She reaches into her purse and pulls out £15. A trolley of empty boxes beside her, she holds the two creased notes out towards me. I thank her, and am told,
“This is the last penny you’re getting out of me for a year.” thanks to me (well, the place I’m living, so… technically me), my family are now in a financial tight spot. She can’t afford to give me any more, and she can’t afford to give me any money again. She’s given me the money because she wants me to go to the “welcome drinks and food” taking place in the restaurant in my accommodation. She says I might have to pay for the food, and hugs me.
I’m more interested in standing and watching her walk away. In my mind, I am coming home not leaving home… but my mum will always be my mum… and as she left I held back tears. I think she did too. She kept turning around to wave. I’d been meant to be meeting my Italian friend from uni. She usually bails on me. She did again. I think I may be done attempting to meet up with her. So my mum left, and I was alone… Until she called me to say
“You forgot Harvey and your notebook” (Harvey is the bonsai tree I bought at the start of last summer. Whenever I nearly die, he loses all his leaves. Seriously. I’ve nearly thrown him away many times thinking he was dead. And then he just grows new shoots and leaves again). This time she drives away, I lose sight of her faster, and it’s like ripping the plaster off instead of peeling it away slowly. She spent hours helping me move in, and now that she’s gone, I don’t know what to do.
(Change of tense here, because why not?
There was nobody around. It was awkward. At this stage of freshers, I went and sat in my kitchen with my flatmates and the awkwardness dissolved between us and our collective desire to get to know each other. I wandered round and could find nobody in the communal areas. There was nobody. My room is like a little bubble. I
Ex-flat-brother (who lived in my flat last year) also lives in this accommodation too. I met up with him. It was kind of awkward to my brain, but he’s a nice guy most of the time and has been a good friend to me in the past. We wandered around a bit, I showed him where the garden was (there was a BBQ, but nobody had showed up, so…) then we just sat on a sofa and talked for a bit. He showed me his room, and I ordered myself a pizza, onion rings and some chips, and took them back up to my room.
I laid on my bed looking out at Canary Wharf in the night. It was all lit up and so it illuminated the clouds that, as the night progressed, sank into a mist that glowed like a big yellow halo in the light from the buildings it had swallowed.
It was silent, and I was alone, and thoughts started to swim. I had to pay for wifi and have no money at the moment, so I went with the free service, which gives me 20MB per… some time period (whatever, it was too slow to watch youtube videos, so I connected to my phone). I watched Julien Solomita vlogs, then a load of Roman Atwood Vlogs, and then the latest Lance Stewart vlog. And then, as I rolled over onto my stomach to go to sleep, I hung my left arm out of the bed and said “Good night [my dog’s nickname]”. My hand closed no thin air and for some reason I had expected to feel warm fur. And that was when it hit me. In my old flat, I would have wandered into the kitchen and found other humans, but nobody was about. I gave up on sleep and I stared out of the window and listened to sirens, and eventually drifted off at 3am. I woke up two hours later, and I reached for my dog again. I even called him, that time, wondering where he was. I’ve never done that before. He obviously wasn’t going to be there. But I nearly cried. If I hadn’t fallen back to sleep, I probably would have.
This morning I woke up to the same awesome view I fell asleep staring at. I said good morning to my dog, and reached for him again, this time stopping before I grabbed at thin air, realising before reality hit that he was not there, and craving the company of something, somebody. Anybody, really. I started unpacking the rest of my stuff and listened to back-to-back Jenna&Julien podcasts all morning. It filled the silence. They made me laugh out loud. I looked out of the window (something I find myself doing an awful lot, even as I type this) and saw a running club or a park run go past in Mile End Park. It made me smile so much, to watch others running. It also really made me want to run.
I discovered that I can see the O2 arena (on the other side of the river). I then sat for ages watching planes take off from London City Airport, before they turned (each one at the same point) and flew straight at me, and then over the uni campus behind me. On campus I used to try and work out where the airport was as the huge low-flying planes roared overhead. Now I know, which is kind of cool.
