Where it hurts

imageI’ve got a cold, the one that’s been doing the rounds, the one that’s everywhere, the one that’s on the tube and in cafés and restaurants; the one that’s on every door handle, table and seat; the one that’s in shops and supermarkets, lurking on shelves, hiding on hangers, lying in wait; the one that’s been dancing around the perimeter of my personal hemisphere, infecting my family and friends; the one that’s been trying to get me ever since I’ve arrived. Having managed to avoid catching it from my partner, my father, my sister, a colleague and a friend, I have finally succumbed, my stupid hand reaching up to take possession without permission from my slightly more intelligent body or arm. Feeling miserable; coughing, spluttering, sniffing and sneezing – my voice barely present, my throat raw and dry: I couldn’t be happier. To say that this further drain on my already depleted reserves is unwelcome, is understating the matter at hand. I am examining the rocks on the bottom, befriending the algae that graces them, looking for (so that I might eat and thereby at least temporarily survive) the worm most unassuming and unammouting.

My head, although foggy, is alive with questions. What am I doing? Where am I going? Where do I stand and what do I even want?

It is also full of holes. The explanations and responses I thought I had figured out, the plans I had put together, all feel lame and weak, irrelevant. How can I focus on the future, when the present is so unclear? And how can I start sorting out the present, when I don’t even know what might be happening later, let alone further ahead than that?

I want to make the most of being here: study, join, explore; see, meet, befriend; become a part of. But I can’t do any of that while I am juggling potatoes because it would be irresponsible to stop and, besides, these potatoes are hot. I would either in shock drop them or in horror burn my hands.

This morning, after another sleepless night, I am sitting in (surprise, surprise), a café. Having no Wi-fi at home makes it necessary. As does the fact that I have no furniture at said ‘home’ to sit upon and, as such, being at home feels a bit like camping out in a field. It’s also not my favourite place because, as a space, it has betrayed me. After costing an arm and a leg (roughly translated as six months rent in advance due to the short nature of our intended stay and the temporary, transient nature of our work, and double the deposit, because of our dog, who has never damaged anything but, understandably, in the mind of the landlord, might) it has transpired that half of the contents don’t work, the neighbours are noisy and it, our space, is situated above the dance floor of a busy club. It’s so not funny, one just has to laugh; to do anything else, would be to invite further tragedy and experience additional trauma, of which there is already far too much.

So I am sitting and writing and attempting and trying very hard to make do, and I am (in part) managing. Thank God for my book. It’s not much and it may never amount to anything, remaining as small or as large as the individuals who frequent my site, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing and it gives me something to concentrate upon. And, perhaps, if life feels like giving me a break, just this once, just this time, it might find its way out there to a slightly more expansive crowd.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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