America Day 74 – Auld Lang Syne

I reckon I haven’t seen Leslie for a decade. We met in Edinburgh during the festival something like fifteen years ago, maybe more. We went to watch Daniel Kitson and he did a routine about someone in a train. Then we drank all the wine. Come to think of it I think we met before then, at The Elk in the Woods in Islington back before it was bullshit. I had my birthday party there. Either way…

We hung out in London for a good while thereafter, whilst our lifestyles and needs converged. She used to play water polo as a striker, and she worked as a lawyer but loved theatre. I was in a deep depression, trying to work out how to reconcile my expectations of life with my reality as everything crashed around me. She was living with a friend of mine by sheer coincidence. Circles bleed into circles. The world is very small. With the miracle of Facebook we are still in touch. But I haven’t messaged her for five years. Last time we messaged I was doing a job, writing the official blog. Late one night she sent me “I don’t hear your voice in these blogs you’re writing.” I told her it was because my voice is a bit too anarchic for the company I was writing for. We exchanged pleasantries and went back to our respective lives. 8 hours is the most antisocial time gap, London to San Fran. It’s hard to keep anything together. I tried to maintain a nascent relationship with that gap once and it fell apart utterly in less than three months.

The night before last, up in the big trees, I sent her a message just out of curiosity. I told her I’m flying out of San Francisco tomorrow, asked balls-out if I could stay tonight. She’s in Oakland. She has two kids now, and lives there with Fishtea. Her oldest, Samuel, is 4. I know it’s full on and said I could stay in an Airbnb near them and just hang out, but they were welcoming. They put me in Samuel’s room.

I’ve just finished doing the washing up after some glorious jerk chicken with rice and peas. The first home cooked meal I’ve had for three months, here in Oakland as the trains honk their horns. It’s been lovely to catch up. Friends stay friends if they’re friends. And our friendship covered a lot of ground, and carried an intimacy that is unusual and was mutually beneficial.

Fishtea has made me feel welcome in this home despite never having met me. He welcomes me because I’m an old friend of hers. He’s Rastafarian and carries huge kindness and depth. He was a deep sea fisherman. “You learn in the near sea. Then you go to the far sea.” He went to the hard places. He was loading and emptying traps for lobster mostly and occasional groupers etc. He tells me of times when the boat was so laden that one asscheek was in the water as he ran the engine, and there was an entourage of thirty clued up sharks following sniffing the food…

I’m getting ready for sleep on my last night in America, here in the family house of someone I knew in a very different breath back when the world was an unfamiliar shape and we were younger and more certain and less aware.

The length of life is the thing that amazes me now. To see the two of us in such utterly different contexts. To appreciate how far we have both come and also to notice how much we have remained consistent to who we were back then. This tiny life, compared to those trees. We still shift and change all the time. Sometimes it’s the seasons. Sometimes it’s just life.

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Let’s keep shifting, knowing that the heart of who we are cannot change. Leslie is designing gardens now. She’s acing it, with two kids. I tell her I’ll have to get rich in the next ten years and then bring her in to do my garden. I can buy a coastal estate somewhere and plant three Redwoods, one for each of my parents and one for me. My prep school had two in the grounds. They were doing fine and they were in East Sussex.

I’m off to bed I’m Oakland. Night night America.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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