Up and Away (Dumped & Departed Part 2)

It was Christmas Eve and I didn’t feel any the better for it. In fact, I felt hollow, like all my insides had been ripped out.

If he was going to stand me up at Christmas, it didn’t seem like I had much of a choice; forfeit the cost of the flights and stay home or go it alone? Well I damn well wasn’t going to mope about all Christmas, but did I really want to sit on a beach looking at the empty spot next to me for three weeks? Or worse! Be the one crying in the corner at a Full Moon party surrounded by 19-year-old gap year students! Agghhh!

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I had to go, that much seemed obvious but I didn’t necessarily have to do the trip he planned. One quick swipe of the credit card and I was going to split my time between the 38°C of Thailand and the -25°C of Wisconsin where a cousin was promising me plenty of TLC.

I’d packed the heights of summer and depths of winter into a carry on. With my ski jacket draped over my arm, I waddled down the wooden pier in my flip flops, dragging both the carry on and broken backpack with me.

Another choice: I could either go to the posh hotel my boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, had booked us for Christmas on the island of Kho Phi Phi or to a hostel in the hopes of meeting people.

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Winter boots kicked from within my backpack as sweat broke across my brow. The pier was suffocating; locals taxi boat drivers yelled out names of accommodation as the crowd surged off the boat. Jostled along in the flow of people I spotted a man holding a sign to the hotel the Ex had booked. I paused, there was a dot on my phone to the hostel and a man in front of me with a waiting boat to Hotel Romance. All I really wanted to do was sit and cry. Unable to decide, I let the crowd carry me along until I was spat out on what I could only presume to be the main high street of the island.

Completely disheartened, not having eaten in a day aside from some Pringles I’d got on the boat from the mainland; I made it to the hostel door, sweaty, tired and emotionally drained. I didn’t have enough cash and they didn’t accept cards. I was out of energy ‘SCREW THIS! SCREW IT ALL!!! Take me back to the pier, I’ll go to the posh hotel and sleep through Christmas. I’ll live off Pringles and mourn my singleness. I’ll stay in the room like a hermit until this nightmare is over. Feed me to the sharks for all I care! I’m done. I’M DONE!‘ I decided, ready to bolt. But then the hostel manager appeared.

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“You seem a little emotional?” she asked in a strong Eastern European accent. That was it. The straw that broke the back. I slumped onto the wooden bench and tried to sniff away my tears. “Oh it’s hard travelling alone, is this your first time?” she sympathised.

I wanted to explain ‘No! No, you don’t understand! I’m actually a very together person! No, really, I am! You see, I’ve a good family and lots of incredible friends and a job! I have a job! A great job, which I don’t entirely suck at, I even like my boss! And my colleagues too, they’re kind of great to be honest, no dickheads in that office! And I have a flat. My own flat! I own it, well some of it at least, ok I pay a mortgage, fine I pay the interest on a mortgage. And I exercise. Sometimes. After excessive chocolate consumption. Ooh I do spin classes!…Once a month. And I cycle to work, every day, see, I’m healthy! And and and I’ve travelled! This isn’t my first time! Oh no, I’ve been everywhere! Well ok, not everywhere, but lots of places! On my own. I’ve travelled alone! Yeahhhh! I’m not usually crying, I’m normally fine, great actually, It’s just, well I let a boy hurt me and I wasn’t expecting it and I hadn’t been prepared to be here, doing this, alone. At Christmas. And I really should have had breakfast and you see? I’m actually a pretty together person! Usually. Sometimes‘. But I couldn’t explain any of this because all I had was an empty stomach, snot and the hiccups.


I think she got it though. She handed me a shot of whisky and it really is amazing how much a shot of whisky helps with the hiccups!
Feeling horrifically embarrassed I transferred my payment for the room via PayPal and sat there trying to look less like a train wreck.

