours after dark, not sure what I was looking for, but knowing in some way, I’d find it. Sitting in all those groups by all those campfires. Running onto the beach too many gins deep and forgetting to take off my sneakers but it didn’t matter, I remembered just where the waves started licking the shore that I wasn’t meant to jump in. I met so many incredible people from corners of the world I’ve only dreamt of visiting, and hopefully one day will. We spoke through the small hours of the night, leaning off balconies and gazing into the moon. One night there were thunderstorms. I’d met some people and been out for drinks, and we walked home at 3am as lightening flashed across the sky, hollowing out the cavities in our chests. We found shelter near our rooms and stayed there for an hour, all rugged up. Gasping liberally at the view. It didn’t take many heartfelt conversations to realise we were all there for similar reasons. People have the same dreams. A camper van full of books and cameras, a mattress in the back. A ballpoint pen or two. Enough clothes to last a couple of months, and someone to call on their way home from wherever, if only to say 'I'll be there soon'.
All my latest beer chinked conversations have had the same theme; people telling me I seem to have changed out of nowhere. That I'm not nearly the same as I was six months ago. They say that a girl who changes her hair is about to change her life, but I had my platinum blonde dyed dark because I didn't want to feel like I was walking around in the same skin anymore. My bones felt new, all sandpapered up. Why not the rest of me? As within, so without. And almost immediately I felt like myself again, all ashy brown hair on pale skin, unmistakeably my mother’s daughter. But mostly, the girl I might have been if I stayed. But I'm not her, because she didn't know calm the way I do now. Maybe it was the salt water. The palm trees. The way I befriended my rubble then fashioned new armour out of it. It takes time to realise that sometimes the things you're chasing won’t be caught, that maybe once you borrowed a life from someone with a Londoner twang and silver hair who wanted European countries and foreign lovers and a life only romanticised so heavily because it took place elsewhere. But now I've found warmth in my own backyard. And here, everything feels like home.
Like today. I woke up in the darkness and got on my bike as the sun was rising. Normally, I only catch those early hours a bottle of red wine deep as the taxis hover outside my house and I say the same things to different drivers. That felt like living for a long time. But it wasn't. Last year, I was at the point where there were no good days. This year there are no bad ones. Not really. Because ‘bad’, like everything, only exists on a scale of your own invention. And once you’ve found your tipping point, the little scuffs and stumbles on the way seem painted all in gold. The sun is awake when I arrive in the city, though I barely am. I scan my pass and stretch out on my mat, adjusting slowly to the heat. What I didn’t know at fifteen is that we all worship something, and often the art of getting on is simply a matter of replacing one altar with another. So that is my project for the year. Making little changes, because dominos are little, but when lined up neatly in a row it only takes one flick to knock a city down.
These days I pass out well before midnight. Set up camp in library corners. I watch my skin rearranging, and marvel at how it feels to move around the world in a vehicle that I don't feel at war with anymore. My legs are strong. My roots are deep. And something fearless has cracked open in me that seems able to give, and give, and give without draining me completely. It takes time, all this surrender. Though I never doubt that it's worth it these days. With eyes filled with eyesight and rooms smudged with sage, I always try to remember that we are just little animals running around the earth temporarily until we return to it. We are all godly. But humility is the most divine. Since taking up yoga my body feels different. More flexible, more powerful. And since I am a woman, and 'womanness' (though not always defined by biology) seems to be so jailed by the physical at times, I feel a sense of freshness, like that of newlyweds walking slack-jawed around a new house. But what's with flesh being compared to buildings all the time? Your body is not a temple, that idea puts lines on a map where there aren't any. The world is a temple, with mosaics instead of countries. The sun and sky are stained glass windows. Your body is a tile.

October Diary

The time has come now when I have to write something new, not because I’ve been on some new adventure, but because the words are habit now and I’ve found them to outlive everything I’ve ever done in the flesh. When people compliment me on my blog these days, I am embarrassed. I don’t know when I am going to post next, because I don’t know when I’ll do something interesting enough to justify the process of sharing. There are no longer means, but the thirst still rages. It’s not hunger, though. Hunger is something you need, a signal your body puts out for sustenance, and I think that’s a good starting point for everyone here to agree on. But I’ve always thought of thirst as more of a wanting kind of deal. Although it has no scientific basis. Although I know that if tomorrow I were cast out into the desert without being able to drink, I’d die.

