Chance plays me a sick joke. My quest is looking damned dead at the moment, and the speakers beside me are playing The Final Countdown by Europe.
This is my last night at the hostel. I admit, now, that my previous posts about the hostel have been misleading. I am not in Paris. Rather, London.
I did reach Paris, one week ago, and I locked my bike against a rail somewhere in the city centre. But I’d been speaking with my brother not long ago. He was coming to see me in London.
That is, he thought I was in London. It’s complicated. While I don’t have much of a family, I do tell my few relatives that I live in London, rather than travel as I do. This is for the sake of my grandmother, who worries terribly for her grandchildren.
Ulysses begins with an introduction to a character who, at his mother’s deathbed, refused to pray for her. She begged him to pray to God, it was her dying wish. He didn’t believe any of it. He didn’t pray, and in the book, she died.
I relate my lies now to Stephen’s prayer dilemma from Ulysses. Only, I suppose, I said the prayer.
Some years ago I took a stand against the church and my family’s dogma, I refused to attend a handful of memorials, and my stubbornness on the subject brought my grandmother’s to tears in front of me; she remained shaken for the next week. Her son, my uncle, declared something of a war against me and we played silly political games for the remainder of my time in Ireland. I’ve always gotten along with my grandmother. She didn’t hate me for my disdain for the church, but she’d do anything to change my actions and mindset. I no longer take the hard, but noble route of directly stating my principles to her. Now, instead, I lie to please her. If she knew I travel as I do, she’d have a heart attack. There are them terrorists in France, and all that.
By extension I lie to my brother about my location, in case he let something slip. People’ve criticised me for this, but I don’t think it’s so bad a thing. He has a lot of things to care about, and for my grandmother, there are so many of us grandchildren. In the bigger picture my hiding won’t make a difference to them.
To maintain my lie, when he announced he’d be arriving in London to see me, I rushed the rest of my journey to Paris and got a €20 bus to London.
So I contacted Isabel.
Earlier than I’d ever planned to do so. But, well, I was in London. In fact she’d been messaging me recently; we’d had some honest conversations. I think I’ll make a post later about the conversations we’ve shared since beginning my travels. But this was how things went when I messaged her after returning to London.
‘Meet me on the 9th, for drinks?’ I wrote. ‘Or don’t. However you’re feeling. Do be honest’.
While I don’t consider myself much of a passive person these days, this is how I approach people who I’m not sure I’ll meet. I am constantly paranoid about the fact that a simple question pushes obligations on other people. To my chagrin, Isabel is not the type who would ignore such obligations and just be honest about her feelings. In fact, I know she’d stress over things like this, so I approach cautiously. But my worry was for naught.
You used to recommend a place. Something music house.
wiltons music hall
yes it could work
We can wort out the rest later. See you on the 9th.
‘ 😉 ‘
You see that part? Re-read it.
‘ 😉 ‘
Yeah, that was a week ago. I’ve been waiting. The 9th came, and, she sent me a message to ask to delay our drinks by a day.
Then, the 10th. It’s 5p.m. I receive a text. Or, four texts actually. She’s sent 6 before to my WhatsApp but I didn’t have internet and wouldn’t see them until later. The texts:
Hi sorry but I can t really make it tonight! It’s a short notice I know bit really I can t my eyes are burning I don t know what I have. I thought it was going to be better
I’m really really sorry but it s driving me crazy
please let me know
when you get this text
Today’s the 11th. One hour ago, I wrote:
Hey. What’s up? You doing okay?
not at all
Well then, what do you want to do?
I really don t know I just want to sleep
to be honest
but I m really bad
This is… Basically what happened last time. We begin to organise something which is only ever intended as a start. A conversation. A winky face is sent, and the way I interpret her talking is her making a statement in her plain approval. Then something comes up, goes wrong, and, we cancel. Then suddenly the plain approval seems like it was just lazy indifference.
This is the only girl I’ve met in my life who is such an accurate critic of music that she’s sought out and eventually found a long list of the very same bands and songwriters I listen to. She reads good material. She cares about writing having actual concepts and motives. She has a goal in life. She is an active creator. She was crazy enough to move countries by herself. She’s travelled the world on a budget, survived a few cities without pennies in her pocket. This is Isabel.
Why can’t she be honest? Why can’t she be confrontational? Why can’t I distinguish between when she’s being interested or being polite? Why is she still working a dead end job? Why can’t we talk?
My history of romances has basically been with… Insane women I couldn’t understand. Amélie did nothing with her life and was neutral on almost everything. Anna had obscure beliefs and disagreed with rationality. My friends have been lovers of pointless. Random movies, meaningless music, dead-end lifestyles. I gave up on them all. I got sick of disagreeing. I abandoned them. I couldn’t communicate with any of them.
And I can’t reach communication with Isabel.
One fellow at the hostel saw me moping a bit. He asked what was wrong, and I answered with ‘romance’.
‘There’s plenty more fish in the sea’, he said.
Yes, there are so many. There are so fucking many out there. Friends, girlfriends, even blogs. Cities, countries; songs, movies; bikes, bikers; quests, couches; guns, queers. There are so fucking many. There’s so fucking many of us. There’s so many of us… There’s so many of us.