It’s pretty scary when everyone’s a stranger. But then, then a group of girls walked in and this, this is the marvellous thing about hostels. Suddenly, instantly, without even trying, you make friends.

We sat in a small bar sharing our stories, a pair of English cousins, a Slovakian and a Canadian. We got beer and laid on the beach, we were all the same, travelling for one reason or another, there’s always a reason. Returning to the hostel we quickly added to the group, a German lady, Scottish lad and Californian gent. I thought I’d be spending the week alone, reading a book on the beach, burning off the breakup with one cocktails after another, but here I was, surrounded by all these awesome people.

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With the group in place, we headed off for Christmas Eve drinks. I’m not entirely sure what happened that evening but I know someone, I suspect Scotland, suggested tequila. When you’re sleeping in the top bed of a triple bunk, tequila is a bad idea!

Christmas Day. I should have been waking up in Hotel Romance, just down the shore, exchanging Christmas presents with my boyfriend, smiling across at each other over breakfast whilst contemplating what adventures we could find for ourselves that day. Instead I awoke to the sound of Slovakia and Canada complaining about Scotland’s snoring. “Oh come on, I wasn’t that bad” he protested, turning to look at California who pushed his glasses up his nose and tried to politely disagree.

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I should have been feeling sad, there was a sliding doors moment of how things should have been but then our merry crew boarded a party boat and before you knew it, Maria Carey was belting out the Christmas hits, beer was flowing and I really didn’t feel that sad after all.

It was a bit alien to me. I’d forgotten what it was like to really let loose, to not care. When the others swam in the turquoise waters, I pulled back, offering to sit with the bags, I knew I should go in but fear was gripping me. I felt too vulnerable, too raw, like everything was sitting on my skin for all too see and no one had seen my skin in a really long time.

Other people don’t care about this though. The boat parked up in a cove, California and Canada climbed into one kayak, Scotland and I in another. I can confidently say, Scotland was the worst kayaker I have ever seen! Within seconds he was in the water. California thought it only right I join him, rocking my boat back and forth.  But he didn’t know who he was dealing with! I clung on in there….that was until Scotland tried to get back in the boat and straight over I went. It wasn’t long before all four of us had toppled in.


Back abroad the main ship, we drank and danced and watched the sunset. There were definitely worse ways get distracted from a breakup!
Once docking back at shore, my flip-flops were nowhere to be seen, “these are not my shoes!” I yelled, slipping into the only remaining pair on deck. I’d come all this way and now my shoes had deserted me too!

Returning to the hostel for a quick freshen up before hitting the bars, we did what all Millennials do when abroad, we got right back on WiFi and melted into our screens.

Phones buzzed with the sounds of Christmas messages flooding inboxes. Amongst the family and friend Christmas cheer that I was too drunk to reply to, came a message from the Ex. ‘UGGHHHHHH!‘. In his defence he couldn’t have won, I’d have been mad had I not heard from him but it sure did anger me when I did!


Happy Christmas. Hope you’re having a good time wherever in Asia you are‘ he’d cheerfully typed I presumed. ‘AGHHHHHHH FUCKKKK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!! ASSHOLE! YOU BLOODY LEFT ME TO DO THIS TRIP ALL ALONE! AT CHRISTMAS! AND IT WAS SHIT! (Well until I got here). FUCKING SHIT! I CRIED. PUBLICLY! AND NOW YOU’RE ALL HAPPY, HAVING CHRISTMAS WITH YOUR FAMILY, NO CONCERN IN THE WORLD FOR ME OR WHAT YOU’VE JUST PUT ME THROUGH. YOU DON’T GIVE A SHIT! YOU’RE A SHIT! AGHHHHHH‘ obviously I handled his message entirely rationally and did not in any way over react.

I turned my phone off without replying “I need vodka. NOW!” I declared to the room.
And with that, we were off again.


