First weeks in Brighton


There is a little Laundromat in down the road, next to a bar and opposite a church. I can’t remember it’s name but I’ve been there twice now, both with a cough, both in the rain. I unpack my laundry and buy washing powder with spare pennies from an automatic dispenser on the wall. Sometimes I smile at the people sitting on the chairs lined up against the walls, waiting. Sometimes I don’t. 

The other day, I opened a book for the first time since I’d moved down from the countryside (three weeks and three days) and stuck my nose in it while a bevy of shirts and lacy underthings spin around in front of me. Everything smelt clean and the lights were faintly buzzing. I’d done nothing on my first official day off work except take hours to wake up, then in turn, take hours to meander around the flat that wasn’t mine and brave the outside world. By the time I did it was late afternoon. Sometimes stepping out into your first street of the day is grey and heavy. But this particular time I felt strange. Light, even. I walked past the white apartments with their half moon balconies, past the crisp green square, looked back at the ocean. It was grey and swirling like something out of a storybook storm. Up onto the main road, past the shops, the double decker buses. It’s not even Halloween yet but they’ve already hung up Christmas lights over the streets. It was a little too warm for last night’s (faux) fur coat, by it won’t be for long. I live in Brighton now. I have no idea which side of the world is home or where the hell my life is, but I’m dipping deeper into the questions this time, trying to love them instead of answer them. It’s easy and hard. Most of the time it feels kind of brilliant. 

I’m living in a hostel somewhat by accident. It was the place I stayed in on my first trip to Brighton, and what was meant to be an initial week to get me on my feet has stretched out into three. It feels longer than that, though. At first I lived in a fifteen person mixed dormitory, and at first it suited me just fine, but as the weeks stretched out the heady excitement wore thin and I got horribly sick of it. Crawling into the top of a three-tier bunk bed hardly matters when you come home drunk in the early hours of the morning. In fact, it feels temporary and exciting like the places you call home for a few days at a time while you’re travelling. But somehow it doesn’t quite suffice for the other times. The nights when you’re sick, lonely, yearning for stability. Walking in from the outside world to be greeted by the smell of ten Spanish men isn’t always as bohemian as you might imagine, and nor is tripping over luggage to get to the window, changing in either three seconds flat or with lots of difficulty while lying down in your bed with the curtains drawn. When it’s good, it’s wonderful. But when you’re run down coming down strewn out on the floor, the flighty shared energy is sometimes more than you can bear. 

I’m in the all-female dorm now. After a teary night spent rambling in her flat a friend arranged to move me, and so the past few days have been more peaceful. It’s quiet, only seven people. There is a window opposite my bed and so I wake up in the morning to a view of the streets below, golds and blues mashed together depending on what time of day it is. Now it is night and the cars rush past, glittering through the velvet dark. I’ve spent all afternoon sleeping. Last night was allegedly the biggest storm to hit these parts in the last twenty years, with warnings splashed all over the news, so just before midnight I caught a taxi to my friends’ basement flat and prepared to wait it out with them in the rain. We sat sucking on our beers in the low light television flicker and half-heartedly watched Sandra Bullock flounce through some action film with barely moving hair. It was cold, and I huddled into my jumper. In the early hours of the morning as the madness hit its peak, inside followed suit. I can’t remember deciding to move but we did, through the rooms all ghostly and delirious. We played music and took turns up and down the hall on a scooter. In the midst of it all I decided to go for cigarettes, and so two of us braved the chaos with an oversized umbrella. The streets were abandoned and the wind was pushing around us, but through the slap of rain on our faces and the roar of the nearby ocean, I felt ridiculously calm. Droplets fell down in small motion. Beams of light cut through the air in front of us, crisscrossing in geometrical patterns and illuminating spider webs from behind. A short, cross-eyed man stood behind the counter in the only open Off License, and watched bemused as we fumbled through our change and tried to decide on beer and cider. I must have looked a wreck. A few hours later, back at the flat, the lights were switched on and I sat completely still on the couch trying to make sense of a recent Cher performance on the screen in front of me, wondering how much of her warped face was real and how much I was imagining. I fell asleep there, curled up in a sleeping bag and the warmth of body heat. Safe after a strange dip into uneasiness. Empty packets and cans scattered around like offerings on the floor. 

So I get up, I roam the streets, I go to the job I found myself in a newly opened costume shop. Sometimes I feel uncertain, and I need to retreat into my own bubble again. I will spend tonight like this, tucked away behind curtains reading my book and scribbling away in ink. It’s the best therapy I’ve ever discovered, and it’s gotten me this far. And I have no doubt that it will get me further, still. People back home are getting on with their normal lives, but I’m a stray in a seaside town with a return flight hanging in front of me like a question mark in the air. It’s strange, but it’s exciting. And for now it’s enough.  

6 comments

  1. you truly have a gift for words such a fantastic enthralling read!

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  2. Yes—enthralling, enchanting, really—I find the way you write so very beautiful, captivating—the way you light yourself into words... I read & read again, return to read—have been reading for some months now, read it all, thrilled—sigh and sigh again... wonderful...

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    1. Thank you Dan, you can't possibly imagine how thrilled I am to read comments like that. I promise to keep writing if you promise to keep reading! x

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  3. just say u took drugs

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  4. its a gift for me i like this post.....

    socks for baby

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