If thirst is wanting then words are water. And so, in my last month of 20, I start listening to The National. I mean, I’ve always listened to The National. But this is different. More obsessive. I pluck one song from a list of YouTube suggestions and listen to it on repeat for weeks, far beyond any natural rhythm of discovering a track then discarding it like a half eaten lollipop. Roughly one week after this happens, I have dinner with a friend and he mentions the same album by chance. Says it’s had him in a headlock recently. I’ve been sick, so sick that I drop everything in my life like it’s shatter-proof, and he’s been reading up on things I’ve written in the past like I’ve always hoped someone would. We drag our heels down Grenfell Street on the way to some underground bar, and it’s hot, and I’m trying not to drink as much these days, but I want to show him how the rooms are lined with mirrors and the entrance is disguised as a wall unless you know where to push. As we walk, I keep humming the one line that won’t go away, the line that’s been playing in a neat little loop since the moment I first heard it.

Am I the one you think about when you’re sitting in your fainting chair drinking Pink Rabbits?

I have to Google what Pink Rabbits are. This happens a few days earlier. It’s probably a weekday, and I’m probably meant to be at Uni, but probably, I’m not. Anyway, the internet says it’s a drink with milk, strawberry syrup and tequila. Something I could easily see myself sinking into liking when I’m a little older and can’t be bothered with gutsy drinks anymore. Soon after I read this, I realise that almost all songs are love songs. I mean, of course I’ve always known. Just like I’ve always listened to The National. But I didn’t know in the way I do now, almost twenty-something and, for what feels like the first time, in a completely neutral State of Heart. Not in love, unless you count that blinding love of everything and anything that taps me on the shoulder some days. Not heartbroken, unless you count the way I sometimes mourn past and future versions of myself for days on end. But mostly – and this is perhaps the most significant point – with no overwhelming desire to be either.

This means that when I listen to these songs now, they’re short stories instead of autobiographies. And I find them easier to sit with that way. When my birthday comes spring comes too, the combination of which leaves me running around the city all night again. G has a birthday the day before, so we spend what seems like three solid days together, mostly drinking, talking, dancing, stealing in pieces of sleep whenever we can. The people we love join us. Our names are written on a blackboard somewhere and I am pleasantly surprised. The constant stream of celebratory shots ruins me far too early. I suppose it feels similar to all the other birthdays, except this time when people ask me if I feel different, I tell them I do. And strangely enough, it’s the truth.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is that I still can’t hold my liquor. Much like some 16 year-old me, I stay up for the sunrise. The side alleys shrug themselves awake as I goodbye my friends into taxis when they pass, if they pass at this invisible hour at all. Some weeks I am more than I am others. But I still can’t do too much of it. The drinking, the dancing. The late late nights cracked open into early mornings into late mornings into I still haven’t slept yet and the day is ripe. During the holidays my only real achievement is to drink every day for two weeks, three weeks, even – and properly (red wine over books, pint after pint at someone’s else’s knock offs, dark ale in the sun). Fast forward a few weeks and I am 21 in the passenger seat of some car again. It’s the same friend, the same album. We listen to it three times before midnight. I’d sent him an ambiguous text and he didn’t even need to ask why, knew instinctively that the cure for everything isn’t always salt water and green smoothies and three sessions of Bikram fucking yoga a week. Sometimes it’s a half eaten box of popcorn. The way Adelaide sparkles below you in jewel tones from the hills, our little city, reminding you with pinprick lights that maybe you haven’t ended up in the worst corner of the world after all.     

If wanting is thirst then words are water. But you don’t need your passion to live, that kind of whimsy is bullshit. When artists give advice to aspiring souls in their craft they always say “only take photos if you need to, only sing songs if you need to, only write if you’d die were you told you couldn’t”. But the death they are talking about isn’t literal. It’s what makes some people seem radiant when you look them straight in the eyes, and others, glazed over. To follow either religion or philosophy, it would seem that there’s either one divine path your life could take, or an infinite number of equally feasible and meaningful options. This argument is old, and dazzling. I discovered Sartre late and so recently, in a wave of essays and half-finished books, I’ve aligned myself (perhaps to satisfy some wanky, puritanical world view) with the existentialist side of the chasm. Yet – in typical Libran polarity – I can never really make up my mind between the two.

You don’t need passion to live. But regardless, I put bookends on all my days and try to do right by that all-encompassing thing that lives beneath my pulse and wants, and wants, and wants so terribly. So long as I remind myself that it’s a choice. We are just as capable of blocking out everything good and frightening and important as we are of deciding, for whatever reason, to listen.

