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I have to keep myself together. In travel my identity becomes insubstantial. The attachments, patterns, movements, places, valuations, relationships that make my melt away. Dissolve. I stare hard at the reflection of my freckles in the window, holding them together. People who travel alone all the time must have a fantastically strong sense of their own identity. They must be like a rock. No questions, no worries, no niggles. Just the 'I'. Maybe they're the wrong kind of people to travel. Or the wrong kind of people to come back telling you what they've seen. What can a rock see?
I used to lie to people about who I was. I liked being someone else. It' coming back to me now, as I order my Corona. I feel the looks of the guys perched on their stools, looking. I let my shoulders square, my jaw set. I grip the bottle hard, in a butch sort of way. I take a sip and a big foamy drop spills down my chin. I don't wipe it immediately. I just leave it there till I'm done drinking, and then wipe it with the back of my hand, in a butch sort of way.
Airports bring out the worst in people. Look at them. Idiotic staw hats. Taking photos of one another in the check in queue. Look at these girls. Would you look at them? You don't even need to, you know what they look like from the way they speak. Bleached hair. Cheap, trashy clothes, too light for the weather outside. Flip flops, or ridiculous sandals. Heavy makeup. Pudgy legs. Four are chattering behind me. They are so eager to go, to get drunk, to get laid. I annoy them, reading my book. I annoy them with my disapproving back mocking them.
I annoy them, and they get louder, more brash. But they're still British. I know them. I let the gap between me and the next person in the check in queue grow. I just stand there, and let the queue move. I hate that innane shuffling of bags anyway. The gap is sizeable now, four people's worth of unoccupied lino. The girls have gone quieter. The tension is rising. Finally one snaps. 'Ops'! Her suitcase topples over into the gap. We all have to move forward to let her pick it up, closing the gap. Thank God. Order is restored.
At first, it's amusing. Quickly it becomes annoying. Soon, it's unbereable. The winking, the whistling. The hissing. Those expressions, so openly vulgar, checking you out head to toe, as if they owned you. "They look at you as if you were a whore", M says. Yes. And worse. And how to react? What to do? You can ignore. You can run away. You can stare hard at their faces, or spit at their feet. They still laugh. You're just a woman. Nothing you do could possibly touch them. You're just a woman. They own you with their eyes. You're anybody's.
There is a point, far away, where the endless expanse of the ocean meets the endless sweep of the sand, and the union is sealed by the sky's embrace. The wind blows through and along, blows within me, and accross me. The waves pound like a heart, like a mouth, forever kissing. It is different. The colour is deep. The eye of the ocean is deep, and sparkling with excitement. We prostrate ourselves before it. We roll in the sand till it fills our hair, our ears, our nostrils. We breathe its salty blessing. The sun presses on from above.
The high cliffs are made of sand, of dirt. They are orange, auburn, golden, and brown. The wind and water have cut deep into their compacted sides, uncovering solid layers of ancient death. The cliffs show layers of shells from the bottom of a forgotten sea, a sea that has drained away into the sand. The white forms stick out like bleached bones. Relentless, the ocean pounds, polishing till the shells lose their marks and resemble plates, and one would be excused in assuming that the erosion had uncovered the remains of a vast Greek feast, broken crockery and all.
If I were a man, I could have rushed up those steps and punched him in the face. If I were stronger, perhaps I could have done it. It was just like that scene from Almodovar's High Heels, just not funny. All I did was exclaim urgently, and hide in the shadow of the cliff where I could not se him, and he could not see me. But I kew he was there, and I half expected to see the cum fall down on the sand from above. If I were a man, this would not be happening to me.
I feel persecuted, I feel oppressed, I've never felt like this before, the powerlessness of it. What can you do, what can you say? You can try to develop a partial blindness, a partial deafness, but they still find you, the whistles, the licking of the lips. I shrink internally. I stop smiling. I am tired, tired of hiding, of being miserable, of not being myself. How do you fight back? Subjugated, subject to. When I wake up without her, my heart sinks, I don't feel like facing this country on my own. Alone I lose all sense of humour.
I focus hard on a crack in the wall, and force my mind to travel into its tiny universe. There is a small grimy planet there, far, far away, round like a ball and only a few feet accross, just like the planet in Little Prince. This is where I sit, on that tiny little planet far, far away from here, from the fluorescent light, and from the pain pulling at my insides. This is my usual tactic for dealing with pain, travelling into the tiny universes of textile threads, cracked walls, rusty nails, anywher but right here and now.