I know there was skinny dipping. Not me. I was far too shy and sober for that. But I did venture into the water. I lasted all of 30 seconds before I tore my knee on some rocks and returned bloody back to shore. Thankfully, booze makes you quite unconcerned about such things as blood, a quick plaster and I was ready for the pool party.

We dried off and wandered through the streets, I’m not sure whether we were heading home or to another bar but in my excitement, I spun around, tripped over the flip-flops that were not mine! And face planted into a pile of trash.


Now, there are moments in life when you think you’ve reached a low, like getting dumped at Christmas for example. But then you fall face first into a pile of trash, in front of a whole bar full of people. There is always a trapdoor to the bottom of the well, I fell right through it. I leapt up “oh dear god! I need alcohol!” I didn’t but what else can you do when you’ve just been lying in the rubbish?

Usually, back in England, after a hard days work two drinks would give me a hangover but in Thailand? No! Apparently you barely need to eat and can drink as much as you like and you’re just fine and dandy the next day. Sadly Scotland departed for his next destination first thing that morning, he snuck out before the rest of us had awoken. Some people leave big impressions and his presence was missed. But, that’s hostels for you, brief encounters and fleeting moments in time. It was Boxing day, so off to the beach we went.


Beaches are scary places, full of tanned, toned bodies and suddenly every piece of cake you’ve ever had is sticking it’s calories to your hips. Everyone else seemed perfectly comfortable with their bodies and instantly stripped down and sun creamed up. I stood there unsure, weighing up the comments from ex-boyfriends long gone that were less than complimentary about my physique. I’d taken to wearing a t-shirt over the top of swimwear. The ex hadn’t said anything but the deterioration of the relationship had left me feeling more and more uncomfortable in my skin until I wore my entire gym kit on our last holiday ‘it’s sun protection, I burn’ I lied, covered head to toe upon entering the water.

Unfortunately, or perhaps thankfully, you can’t sit under the palm trees your whole life. Gingerly I peeled off the layers, asked California to sun-cream my back and stood there in full bikini glory like it was no big deal. I’d spent nearly a year with the ex and not once been in a bikini, but two days in Thailand and there I was, exposed to the world. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was freedom, either way, I took a quick glance up the beach and didn’t see any pointing fingers or people laughing! Who knew!

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We went out again that night. I wasn’t drinking much, just a few small ones, a quite night. You know how those nights end!

Now I’m not entirely sure what happened, it all quickly turned into a blur but I am confident it didn’t involve any bin diving so that’s something I guess. I was definitely on the beach drinking a bucket of something and then things sort of disappear and I found myself back in my top bunk at the hostel “I NEED HUGS AND WATER!” I declared to the room. “California, come hug me!” I think the careful, sophisticated image I’d managed to craft over the week meant everyone knew not to question my demands. California very kindly clambered up the ladder to my bunk for the emotional support I apparently needed.


Just as soon as his hand slid around my waist and all was being reassured in the world, something didn’t feel right…I sat bolt up right, like Frankenstein’s monster coming to life “I’M GOING TO BE SICK!”.

When you’re on the top bunk, the sudden realisation you’re going to throw up the evening can’t help but bring with it, a sense of panic. Will you make it? Will you puke on all those below you? Who knows! Anything could happen! 

Well, I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear I made it to the bathroom. Must have had some bad ice in that bucket? Yeah, that’ll be it. I slowly climbed back into my bunk, California, now wisely, having returned to his own. I lasted all of five minutes before being sick all over my bed.


The rest of that night was spent on the bathroom floor. I’d have felt worse had California not shortly joined me. Unbeknown to us, the English cousins upstairs were also throwing up in their beds and taking turns in the bathroom. You’ve never quite bonded with someone until you’ve spent 14 hours throwing up together on a hostel floor! I’ll remember it fondly.

Things calmed down a little after that, we were all a bit fragile and in need of a more restful island. Koh Lanta it was! Beaches, smoothies and massage. Actually the massage wasn’t all that relaxing, it’s hard to relax when someone is walking on your spine, cracking your shoulders and tutting at the stress in your muscles.


