Down the Rabbit Hole

Last weekend I booked train tickets to Oxford on a whim. Had a few days off and decided to claim a vague invitation from a friend I met in Barcelona to come and stay. I don’t know who was more surprised when I actually accepted, him or me. But I did. And so the cogs cranked back into motion, as usual I packed a suitcase of lacy things and paperbacks and found myself catapulted across the country. As usual, as usual. It seems to be a strange line I’ve crossed now, the universe I inhabit is one where throwing myself into unknown area codes has become a weekly ritual. The train was drowsy and hazed with thin gold outlines surrounding everything on board, and I sunk into my chair and read. Hid behind an overgrown fringe and a shift dress. As usual, I wanted to sink my fingers into all the passing houses and greenery and not let go until each place had left fingerprints all over my memory. I thought quietly about touching my feet down on the platform, searching around the sea of faces for a click of sudden recognition, the rumble of suitcase wheels and a red lipstick smile handed over like an offering. I thought about all these things as a bell rang with an automated voice to signal my stop. As usual, I wondered whether it was all a good idea.

I needn’t have worried, though. My friend Matthew was an all round wonderful host. He picked me up from the station, cooked me dinner, scraped together makeshift cocktails in the kitchen then talked and talked with me until it was time to go out to the bars. Once we were there I skirted around circles and took snippets of conversation, tucked them in my pocket. Sipped mojitos in silence and settled into that peculiar feeling that comes over me every single time I do this, the strange, unexplainable notion of coming home. It’s like I’m on a pilgrimage through the cities of all our past and future lives. Somehow my bones remember the way these streets move. And I’m telling you, I’m telling you, to be without a home is to be equally as at home everywhere on earth. But still. I remind myself silently that I have never been here, I’m just slipping into the scenery for a little while. Even the shadow I cast here is borrowed. It’s still very fitting though to find yourself in the city where Alice In Wonderland was written when every day is spent chasing your next lead. Crossing your fingers and falling, willingly, down the rabbit hole. 

Perhaps at some point I’ve got to stop showing up like a gypsy on various people’s doorsteps, laying my life like a flower arrangement at their feet and hoping they’ll ask me inside. Borrowing their hometowns and claiming them as my own. Here, take these wilted leaves. These pressed petals. Take my words and dry them inside the covers of your favourite novel, this is what you will find deep in my heart of hearts. The only form of rent I know. I show up with ink-stained fingers and unbrushed hair, chewing on my lips, smiling, smiling. Wrists open to surrender. And before I step over the threshold I always leave my name under the doormat next to the spare key. I have a nice place to live yet insist on being a nomad. My address is not a number street or town, you see. It is a library catalog card tucked into the back of a coffee stained book. Can you see your name there written in cursive? It is paragraphs that wilt and feather under the strain of a million ghostly fingers turning page after page then starting all over again.

Maybe one day I’ll run away for good. Leave behind a trail of used up lipsticks and sepia postcards. To be honest it’s getting harder to distinguish between the miles, with destinations blurring and leaking into each other, layer upon layer, and the trimmed silk hedges of Oxford melt into the punters on the Cambridge river, the ivy competing for bed space on the buildings of both cities, while somewhere across the border that chalet we stayed at in Austria sits bursting with the nicks and bruises of another family who place their shampoo bottles over the drops of nail polish I spilt in the bathroom that night in March, and the bars of Dublin sit steady through the turnover of tourists who I’ll never once meet, and the Barcelona moon hangs low, hangs low, and always smiles down knowingly at you on softer nights like this. Each and every place is a temple dedicated to the human experience, and I'm slowly getting started on the endless task of seeing them all. 

around the colleges

parks and rivers

remains of a day 

No comments