I ate cold pizza all morning and panicked that I couldn’t find my Oyster card. And I had a small unhelpful train of thought which shall get its own blog post shortly. I messaged My Fellow Third Wheel, and spent hours laying on my bed, staring at Canary Wharf and helping him with a problem he has right now. He told me I was helping when I wasn’t actually sure whether I was or not, and I felt a little better, I guess. Sixth From Friend’s Girlfriend messaged me, having just moved into uni, and seemed to have already decided that she couldn’t have any form of social life at all and had to shut herself away and work all the time. I spent a while fixing that situation – talking to her always reminds me how young 17 really is. I was lonely, so I messaged a few people, including my godfather, asking if they wanted to meet up. I think I might ask Aunty Godmother & her family if I can go and stay with them again.
I got ready (by that, I mean, I threw on clean clothes, the shower can wait) in preparation to meet Uni Pal, to then find that she would be delayed by three hours to our meeting because… wait for it… somebody stole her mum’s numberplate… while her car was parked on their driveway! Who even steals a numberplate?! We’re still trying to figure this out.
I’d noticed that my shirt was very difficult to button up (I had to pull it together really hard and struggled to get the buttons together… Usually this shirt is baggy over my flat stomach) and was almost bursting at the seams, but it wasn’t until I finally knew Uni Pal was almost home in London that I put on my shoes. I wear running shoes that are basically super thick socks with a sole attached (wearing running shoes was my compromise last year at uni when I wanted to run so badly, but couldn’t. I put on running shoes and it made me feel a little better. I now practically live in them). They are stretchy, they can’t be too small (especially not on my feet, which are so narrow and thin that I can’t find strapless shoes that actually stay on them). And yet, I couldn’t get them on my feet. It was at this point that I stopped to look at myself. Moving in yesterday, my abdomen had swelled a little over the course of the afternoon as the strain of lifting boxes irritated my body. Today, it had taken the swelling to the extreme. From literally where my sternum ended, my stomach bulged further forward than my boobs. I couldn’t find a single item of clothing that fit. I realised the wheeze and odd feeling in my airway that I’d been brushing off all morning was probably also related to this, because it had a very specific feel that I suddenly realised I recognised. And then I looked at my feet. Or at least, two puffy things that used to be my feet.
I couldn’t be bothered to have a defective body today, so I wrestled my shoes on, and stepped out into the city that stole my heart when I was about 14. My legs seared with pain as blood pooled and my calves cramped. My feet felt tight. I coughed and wheezed. But it was heaven. It was what I needed, to move, to get outside. I was not going to have a defective body, and even if it insisted on being defective, I wasn’t going to give it the satisfaction of acknowledging it.
I saw huddles of freshers stood at the traffic lights, waiting with no idea that they could cross safely in the absence of the green man as long as the cyclist’s traffic light was still red (means you still have time to cross). I felt at home, with a podcast still in my ear, and familiar sights surrounding me, I felt like I was home. My room is nice, but everything in it, including the room itself, feels foreign to me. It doesn’t feel like mine yet. It feels like I’ve put all my stuff in somebody else’s space. But Mile End… It was like a comfort blanket of sights.
We went from Charing Cross to The Strand, and walked from there past Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery to Leicester Square, where we wandered past all the police and the fountain to stroll along/ through Piccadilly Circus. We walked on to an Irish bar in China Town, but had just missed the end of the gaelic football final Uni Pal wanted to see. I bought us a couple of drinks (I ad non-alcoholic, because I figured my body was already annoyed enough). Uni Pal then took me to a really posh French bakery in Covent Garden. We sat and I ate an apple puff pastry, and a biscuit that was bigger than my face. As we walked back along the Strand to get to the underground, we passed a sight that almost made Uni Pal cry, and almost broke my heart.