Lying on the beach, getting over food poisoning meant no drinking, which meant thoughts rushed in. It seems, no matter where you go, all those worries and pain get packed up along with you. California did a pretty good job of letting me moan for hours on end as we bobbed about in the ocean but the ex, ughhh why does he have to be an ex, he bobbed right along side us in my mind. I pictured him, spending time with family at Christmas, going about his daily business, doing stuff, stuff I wasn’t part of. Why was it so easy for him? Here I was in paradise, with great company and yet he was still twisting my thoughts.

Everyone I met, we were all the same. Going through the same things. Well maybe not the exact same thing, not everyone got abandoned at the airport and falls in the bin, but variations of it. The self doubt, the insecurities, the fear. Questioning our millennial status. The promise we grew up with that we could have everything, do anything, that we’d graduate and get a ticket to instant happiness, only for the realisation that life is hard sometimes and happiness isn’t a destination or something guaranteed. It appears, we all feel a little lost sometimes.

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I flew out to Wisconsin a few days later. Another three flights to contemplate things as I flew over the world. I stared down at the water beneath me, imagining life as this great ocean, each of us a pirate on our own little ship. Sometimes the sea is smooth, sometimes it’s rough as hell and you think you’re sure to drown. We meet people, and we let them board our ships, hoping to sail out the days together. But the sea is a tempestuous mistress, when the waves are high and threatening my vessel, I want to be hanging off the rigging, screaming into the wind “COME AT ME!” but you won’t get very far if your partner is leaning over the side being sick! And I was starting to think, maybe I should have made him walk the plank before he’d crashed me into the rocks!

I landed down in Chicago, the – 24° degrees bit me at the airport doors but the white landscape across Wisconsin played out like a film scene from the back seat of my cousin’s car. “This is ‘snow‘ exciting!” I declared, my cousin and husband groaned from the front seats “Come onnnnn! That was punny!” I responded, marvelling at my own wit!
It had been a few weeks and the corners of his face began to blur in my memory, like a pebble, the edges smoothed away as the tide turns. He was becoming forgettable. I hoped he was becoming forgettable. I liked that.

Somewhere on the other side of the world, there are a bunch of strangers meeting in a hostel, all a little awkward, a bit freaked out, hoping someone else will start the conversation to give them an ‘in’. They’re probably awesome people who are just like you. Sometimes you have to run away to work your way back again. Falling in rubbish helps too, apparently.

I didn’t wear jeans our entire relationship. Not once. It’s not that he said anything negative, the more indecisive he felt towards me, the more unattractive and uncomfortable in my skin I felt.

It was New Year’s Day. I bought some jeans.



Dumped and Departed – Part 1

I’ve been listening to a lot of Taylor Swift. I think that tells you most things.

It’s the last working day of the year and I’m sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow. Alone. There’s an empty seat next to me. The black hole of this seat is all consuming, sucking at my strength.

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“Sorry?” I pull off my headphones and look up at the air steward. “Where’s your partner?” he repeated. Like taking a bullet, I explained “he’s not coming”. The man repeated the information into the radio which crackled back “Where is he? We’re ready to depart!”. The steward turned back “is he on his way? We’re ready for take-off” like I hadn’t heard the exchange. Heads started to turn in my direction, I felt the irritation of the entire delayed flight as their eyes burned into me “he’s not coming” I repeated, my eyes betraying, allowing tears to spill down my cheeks.

Air China refused to let me use my phone the full 11 hours and 40 minutes of the flight until my stopover in Beijing, I was left with nothing but my thoughts to occupy my time and that is rarely a good thing!

‘I know I’m letting you down. I know I’m hurting you…’ over and over again the words played.

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I knocked a man’s frappacino over with my backpack, its frothy mess soaking in the waiting lounge carpet of Beijing airport. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” I repeated. The strap on my backpack promptly snapped, slicing my thumb in the process, even my bag was rejecting me.

