One year. 100 articles. So we're having a Reader's Party. Come along to Upsidecrown.
24 August 2000
I hadn't slept since I moved to the city. I wasn't sure whether it was the noise of the traffic that never stopped sweeping past my window or the anxieties of a new life or just this damn heat.
The work was going okay, it was all this spare time that I's having the problems with. I had known it would be like this but somehow I forgot that foreknowledge of a problem didn't automatically negate it.
The thing is that I've turned up in the capital, joined the nameless hordes, made myself a part of the biggest city this county has to offer and know nobody in it.
The Second Law of Demodynamics states that the more people there are, the harder it is to get to know any of them and whilst I may be rugged individual enough to go and see films and plays on my own and exploring my surroundings will keep me occupied for a while, I have not yet lost enough of my humanity to be prepared to go clubbing alone and am acutely aware that I can't quite remember how exactly it is that you go about Making Friends.
To begin with the evenings were bad, I made myself food, I went for walks, I read until my eyes swam with print, but I still ended up going to bed early, catching up on those important extra hours of lying awake.
There are other volunteers living in the centre, they were my hope, a Bolivian political refugee, a Swedish vegan and a French Jesus-freak (you can really see the attraction of a church in the big city, an instant community of friends eager for you to join them.) They greeted me politely enough but then disappeared behind their bedroom doors and locked themselves in.
The weekend could have been the worst, not even work to distract me, but there was one temporary relief: my parents were coming.
They're an hour late which is unusual for them: I'm stuck in my silent room because they're supposed to phone when they're nearly here and all the usual scenarios start rushing into my head about car crashes and police on the door-step with Bad News.
I get that kind of thing if people are only ten minutes late, I sometimes get quite convinced but they're not really fears- the death of the loved ones aren't the focus but the attention that everyone pays to me in my grief. That should disturb me or something but I gave up being sickened by myself a long time ago.
They arrive (of course) and we go for a meal. I try to imagine my Mum living here: she did in her twenties, before my Dad whisked her away to married life and sea-side security. She treads cautiously down the street, as if every inch of pavement is a piece of trash she's trying to avoid stepping on, gingerly carrying the arm that still hasn't healed properly six months on and I can't see it somehow.
She broke the arm tripping over her sewing machine- I think this says something profound about my mother's life.
The food is good and there's a comfort to the familiar company: I even don't mind being shown sixty identical photographs of Canadian mountains, Dad eating a slice of sorbet after explaining the particular significance of each individual one.
The waitress bustles past every two minutes, pursing her lips at this elongation of our stay in her establishment but I can't really blame him: last time the three of us went out for a meal and there was a lull in the conversation over the dessert I came out to them. Mum stared into her coffee, Dad asked me three questions then talked about the traffic on the M4, this time they've come prepared.
They decide to stay longer and we walk in the park; dull but the most exhilirating dull I've ever felt, even their fascination for species of duck begins to take on worrying tones of endearing rather than infuriating.
Eventually they leave and things are looking up: for one thing they brought my music and the oppressive silence will be banished. But just having seen someone seems to have dissipated the anxiety that was building up, relaxed the bow-string.
The vegan's even come round offering me the last of her dark chocolate: she says she can't finish it- I think she wants to be friends.