I turn my head away from the needle, expecting a 'small scratch', but the scratch continues and grows and half a second later I am squirming and twisting in pain, trying hard not to move my arm but not suceeding. Bloddy hell that was supposed to be the anisthetic?? Cure worse than the disease! The nurse-guy looks down at me with this annoying smile, you're the ucking professional here mate and if I am squirming in pain it is your ucking fault, and let's see how you like it, and what happened to research on ucking male contraception anyway????
Been feeling out of sorts lately. Like I'm constantly waiting for something. Dragging on from one thing to another, always holding my breath for... what? Feeling alone, like I'm fighting alone. But K held me tonight, and I tried to figure out my fears, and it all seems clearer now. The new project anxiety, the missing of overarching narratives, the lack of certanity due to his situation. The eternal 'is this really what I want to be doing' question, for which the answers are only temporary. I cried a bit and felt connected again, together, not alongside. More cheerful now.
Goegeous out there today, at Howden. Dragged ANZ out of bed early to catch the bus before it gets busy. I ran, she cycled along, and the landscape opened before us, framed by the plantation covered hills, the eye led by the dark, dark blue of the wind swept water. Both dams were overflowing, Howden more than the Derwent. A wall of white, of foaming white, framed by two dark, gothic towers, and ten storeys high, closing off the expanse of the lake like an insane curtain, shimmering, glittering, thundering down, light and immensely imposing at the same time, exhilarating.
It has been a while since I enjoyed taking pictures, so buying a new camera, as per A's recommendations, today, has me quite excited. Somehow ye olde Olympus and I just did not get along. I always thought whatever I shot looked a bit cramped, a bit yellowish, and frankly uninspiring. I know to little of the technical detail to be able to attribute the blame properly, so all I can say is that we were just not a good fit. It did not feel right, we did not click. Chatting with A rekindled the interest, now for the action.
Big day tomorrow, we are all nervous. Not quite sure what to do if he does not get it, unlikely as it seems it is still a possibility. I don't want to think about it.
We all spent the day together in the house, and it suddenly feels really small. Suddenly we are not getting along as nicely as I imagine we do, suddenly there is a lot of eye-rolling and sighing and oh-my-godding. Does not bode well if we ever seriously thought of adding one more to the equasion..
Negative thoughts, begone! Positive vibes urgently needed.
Still a warm glow fills my chest when I think of that fireplace and that music, that couch, those conversations. I try not to wonder whether my judgement of their enjoyment was clouded by the wine and the rose-tinting whisper of possibility; I choose to believe we all had a good time that evening. Life is a game of resource and strategy. I donít know what were the reasons I fitted into their agenda, whether there was a misunderstanding, or if it was just a gesture of Southern generosity and friendship. But I choose to believe the latter.
The house itself was stunning, unbelievable. Within two minutes we had left the campus, and were walking across meadows and fields, climbing up a gentling sloping hill. There was a horse on the field in front, munching the spring greenery. The house sat in a white and green embrace of soaked vegetation. It was all perfect inside, the wooden beams, the big, dark kitchen, the steps into the garden, the distant cathedral above the trees, far away. As we talked I tracked the progress of the night outside the window, bluer and bluer, spilling its ink onto the lawn, slowly.
When he told me, on the phone, I sat down. I knew at the bottom of my heart that this is happening, that this will happen, but at the same time I was terrified of him not getting it, of the sadness and depression which will follow, of the circling and searching for alternatives without any heart, because, truly, this is the only thing he wants to do. Canadiantoes asked me later: so he really wants to be an academic? Not any more than I do I think, but what other alternative is there, when you are who you are?
Sleepy now over my beer, been a nice saturday though, waking up alone was strange but luxurious at the same time (K could not sleep for his cold and ended up dozing on the couch, bless his soul), and i got woken up by a phone call from my aunt who lives in Paris and with whom I've not chatted for a while, so that was nice. Full update on family gossip, foreign weather, retirement plans, holiday plans, and so on. Then lie there half awake, day-dreaming, before the cats invade with their pointy paws and cold sniffy noses.
Had a great morning playing with the Nikon and yes photographing the cats, what a sweet camera. Fell in love with taking pictures again. The funny thing about this camera is that, being used, is came with a scent... and it's a scent of man, and of cigarettes, and of aftershave. It has pervaded the camera thoroughly. Makes me imagine a big man with strong hands. Heh, I smell him every time I take a picture, and it's like having someone else in the room with me, looking over my shoulder and breathing their cigarette breath all over my neck.
I ran to the department this afternoon and printed my thesis for reading/revision from tomorrow onwards. I am actually quite fond of it, and proud of it, now that I've had a month of not stressing about actually making it happen. I am going to have a fun few days thinking about it critically. The weather has been so good and sunny, sitting in the garden reading the thing, brewing some sun tea and tanning my legs feels like a goof plan... This week off has been arranged a long time ago, but I still feel like I'm skiving.