I flew to Bangkok only to discover that my boyfriend, my ex-boyfriend, in all his planning, before he’d decided not to love me any more, had booked our connecting flight from a different airport. The driver didn’t speak English so I gave a solo performance of Christmas charades and together we drove across the city for an hour whilst I hugged my broken bag and hoped I had enough money for the journey.

By the time I’d reached the hotel it was 2am, I’d taken three fights and three taxis, travelled for over 24 hours, hadn’t eaten in at least half of them and had spent the last half an hour in the hotel lobby trying to convince the receptionist to give me the room key even though it was booked under a different name, on a different card, again repeatedly stating “HE’S NOT COMING!”.


How do people do it? Survive break ups I mean? It’s not like I hadn’t been through them before but they were so much easier the other times! Maybe because they were cleaner breaks, less messy, or all of my decision! This one sucked! And worst of all, it’s an age thing, I definitely would not have been quite so cut up about it had I been 25. When you’re 25 you have years and years and it’s not such a big deal but early 30’s? Noooooo, now it’s the end of the world and you’re going to grow old and alone and die surrounded by cats and half finished knitting!

I sat on the bed, crashing blood sugar, tired, drained and not entirely sure where exactly in the world I was. I cried. Actually I full on hyperventilated. It was a sort of hiccuping, can’t breath, might drown in my own snot, what the hell do I do with my life, oh dear god I’ve made a mistake coming here, if only this room had a mini bar-I-need-vodka, fuck my life, I’m so bloody miserable, inconsolable freak-out kind of crying. You know the kind right?


Staring at the ceiling, in a pool of my snotty tears, it all flooded back…
It hadn’t even been a good relationship to begin with! It’s not like I fancied him or even wanted to date someone. It was early spring and I was on a New Year high. I was buying a house and I had a plan! I was going to get all this fancy-pants adult like furniture, actually cook rather than eat cereal for dinner, obviously I’d get super healthy, turn into a Victoria Secret model finally, write a best seller, get a Netflix deal, just generally be awesome, and then! Then, I was going to consider meeting the ‘one’. Maybe. If I had time.

Only he came along as a friend of a friend and you know, he was nice. And we chatted a lot. And it was fun to have late night Whatsapp conversations. And then I got to know him, he was kind, and sort of funny I guess, and sweet and well, that’s how it happens isn’t it? When you’re not bothered and they get under your skin.

It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. We both had baggage and it’s hard learning how to unpack, I’d say things were a bit rocky at the start, both unsure what we wanted, what the other wanted. But mostly, we liked each other and there was the potential for greatness. Or at least I thought so.


After a few months he decided he wasn’t happy. Two days before our summer holiday, he wasn’t happy. There wasn’t any direct reason for this, just a general ‘I’m not happy’. Like most girls, I pushed for detail “yeah, I am attracted to you but I’m not blown away, I like you but I’m not in love…” and so he went on. I came away from that dinner feeling like I’d been slapped round the face with the ‘you’re not good enough‘ stick.

We went to Canada any way. “Are you two on your honeymoon?” immigration control asked as soon as we landed.
Canada was great. We relaxed. It was, it was great. Really great.

Just as soon as we came home and the leaves began to fall from the trees, it seemed his feelings developed too, I listened as the next few weeks he went from “what’s more than like but not quite love? That’s how I feel about you” to “I think I’m falling in love with you” and finally “I love you”.


I couldn’t say it back. How could I? He might change his mind again, he might decide ‘he’s not happy’. No, best be careful with your emotions, love is a risky thing! The last time I loved people they got cancer and died or became a Bridezilla and insisted you weren’t a good enough bridesmaid, never speaking to me again or told me I wasn’t grieving for my mother properly and promptly upped and left. No, love was too dangerous, best to hold on to that until you felt he wasn’t going to change his mind again.