A line, about thirty metres long. Some people in suits, most looking completely normal, just like us. Some neat, some holding guitars. Some were wheeling suitcases. Some were scruffy. Some were young, old, attractive. Some looked just like us, like they could have walked right off of a uni campus. They were all queueing for a van serving soup. They were all homeless. And most of them, had I passed them in the street, I wouldn’t have thought were homeless at all. I wanted to give them all my money. I wanted to cross the road into the fast food restaurant and buy all the food I could afford and hand it out. But I had no money left. And until my student loan payment hits, I can’t get more. People judge the homeless, but there was a man stood in a very expensive suit… And it just showed that it could be any of us. At any point.
Less than forty metres from the back of the line was a bank where you can’t open an account unless you have £100,000. Uni Pal said you usually pay it in cash (she knows these things). I hated society right there. I hated the world for walking on by, for the looks of disgust people were giving at their fellow human beings. The only thing I felt when I looked at them was an overwhelming desire to bring them all home with me and give them a warm, safe place to sleep. People even spat. At other humans… I have no words…
If my health stays good enough, I think I will find a local soup kitchen and volunteer. Normally when I see people living on the streets, I buy food (usually hot food, if I can find it, but at least a sandwich) and a drink (also usually hot) and ask if they would like it. I’m aware that they are people, with pride, and I never mean to be condescending. Some refuse, but most take up the offer. A lot of these people cry. I sat down with one guy once, and he told me all about how he’d become homeless. I always carried spare food after that. There are plenty of people living on the streets in London, everywhere, especially in the better areas (e.g. Holborn). I find it easier just to leave an apple or something next to the people that are sleeping, I’m kind of shy and I prefer not to have to face the awkwardness of watching their reaction. But anyway…
I’m not going to lie, I feel so, so lonely here. I like to be around people. I want to be around anything living. I might go swimming tomorrow, or for a walk. And I’m going to ask if I can go to Aunty Godmother’s house. I have people to meet up with for the rest of the week, but even then that’s only for a couple of hours at a time. I don’t like being alone. Well, I do, sometimes. But I like to have the choice. I don’t like having no option. I am so lucky to have a place to live, especially such an amazingly nice one, but I feel so guilty about the financial impact this is having on my family.
Talking of family, my dad drove up here to drop off my stuff, and he didn’t even want to come in and see my room. My mum told him to say goodbye to me and he just shut the boot and went to get in the car. She called him again and he said he hadn’t heard. He was going to leave without saying goodbye. And that said it all to me. I couldn’t even look at him as he stood a couple of metres away and said the word goodbye. It stung to matter that little. My mum told me off for looking at the floor, but I was looking at where he made me feel I belonged, and I was trying to to crumple into a million pieces and lay in the gutter beside me forever. I won’t miss moments like that.
But being so alone is bad for my mental health. I feel like I’ve moved into the place where I’m going to end it all. Genuinely. I think living here is going to kill me. All I’ve wanted is some space to myself, but not to be in my own bubble shut off from the world. I’ve walked around the communal areas and there’s still nobody. Most of the rooms on this floor are still empty. I’m so lucky to be here. It just isn’t good for me. Sometimes the things we want, and the things that make us happy, are also the worst things for us.
But I am in love with this view. In a city of millions of people, I feel very alone right now. I can’t wait for my course to start. I can’t wait for My Fellow Third Wheel and my little brother and my nephew to come and stay (each at different times). I can’t wait to try out for the swimming society.
There’s just a week between me and that.
And I rally don’t know what to do with it (there may be many more equally long and equally awful posts)
Thanks for reading. I mean it. I don’t know why you read this far, but thank you so much. Means a lot. (I also love that you guys refer to uni as home in the comments you leave. My family refer t Kent as my home, and it doesn’t feel like it at all. It makes me smile when other people call London my home because… It is).
Back to YouTube I go! (My data is going to run out soon I swear)
No way but