I need reminding more often than others. So to the world I would say, mould me into whatever you can salvage from these sandpaper bones. Save the best bits. Discard those that don’t serve me. Let all my disappointments come with disclaimers: let them cry out “I am a necessary occurrence so that you may come into yourself”. Make the typeface bold. I need small signs to wake up to. I need omens, so that I might thread my life around them the way stars sometimes lasso around the moon. Straighten my spine. If I can build my foundations in that, then other areas are allowed to be messy. Things you will forgive: my room, my lecture notes, my hair. They are unruly, and speak of something savage beneath all that pastel-coloured lacquer. The time has come to write something new, not because I’ve been on some new adventure. But when the day comes to call me again – not if, but when – this time I’m going to be ready.

This Time Last Year

It’s summertime in Europe again, and slowly people are finishing their exams, taking leave from work and trekking through airports to chase the likes of beach holidays and Contiki tours. I remember the strangeness of my first English summer, how the snow all thawed and sun started shining out through cracks in the softest places. Like clouds, like playgrounds. Like trees swaying in the fields that lay spread behind the village pub. They were sleepy from the winter, but illuminated just the same. I used to play that same Joanna Newsom album on long drives through the greenery from my house to Cambridge, and as she sang me stories of queens and castles I used to glance sideways out my slightly open window and wonder, truly, if all this was my life now. Beautiful sights and a slight feeling of disconnect. Now that I know how things turned out, though, it’s far easier to see that the alienation of those long months only added to their allure. Who doesn’t thrive on getting a little lost? I’d decided to live by omens and signs, flimsy little things. Long term plans held no sway or authority. So, like some heroine in a dusty Austen novel, I spent weeks trailing through the countryside alone in long skirts and squinty eyes. Mud creeping up all my hems. Earphones dangling from ears. With the warmth came restlessness, and although I knew I was emerging from something, still shell shocked, there’s nothing like months of sleet to make you appreciate the simplicity of light.

And light there was. On weekend trips to London I’d shed my coats and wear dresses through streets, not even shivering. My friends and I would catch the tube eastbound and sit on rooftop bars while the day faded and fairy lights jumped across the shoulders of strangers. You could recognize a younger me by the fact that I was always drinking cider then – some sweet, sticky potion in whatever flavour – having not yet made the irreversible transition to gin. My favourite was strawberry and lime. Now, I like something I can sip on my own if need be. Something red, something clear. Beer is for the nights when I sit around pub tables with work (life) friends, challenging people to darts though I can’t really play and letting my phone ring out at the bottom of my bag. It’s something I came to appreciate in Brighton when I was always one transaction away from broke, and we had to make do with cheap cans clutched on the living room floor. When I drink beer it’s for outrageous conversation and waking up with a full face of makeup, still. But when I drink liquor, I’m actually trying to behave. Like suburban bourbon. Like pink chipped nails and a pearl string necklace. Like something that unfolds slowly inside you, so slowly, in fact, that you lose track of it unfolding at all.   

I told myself that coming home was temporary, a breather to get my bearings, and the hardest part of that is trying to figure out which parts are pit stops and which parts you should sink roots into without fear or hesitation. With time comes a strange amnesia. It’s almost been six months, and already the people I bump into who ask me about my time abroad are dwindling to an insignificant few. ‘Amazing’ is always my answer to the So How Was It question, and I deliver it with all the enthusiasm that is usually best saved up for those longer days in hospitality when forced cheeriness is a must. I sigh in reverie, or I gaze dreamily at some fixed point above eye-contact level. It’s all drama now. But this satisfies most people, and whatever interaction I am having continues as usual. To be honest I barely tell the elaborate stories I have saved up, not even to my nearest and dearest. Looking out the windows of Rundle Street’s coffee shops watching the bikes go by, they seem closer to fiction than things that I wrote out once by living them. But I remember everything. This time last year my life was fragments of whispered Spanish and a dark apartment full of strangers. Ocean spray in the moonlight. Whispering. Bonfires. Nights spent leaning out of windows, air-conditioned rooms, the first winks of morning and the growl of suitcase wheels being dragged down cobblestone streets. I’m not quite feeling Tumblry enough to compare my Croatian freckles (left shoulder, clusters) to constellations, but I sometimes pull my sleeves up and show them to people in the same way others pull out family photographs from a wallet. I wore dresses with the boldest colours and the most intricate designs, far more flowing and European Market Stall than I ever seem to fuck with now. There were pebbled beaches and concrete beaches and beaches you could only get to after a ferry, two bus rides and a half hour walk. There were golden walls and bays where boats lay moored in little colourful rows, bobbing like canaries in the blue. 