I rode out September and October on eggshells, scared to say anything wrong, I hid the stress of work projects and avoided him when hormones threatened my sanity. But we grew closer, it was comforting and slowly reassuring. He introduced me to his family who I loved, they were the perfect mix of wonderful dysfunction, exactly how a family should be. Fun and smart and wonderful; I so wanted to be a part of it.


We planned trips to Australia so I could join him at the end of his work trip and Thailand for Christmas & New Years. We carved pumpkins, bought Christmas presents and told each other how much we liked the other. All our time was in one another’s pockets.

And then December came. He told my boss at a party how we’d buy a flat together at the end of the next year, talked with me about marriage and kids in the future, he told me he loved me and introduced me to his mum (who of course, was just as wonderful as the rest of the family).

Just before he was due to fly to Australia for work, a trip I’d join him on a week later, I finally mustered up the courage to say that tiny little word. It got caught in my throat all day. It didn’t want to come out, I wasn’t entirely sure I meant it but I wanted to, I wanted to mean it. Something was holding it back, I chalked it down to fear. Finally, as we hugged in bed that evening, I spat it out. “I love you”. I waited his reply….”arrrr”.



“Ummm…you didn’t say it back?” I unpeeled myself off his chest. “Yeah….I’m just not sure how I feel”. He’d changed his mind.

We met the next day for dinner “I just thought my feelings would have grown stronger by now, I definitely feel warmer towards you but closer as a friend than anything else”. It punched me in the stomach. I wanted to pull my ‘I love you’ right out of the air and swallow it back down. “Well we may as well just be friends” I snapped. “No, I want you to come to Australia as my girlfriend, let’s just see how it goes” he insisted. He flew out the next day.

A week went by of him being vague and distant via text, I told myself he was just busy and out of WiFi. I knew that wasn’t true. It’s funny the lies we tell ourselves even when the truth sits alongside and we end up believing both.


Two days before I was due to join him I got the text. A drunk text in the middle of the Australian night. It arrived in my phone late afternoon as I sat at my desk and tried to keep it together. He wasn’t happy, he thought we’d be better as friends, but I should still come to Australia.

I couldn’t sleep. I laid awake all night receiving message after message of what he thought love was, how we should be staring across candle lit dinners making gooey faces at each other, that he should be filled with some big emotion and longing for me but wasn’t. I wanted to throw my phone at his head but instead I laid there in the dark letting tears seep into my pillow hearing once again how I wasn’t ‘good enough’. ‘But that’s not love!’ I wanted to scream ‘that’s lust and infatuation and the type of thing you feel when you’re 17. It’s not real! Love is wanting more for the other person, it’s about respect and being there and caring and WE DON’T HAVE ANY OF THAT BECAUSE YOU NEVER GAVE US A CHANCE! How could it ever develop into anything if you’re constantly expecting a Disney fairytale and keep putting yourself first!’ I rolled back and forth silently.

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I should have got off that flight and punched him in the jaw at Brisbane airport arrivals, but I was still hoping to convince him how awesome I was and remind him that when we were together it worked, it was only when he spent too much time alone contemplating the universe that suddenly I didn’t fit any more. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that if you’re so easily forgettable to someone, they will never be able to love you the way you need but I was optimistic, and I really, really wanted something to work out, just this once, even if it wasn’t perfect, didn’t quite fit, I could ignore the cracks.

Australia was great. It was, it was great. He told me he loved me. Facebook presented the perfect couple. And we were…on holiday.

We flew home on different flights. Him on his company paid for premium economy, one stop-over. Me on my cheapest flight going, 35 hours, three stop–over credit card breaker.


He came to my house as soon as he landed. My father was sick and he wanted to support me. He stayed the night. We were close. The next day he came to pick up his suitcase after work. We talked. He questioned whether he’d acted too rashly, maybe he’d just been freaked out about the work trip, hadn’t thought it through, perhaps we could try again, ‘let’s see how Thailand goes. Maybe we could try again in January…‘. He said these things whilst packing up his belongings. I took it. It wasn’t entirely his fault. I talked him into a corner, I convinced him to question himself, I confused him. I was good at that.

