When I got home for Christmas last December, it was the complete opposite of what I expected my arrival to be like. I thought I’d be greeted by both my delicious chocolate labradors; I thought I’d be jobless, I thought I’d slip back into the routine I’d had before I left for an entire year to figure out my life in London.
I’ve learned not to have expectations this year, every time my incessant imagination wants to dive into a daydream of what could be, I stop myself now.
‘You might be let down’ I say, or ‘it might be better than you ever expected.’ ‘Let life surprise you, I urge.’
Even if it’s excellent or terrible, just let it do what it should. There is no choice either way.
Life isn’t my friend, and it isn’t my foe either. Its a lender, it gives me what I want but takes the equivalent eventually. Looking back, I considered the year I got into Stella Adler and how I’d lost my grandfather only a few months prior. I thought about the pain of wrenching myself from New York and discovering my love for writing because of it. Balance can be twisted.
This hypothesis is something I was sure of the moment I collapsed on a stairway at my new workplace in Central London (which I can’t discuss, let’s just leave it at – I’m a working writer now).
I sobbed into the phone with my poor dad on the other end, he and my mum were in a veterinary hospital in Trinidad. Mum couldn’t speak. The pain was gargantuan for all of us. I kept trying to negotiate with him like he had a hand in the fate of my loved one, my dog Lady. She was going to die, that day. She had cancer; it wasn’t good, and that was it. I’ve never been so sad. I’ve never felt so far away.
The worst part of grief is the first step – the slugging through the muddy shock of a loss trying to get to the other side. That bank of acceptance, where everything feels less like you’ve been shot in the gut.
It seemed like the wonderful feeling of gaining employment which could give me a life that was my very own in London – had a price. The lender was collecting. The last time I’d seen Lady was the day I left Trinidad a year before; she was healthy and laying next to her brother, my other Labrador. I kissed her face multiple times, almost like I knew.
I’ve never been good at goodbyes; I don’t usually cry. My emotional output was always severely lacking. I was never adept at a good healthy weep. Until Lady, until him.
Last December was flooded, I made up for all those dry farewells from the past. There were too many goodbyes, and my system overrode – I could practically see the sparks coming out of my face as I wept my way through it.
The other one was less devastating, just sad.
I stood in the front yard in Esher, the grass was glistening from the morning dew, and I wrapped my sweater around myself, my feet nestled in my old pair of UGGs.
I watched him lug his suitcases into the taxi, all six feet and a bit of him. He was Italian-American with a backward cap and the bluest eyes in the world. He was leaving after two and half months of a whirlwind experience.
The party we met at was one I didn’t want to go to. It was a chilly September day, and I messaged my other friend who was also attending that night.
“I don’t know if its worth the trouble, I’m kinda tired.” I wrote in so many words.
“Come on, it might be fun.” she replied.
I thought about it. Maybe I should; maybe it’ll be fun to hang out with friends and listen to music from back home. A little soca always cheered me up.
“Ok, I’ll meet you there,” I replied.
On my way to the fete, I made a pitstop and trudged into a Sainsbury’s next to Vauxhall station. I was looking for alcohol since this was a BYOB gathering.
I grabbed a Pimm’s from the shelf and went to turn around when I heard two men catcall me. It wasn’t a huge deal, just an “alright darling.” Still, I just wanted to be left alone, I snapped back with an impulsive, “shut the fuck up.”
In hindsight, this was a bad idea. Though the retaliation I got was unexpected. The two men shouted, screamed and hollered. They called me every name in the book; crying racism, sexism – any ‘ism’ they could muster until I was reduced to a flea.
I stood trembling by the dairy section for what felt like an eternity until they left, a nice man approached me, offered to walk me to the underground. He said he had a daughter close to my age that he was always worried about her getting into such situations.
We scurried to the train, all the while looking out for my condemners. I waved him goodbye and headed to the party.
It was the standard Trinidad fare. Good food, good people, better music. I nursed a rum and coconut water while we swayed and gyrated to the familiar beats, soon forgetting about the incident from before.
He walked in later in the night, I noticed him but was too invested in the music to pay attention. He was almost too good-looking and my inner nerd never expected guys like that to give me a glance. I tend to sell myself short in the dating game perpetually.
Thank goodness for Trini girlfriends, at the end of the night, they shoved me towards him. We talked and joked, sitting on a stoop in the midst of the now waning party at four in the morning. He was from Boston but lived in Colorado. He showed me pictures of lush mountains and shots of him hanging off cliff faces.
He rock climbed and was a mechanical engineer, seconded to London on a project with Uber.
“Fuck,” I thought, he’s smart too. So, perfect.
I, however, felt like a flea and my new Sainsbury’s enemies didn’t have to call me a dumb bitch again to do it.
All I could think was, “How the hell will I tell this; rock climbing, world travelling, engineer that I’m an unemployed writer with no money or job?”
He probably won’t ask me out anyway, I considered.
“Can I get your number?” He asked
“Shit.” I thought while tapping in my digits and email.
I handed the phone back to him and realised I hadn’t experienced a ferocious attraction like this since, well since New York.
I wished with all my might to magically obtain a cool job so I wouldn’t be forced to dig into my parent’s funds to have a grown-up social life. Be careful what you wish for.
That autumn was full of him and me; I followed him around the city as he moved from apartment to apartment thanks to some hiccup with his company accommodations.
Soon he landed in a place in East London with a vibrant character and co-worker named Jay, who loved all things Caribbean – so took to me like a fish to broth.
It was a dreamy few months; we bounced around London day and night. Sometimes he’d come out to Surrey to do nothing in the country for a weekend. It was bliss, rolling into and out of bed at all hours, getting to know each other as best as we could given the limited amount of time we had.
The only thing that sucked about his job was that he would be leaving, the project he worked on took him all over the world. I could almost hear the countdown in my head. Cinderella much?
The week I got my job was the week he told me he was leaving. There was that lender again.
I surprised myself. I burst into tears. Each time I saw him over our last days together, I had to suck it up. He tried to comfort the spontaneous sobbing woman I’d become, but it was no use. I was officially a crier.
The morning he left, I made breakfast between honking sobs and sniffs. He looked excited, and I didn’t blame him. His life was adventurous, thrilling even – still, It was getting in the way of our potential. Part of me was pissed at what a tease the whole thing felt like.
I hated that goodbye. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to care about another person again. Plus, this one didn’t want to hurt me like the last did. He just had to go.
I wasn’t bruised and traumatised. He hadn’t torn me apart. I was sad simply because I was going to miss him. This was a new emotion I’d never let myself explore before and one that took some getting used too.
Nevertheless, he was gone and I had to deal.
Weeks later I was off myself, back to Trinidad for Christmas.
I got home to Port of Spain at night, my house smelled different and only one labrador retriever greeted me. I sat on the bench in the foyer and started crying, again. Nothing could stop me now. The lender had left me bankrupt.
After my sad arrival, the time at home was good for the soul, excluding of course, the giant hole left by Lady which was too apparent. So, to help ease the hurt, my family got a puppy and she began destroying the house in the cutest and most unapologetic way. My other Labrador currently looks like we gave him a lobotomy. He’s horrified. I headed back to London knowing he would have a friend again, once she grew.
Despite all the readjustments, I’m at a new place in my journey to be someone of note on this big blueberry. My poor book is still unfinished and neglected. I’m working on it.
I have no expectations for this year though, I learned my lesson from the last. I see you life.
But, one thing I do choose to collect in abundance is hope – hope for a year that is lacking in loss and full of possibility. The good kind, the kind that puts tiny wings on my heart.
I’m trying out another theory. Here’s to that.