Monday, 22 February 2010

Tears Before Bedtime

I spotted him pretending to hide behind a tree outside Cardiff Central station.

After being away from Flatmate for four hundred and sixty three days (not that I was counting), I was met with a shy smile and a timid kiss on the cheek.

“It’s nice to see you again, Weasel,” he said, trying to conceal a radiant grin.

I was nervous. We both were. I couldn't stop gazing at him, reaching out to pat him. He couldn't stop talking: "Sorry, I haven't talked to anyone for a year!" It was hard not to just lie down and gurgle with delight.

But, I’d timed my five-day visit to coincide with a bout of PMT. This was not intentional. By the second day I was a mass of raging hormones and all hell broke loose.

I’d been in Cardiff for 48 whole hours, I fumed, and he hadn’t proposed to me, hadn’t shagged me, hadn’t even kissed me like he meant it. All he’d done was talk talk talk talk talk bloody talk. And now we were lying in bed and he was yakking on about feminisation again and it was really pissing me off. I'd gone up to Cardiff wearing jeans, jumpers, a big woolly hat, my big Starsky & Hutch coat with rips in it, my Angry Dyke boots, because it was SNOWING, and here he was going on about his ideals of beautiful women and stockings and high heels AND NOT TOUCHING ME.

Why am I wasting my time on this idiot? Does he not realise what he's implying? His lack of action is telling me loud and clear he doesn't want me. I was bruised, insulted. I listened in stony silence for a while until I could take no more.

If he wasn’t interested in me physically, I erupted, then he could sling his hook – I would go and find somebody who was. I was no longer prepared to expend my energy chasing unsuitable men. He could no longer have his cake and eat it.

Fine, he said. Fine, I said.

The next morning, I realised this option would involve never seeing him again. That made the tears come. He came out of the shower to find me sobbing devastated in his armchair. He tried to comfort me; it made no difference. I was torn apart by the thought of what was being wasted. I tried to explain.

"Dude, I want a real relationship where the guy actually fancies me and all that. But I'll never find anyone else if I keep seeing you because if I see you, I love you. But you don't love me. That means when I leave here on Monday, that's it. It's got to stop. I can't see you anymore if I'm pissing in the wind."

Eventually I stopped crying long enough to take my puffy face along to the coffee shop. We sat at separate tables, him playing chess, me grinding my way through a book. I gave up after a while and went for a soothing walk in the park. After an hour he retrieved me. We went back to his flat, cooked a meal, watched the Winter Olympics. He teased me gently about inconsequential things, watching me carefully with serious eyes. In bed, he wriggled into the curve of my body, took my arm and wrapped it tightly around his torso, slipped his fingers through mine.

'Perhaps we are just two lonely people who need each other for now', I mused. The thought of it broke my heart.

Day four: apologies exchanged, normality resumed. Still no proposal, shag, or snog, but I was now able to remember he’d always been wary of intimacy, never been touchy-feely, and we'd been a long time apart. It was never going to instantly pick up where it'd left off - I'd probably been expecting a bit too much. I’d gained his trust in the first place by letting him set his own pace, so just hold yer horses, Weasel, let it unfold in its own good time.

"It will be fine, little Weez," he said, gently kissing my face. But still, at the back of my head, was the thought 'Is this what I want?'

Day five was Valentines Day. Lack of proposals, shags and snogs aside, we shared a sweet and tender day. There was a tentative public hand hold, a hint of a real kiss. And at the end of the day, it was the purest pleasure just to snuggle up in bed with the soft, warm body I'd missed so much and listen to his beautiful voice in the dark. Sex or no sex, truthfully there was nowhere in the world I'd rather be.

The next morning, I went back to Kent.

“Come and see me again soon,” he said.

I will.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

don't know when I'll be back again

Thursday night, I took my mate Charcoal for one last walk along New Brighton beach under a sunset pastel sky. In between chucking sticks in the sea for my stick-in-the-sea-obsessed canine friend, I drank in the sight of the Port Hills and the endless, roaring ocean, and thought, 'Bloody hell, I'll miss this'.

I returned my wet and happy chum to Sage's house, and went back to the beach.

A skinny dip in a warm Pacific ocean under the Southern Cross was a fine way to farewell New Zealand.

The next morning, Sage drove me to the airport. I thought back to when I left in 2007. I'd been a mess - tearful and drunk. I'd got a thorough pat down from airport security that time. This time, only my tin of tuna (for the purposes of snacking at Changi airport during my 16-hour stopover) aroused suspicion.

I watched as the impossibly blue sea slipped away behind me. Canterbury's patchwork plains turned into velveteen mountains. The mountains turned friesian as we crept over the Southern Alps. Goodbye Christchurch, goodbye Aotearoa. The plane unwound my 1998 journey, when I flew into this place for the first time and fell instantly in love with it. A thick white bank of cloud signalled the end of the land - it was raining in Greymouth. I sank back in my seat as we started to cross the Tasman Sea. My prayer, as ever, was this: Grant me safe passage so that I may return.

Tiny splinters of ice formed on the window like fairies on a petri dish. I watched An Education, The Big Bang Theory, Cheers, The IT Crowd. Most of the time I watched the route map, waiting, waiting, as the hours ate up the miles.

Reboarding at Singapore, my heart sank as the idiocy of what I was undertaking started to sink in. No job, no money, going back to a country whose unrelenting grimness suffocates me. We flew over Afghanistan, and the in-flight entertainment system went down. I finished my book. What the hell was I doing, what the hell was I going to do?

Heathrow, finally. A six-million mile walk from the gate to Immigration, with no trolleys, no chairs to rest on, no drinking water, no toilets. Welcome to Britain. Lack of sleep has made me grumpy. I hate these idiot people who shilly-shally about, walking slowly in front of me, getting in the way. There are thousands of them. New Zealand is not like this. I push my way through Customs and out into the arrivals hall, scowling and cursing under my breath.

And then... whooping and cheering to the left of me. I scan the sea of faces. There, wearing a red sequinned top hat and making most of the noise, is My Lovely Sister. Next to her, wearing a spiky orange fright wig, is Her Lovely Hubby. Signs are being waved under my nose: 'One Fine Weasel', 'Tellytubby'. I hear "Hi Weez!" Oh my God - my brother, his family, are here too. And there's my dad! And the rest of my nieces! Newbie, and the mighty Bean. I was not expecting this. Open arms, beaming faces. My heart soars.

As we stroll back to the carpark, I notice the sun is shining.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


new beginnings

Today feels like the last day of everything.

I have spent a couple of weeks going around the place saying goodbye. Golden Bay, Nelson, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch. People, places, things. Tomorrow I fly. Back to what? An unknown. The universe has been systematically parting me with my life equipment - first my car, then my Stuff (reduced from a roomful of day-to-day belongings to five small boxes of sentiments and memories), and now my laptop, which died on Monday with a burning smell and a sad little pop. The thoroughness with which the universe has been cleansing my personal history recently meant I was expecting it: in a very unWeasel-like burst of sensible, I'd bought an external hard drive and backed it up. Hurrah for listening to your gut instincts!

So, I will return to the UK armed only with some clothes, toiletries, essential paperwork, Scrabble, my precious external hard drive, Downstairs Monkey and Bear. My Lovely Sister will (hopefully) meet me at Heathrow at 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon. I have already booked a ticket to Cardiff for the following Wednesday. I am nervous about this, and about finding a suitable job doing something writerish, and about everything, really.

All I know with any certainty is that it won't be the same as before.

Flatmate texted. 'The future's bright xx'