This is my life now

I’m driving home from a friend’s house along dark, unlit country roads.  The darkness is like a thick blanket; enveloping, suffocating somehow.  It’s a clear night and the stars are splayed out above like a scattered spread of pinpricks in the blackness.  I want to gaze up at them and take a moment to appreciate them and drink them in, but I keep my eyes on the road, knowing the sharp bends and unforgiving corners that lie ahead.  I realise I haven’t seen the headlights of any other cars for some time, and there are no houses along this stretch of road; so there is no comfort to be found in the warm glow from a faraway window.  I catch movement in the hedge; the piercing, suspicious eyes of something wild that knows still the threat of a humming engine.  A badger or a fox maybe.  I think about my life now, and how different it looks; how nothing is the same as it was.  I could not have predicted some months ago that I would be driving along roads I previously knew so well, to live near a town I grew up in (it feels a step backwards, no matter what anyone says).  I finally reach the brighter lights that signal I’m driving back into a place more densely populated, and breathe a sigh of relief to have escaped the clutches of the forest at night – where people drive too fast, where deep potholes threaten to dislodge tyres and where animals dart out from adjoining fields.  My window is open an inch or so and I take a second to pull a portion of the cool night air into my lungs.  It smells like woodsmoke, grass and dirt. It is familiar to me, like an old blanket or a passage memorised from a favourite book.  In a few minutes I will have passed through this town and be arriving at my parents’ house; a quiet road not far from the sea, where gulls circle overhead and the latch on the gate needs a slick of oil.  I have two keys on my keyring; one for a house I haven’t lived in for three months and one for their house.  They had a new key cut on the day I arrived home, my belongings in Ikea sacks, a portion of my life left behind in an Edwardian cottage an hour to the west.  I placed it on my keys, solemnly, accepting this new fate.  Placing my keys in my coat pocket, where they felt heavier against my hip.

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I wonder if it will ever feel normal to have stepped out of one life and into another.  I feel often as if this is some kind of temporary period, as if things are on hold.  I exist in anticipation of the moment when I can start living again, start making plans (I cannot sleep at night because I do not allow myself to breathe, I am waiting). But life is happening now and it does not allow you to pause, to place your life in the ‘pending tray’, to be the space between the inhalation and exhalation.  I am a persona non grata; between lives, floating in the ether, waiting for direction.  I am the fox in the hedge, viewing the lights in the distance with suspicion and uncertainty.  When you cry the salt dries and becomes a part of you and you become hard and grow extra layers, like a rock.  There’s no going back now.

There is so much love there, still.  Sometimes when you stop watering a plant it continues to grow, defiant and persistent.  It doesn’t care that you are not nurturing it or that you have shut it in a cupboard because you thought it no longer belonged on the windowsill.  That’s just the way life works – it finds a way regardless.  I let it all wash over me; love, sadness, loss, tiredness, worry.  The key slides into the lock without resistance.  This is my life now.

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