I’m home. After four years of dancing until 6am and walking home in sunshine, cramming for endless exams in the creaking, soft lit library and wrapping myself in a holey blanket to watch Planet Earth with a packet of biscuits in each hand and a bottle of wine on the table, I have returned to the village.
I miss the fairy lights peeking through a pungent haze of smoke that only a student flat at 7am can really know. I miss pulling my heavy, rusty bike to the side of the road 6 times in a mile to greet some of the hundreds of people that form part of my sprawling, dysfunctional clan of loosely connected people that I trust and love (and simultaneously barely know at all.)
I miss blowing my student loan on flights to Arkansas where I danced with a cowboy I thought I loved, or on a 22-hour bus journey to morocco just to ride a camel and eat a tagine. I miss the beautiful Yorkshire dales where I would look out over endless green moss and grey rock and breathe air that cleaned my anxious chest, then returning to Leeds to an underground bar that sold a pint of lager for a pound. I miss tinnies.
It wasn’t always pretty. There were tears, bruises and broken hearts. But I was always moving, always learning, always searching. And beneath it at all, with sure and certain denial, I was always approaching my return to the village.
I’m working in a dentist now. I scan things. I answer phones, make appointments, and scan more things. I’m getting fat. Here’s a question for you: when the hell do grown ups find time to exercise? With no intention to stay for an extended period, I hold my roots inside and don’t let them worm into the earth of my chocolate-box village, lest they go to deep and hold me tight in a place too small to hold my heart. And yet, a rootless tree is oddly disconnected from the earth and from itself. I’m a jigsaw piece in the wrong box.
I meditate, and I walk in the woods. Sometimes I go riding and the smell of leather and horses grounds me a little. I’m quite alright, but I’m not shining.
I go on. I read books. I briefly tried dating, I stopped dating. I let my mother do too much of the house work, I eat more, read more. I go back to work and do some more scanning. Every now and then I spend 6 hours cleaning the house to show my parents that I care, then let the coffee cups pile up on my bedside table again for a while.
I almost got a dream job. They sent me an email that used the phrase ‘pipped to the post.’ They weren’t being ironic, I cried. I miss my friends, now spread from London to Bristol to Budapest. A lot of them I left in Spain and a couple sidled off to another continent. Even my pet rabbit has changed her allegiance to Mum aka the carrot lady. She hops around in her shadow all day leaving a trail of disregarded vegetables. That’s loyalty for you.
For the first time in a long time, I’m neither in love or broken hearted. I’m just me, scanning and reading and eating too much pie. Sometimes a little cycle lifts my spirits. I visit a lonely elderly man that lives nearby. Sometimes I admit its just as much for me as for him.
I think too much, get a little anxious here and there. Then I skype one of my girls. My beautiful, loyal girls. The dust gets blown off my heart and my shoulders soften. We laugh and reminisce, and I have a glimpse of what life will be like again. I book flights to Spain to visit my second family, my pet rabbit lets me touch her gently on the nose. (Then, of course, goes back to find the carrot lady.) I vaguely remember what it feels like to dance until the sun comes up and get concerned about whether I’ll be too old to do it again by the time I leave the village. The Village.