I wasn’t sure whether or not to post this, but it seemed natural to use this blog as a space for everything I write. So here it is: this is the start of a piece I wrote about isolation when you first move abroad.
Her head knocked against the bus window. Not too hard, but everyone heard it. They must have looked for a second, maybe even just half, with a glance of concern so minute she could barely feel it. She appreciated its tenderness, revelled in it, and then closed her eyes hard to block them all out. The tenderness was too much and it would be gone quickly.
When she opened her eyes again, she felt the words she didn’t know hit her ears like a sharp, cold wind. She was smaller than them and, as she looked out the window, felt like she was standing out there, in that cold wind she was so unaccustomed to.
‘You’ll get used to it’, they said laughing, sipping cocktails on their veranda, pale rocks and a mild breeze rapping the sea against the sand that had cooled to the perfect temperature, when she could go and wade slowly towards the sea. The grains no longer sizzled nor shocked, and on this bus she craved them even at their hottest, piercing her feet as she ran and then let out a sigh when she finally got to the darker sand, the forgiving sand.
Those journeys from veranda to sea seemed to take forever, and yet nothing felt as long as the moments here. The bus looped around the French streets and she could see only perpendicular angles- rectangular flats in a multitude of baby blues, yellows, pinks and whites. She couldn’t get used to the strange lilt of life here, nor the boxed up nature of the architecture and the university. To her it all looked as if it had come out of an IKEA box, pre packaged and ready just to be erected by men who wanted to make it for ease, not beauty.
Eyes open and a jolt back to the present. The buildings were changing, getting taller and yet those colours spread out like a disease that had touched everything but the city centre. Why did they all have to be painted these sickly tones, she wondered. She couldn’t ask anyone, they wouldn’t understand. What if she started, right here, talking about verandas and the sunset and her favourite part of the sea, and about the time they all told her she’d get used to it here?
No one would understand. She could speak English, but nobody wanted that here. They didn’t want her and her half baked attempts at French, not even when was nodding and smiling. They knew she wasn’t one of them and yet she tried to be, tried her hardest to make them see her in her three dimensions rather than reduced to a caricature of who she really was due to language.
‘Are you ok?’ She was met suddenly by the concerned glare of a tall, pale girl, and the shock of hearing english snapped her out of her dreams. In this moment she nodded and stammered a ‘yes’, and the girl looked at her like she was crazy. Maybe she was crazy, but this bus would make anyone mad. It only took two minutes for the girl to start again talking in French, and that moment like the glances of pity she had just experienced after banging her head, was over in a flash. A sprinkle of comfort, followed by a sizzling dash of bitterness.