Feel like I'm skiving this week. The weather has finally picked up, and I spent the day sitting in the sun, cats wondering around pawing after flies, reading the thesis. All in line with an agreement with my boss, back when I joined. Relaxing, slow, warm. The thesis is not that bad actually, enjoying reading it, although megad it is a slow process.. I am struggling to think critically about it too, while I know that this is exactly what I will be faced with in the defence. There are a few helpful lists of questions online, getting more serious.
Who knew reading your own thesis could take so long... I've been managing two chapters a day, need to pick up speed if I am to make it in time! I am enjoying retracing my steps, and although sometimes I cringe at the phrasing, and although I clearly see the immaturity of some arguments, and the weaknesses of composition, I can really say that, overall, it's an enjoyable read - at least to me! The big Q, why and how is this relevant to anyone apart from me, is the big one I keep thinking about and tackling in my head.
These are very hot days. Even the cats keep to the shade. Today I downloaded a list of potential viva questions, and meditated on them, dozily, in the sunshine. I feel really calm, really ok about this (a friend asked - Prozak or preparation?). Fact is, I can speak this language, I have something to say, I make some relevant points, and my conclusions are not any less nor any more woolly and wishful and utopian than those of other 'researchers' in this field - I feel I will be fine, really.
Looking forward to re-reading this entry once it's over!
Well, that was odd... The project team have been ambling along so far in seeming unity, but today the misunderstandings and half agreements and low level grumblings have all come to the fore. It was the first time voices have been raised, and serious questions about feasibility asked. I had my own agenda, a list of things I needed to get out of this, so I drove them hard to consensus, to actions, not questions. We've rescaled our ambitions considerably as a result, but I feel we're on firmer ground now, and will have something to show for our efforts.
I can't get his operation out of my head. A neurological operation, an inch on skull removed behind the ear to mess about directly with his brain, just to remove a facial tick... 'It would be nice to see with both eyes', he said, but he also said he was still quite torn. But it is going ahead. Quite honestly, I am terrified of losing him. I love him so! He has been my comfort for so long, and such a good supervisor and friend. I would hate for him to go over such a small thing. But - good vibes!
It's blue outside again. There is soft light coming in, reflected from the blind pulled all the way down. It puts a shine into his big eyes, and makes his head look like it's made of pure gold. There's movement outside, and he does his impression of a Chinese restaurant figurine again, squatting weirdly on his hind legs and putting the paws on the window frame to look out onto the street. The lambs in the fields yesterday reminded me of him, with their expressions of naive, dumb alertness, and stiff legs kicking high in the air as they ran.
Girona We start following steps, climbing up is inevitable, there are so many, and so enticing, cut out of grey, handsome stone, stacked irregularly, with such a human hand. Above us a little girl's head appears, hovering, above a stone entrance. The head is cheerful in spite of its disembodiment. We walk inside, and find ourselves in a gorgeous garden. The rest of the girl is draped on top of another staircase, and her parents can be seen, scattered around the flowerbeds. Everything is in bloom: the roses, the lavender, and a myriad plants I cannot name, but can smell.
The strange anti-gravity of this city pulls us higher and higher, till we enter the city walls, and can climb no further. A cloud is rising from over the hills, swallowing the sun in a slow, dramatic gulp. Its belly turns red, and there is fire on the hills. We look at the city tumbling down to the invisible river, all rubble of roofs and walls and abandoned lofts. Tiny courtyards many floors below gie up their secrets of forgotten rubber gloves, broken furniture in untidy stacks, disused washing mashines all covered in grime. The junk of everyday life.
Banyoles It is nothing like I expected. It is a no-nonsense place, so practical and unromantic you could be fooled in was Germany. The colour of the lake, turquoise in the sunshine, betrays the southern location. But soon a storm cloud arrives, and grumbles at us as we set off for the round walk. Reeds, irises, weeds, and birds. All is in song, all is green and water heavy, unlike the Spain we know. The lake is a place of healthy ascetism, of bodily discipline, not of long nights of debauchery and long days of loitering in the sun.
Sant Feliu de Guixols Calm, calm, white, and flat like a mirror, the sea shines between the land and the sky as if it were filled with shimmering milk. It's hot. We sweat, searching for the start of the coastal path. We find it hidden in someone's front garden. Quickly, we climb. Steps give way to roots of the fragrant pine trees. The sea is turquoise below us, and the bay comes into view, like a model village. A seagull colony nesting on the cliff faces below fills the air with cries, lending the scene an air of surreal beauty.
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