Back home, getting lost means something different. But the only cure for this is to focus intently on matters of the now. I go back to Uni with peachy intentions, then slowly start tapering off at the edges of my attendance as the nights get cold and mornings, more impossible to surrender from the comfort of my own bed. Getting up means coffee now, and usually the afternoon. I suddenly share a strange affinity with girls I grew up with who took time off for gelati licked with the Hudson filter and a yacht week bender – the ache that can perhaps only be contained within the #takemeback hashtag or the simplicity of yearning for a time soaked in anonymity and sun. It is the simple knowledge that you are rooted here in this hometown life, but recently you weren’t. To be jealous of your own self is the strangest, most terrible affliction, and it only ever happens in retrospect. But of course, of course, we know this much. And all the worst afflictions do. 

Since escape is something you develop a taste for, before the cold sets in we bundle up in someone’s car and drive up to the wineries. The weather is still reasonable. I’ve never been to the Barossa before, despite growing up less than an hour away and staying there for what remains to be the majority of my life. I am in a good mood. The kind where you call shotgun without hesitation, regardless of your relationship to the driver. It’s sunny, though cold, and we stop for coffee before the city roads run like ribbons into dirt ones and we can feel the crunch of every little rock beneath our wheels. Every hour is golden hour, and vines stand to attention in rows. My hair is some homemade shade of pink then, and the four of us traipse from winery to winery, swirling our glasses with raised eyebrows, playing fetch with the property dogs. I’ve been telling G for weeks about all the things I want to do and he corners me now, makes me promise him I’ll go home and write about this day (I do, eventually). J and I huddle together in a back seat and talk about her art, my school, and the all-or-nothing approach to being female that sometimes feels like the only option. With B, I run through fields and climb recklessly over walls. Next to him I am the youngest sister in a boisterous and slightly dysfunctional family, keeping up although I’m little, proving that I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. I get drunk happily and easily, letting flavours unfold on my tongue in a way that I think I understand rather than just pretend to. I prefer the reds to the whites, but that has always been the way. Stronger, deeper, richer vices. Room temperature bottles that point blank refuse to weather the cold. Later, Mercury goes into retrograde and I take ballet classes. I quit smoking, twice. Failing, I realise that I probably didn’t really intend to quit at all. There are long drives through the hills, and it’s raining. I leave the windows open. I close other things, though, never tiring of my own petty ability to get caught up in my own plans and leave good people behind. 

So now, I sit through stories of other people’s plans. Now, I huddle into myself and wait out the winter. But I decide that it is not reductive. Not exactly an abyss we’re accustomed to falling into somewhere in the middle of each year before clawing ourselves out in time for spring. Yes, the trees shrink and the concrete stretches. A thin layer of drizzle covers the world with the ferocity of morning dew. But just because we burrow into our lives each day instead of springing out of them, it doesn’t mean there are spaces in places that need to be full.

Some diary fragments from my last weeks abroad:

  • I wonder what it will be like to have my own room again
  • It's 7am and we're sharing orange juice at the Glasgow bus station
  • I might never get to eat all the burgers on the Grubbs menu
  • I'm sitting in Bertie's back where it all began in the summer, twirling around on those goddamn chairs
  • It's dusk on the Brighton Pier and you're back in Adelaide, you're back in Therfield, you're back to the shaky beginnings of things
  • Pack up your stuff and go, go, go
  • Maybe the adventure isn't fun anymore

For the past few hours something has been repeating in my head, a phrase – none of my idols went to University – yet I wonder, as always, whether that’s a truth or just something I’ve decided to wake up one day and believe. I obsess over it for a while but decide to still go because education gave me books, and books gave me life, or at least a life that I thought was beautiful enough to justify going mad for. It’s strange, the things you find you know if you dig deep enough. I’ve spent half a year acting like coming home was something that happened to me by accident, but it was a calculated and deliberate choice. I knew well the calm I was choosing, and I chose it anyway. So I suppose that, if anything, is a sound and solid reason to pretend run in some direction now. For a little peace of mind, at least. Go, close doors at random, discard options just because you like the way throwing feels. It is always the swift whoosh of a baseball skimming past your ear (you imagine this although you’ve never cared about baseball, or sport in general). It is terror. It needs to stand up to your sensible half every once in a while to remind you that you’re still alive in all this quiet.

And though both sides write letters to the same god, one inhales slowly while the other lets go. Do you gulp down air or expel it? We devour the questions of each new Buzzfeed quiz to find out which television character we most resemble (what is your favourite colour – red, green, yellow or blue?) but the ones we should wake up each day asking are made of different bones. They’re simpler, with clean lines. They sear through virgin skin and wait for the sun to bleed out the stuff of day, patient as they are sturdy. Stay or go? Commotion or quiet? Roots or wings, or roots, or wings? To me, they’re all perfectly impossible. But they are the ones we must ask, and only when each letter has blurred into the next will we perhaps be left, some day, with an answer.

some distant life