He was vague over the next week, taking hours to reply to my messages, we both worked on planning the Thailand trip. I got angry and rejected and then sympathetic and supportive depending on what message I received from him that day. I cried at work and failed to sleep.


Finally, after an 11 hour round trip to visit my father in the hospital he called. He called and told me he didn’t want to come to Thailand. We talked on the phone and he changed his mind. “I’ll come”. Then he changed it back again. “I’m 60% sure I’ll come”. “Are you sure?” I questioned. “No. I don’t know. Can I have 24 hours to think about it. I’ll let you know tomorrow”. With that he hung up and went to sleep. I couldn’t.

It was like waiting for the sun to rise at night. “Will you meet me for a drink after work?” he text the next day. I knew what that meant, the stars were falling, blacking out the sky.

He placed a glass of prosecco in front of me. I hadn’t asked for it. Took a swing of his beer and launched in “I know I’m letting you down. I know I’m hurting you. I know you don’t deserve this. I know I’m breaking a pinky promise. I know you won’t be friends with me after. I know I’m listening to other people’s advice and not my own. I know. But I think it’s for the best to not come. We can still exchange Christmas presents though and I would like to be friends?”.

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I’d known. I knew right back in September when he suggested the trip. I knew when our little fingers clamped around each others in promise. I knew when he said ‘Arrrr‘. I knew he’d never be what I needed. I knew. But I didn’t want to be right.

I sucked it up. “Okkayyyyy” I sighed “Well I respect your decision” I didn’t. “No, we won’t be friends, how could I be friends with someone who breaks promises, lets people down and would treat someone like this!” I so wanted him in my life but there was no going back now. I took a breath. “Right, I need you to come over to my house, pick up the rest of your stuff, get your Christmas presents because I don’t want them! And then I need you to leave my spare key!” I instructed, gathering up my remaining strength which was floating somewhere near where my stomach had once been. “I’m going to go now. It was nice knowing you” and with that I stood up to leave, trying to keep my head high.

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He called after me as I headed towards the door “I’ll miss youuuu”, he went back to drinking his beer as my head fell.

‘What the fuck was I meant to do now?! Go to my brother’s for Christmas and sit around waiting for the New Year feeling horrific and alone and miserable or go to Thailand alone. For Christmas. Alone‘.

Well obviously there was only one choice! He text me on the way to the airport telling me to have a good trip and offering travel advice. HE GAVE ME TRAVEL ADVICE! ‘Sorry for telling you I loved you and changing my mind, then dumping you at Christmas and giving you four days notice that I’m not coming on holiday but here’s some cool things to do whilst on our romantic trip. Alone. Have funnnn‘.


I sat in that hotel room, thinking I’d made a massive mistake getting on that plane whilst trying to piece together all the things I’d done wrong in the relationship and what exactly it was about me that just wasn’t quite ‘good enough‘.

Finally, I fell asleep listening to Taylor, dreading the dawn and wondering, what next?

To be continued…





The End

“Do something incredible” I looked up from my phone at the sound of her voice “anything in particular?” I asked, mock in my voice. “Anything” she confirmed seriously “it doesn’t have to be big or incredible to anyone else, just as long as it’s incredible to you” she smiled at me. “Just think Becs, if we both did one incredible thing a year, and we started now, by the time you’re 60 and I’m 90, we’ll both have done 30 incredible things each. And by the time you’re 90, you’ll have done 60 incredible things! Think about that! A lifetime of being incredible” she took a sip of wine and looked at me over the rim, “ok” I answered.


‘Can she do it? I don’t think the old bags got it in her! She’s going to stumble at the final hurdle! No, no she’s trying! She might have this! She’s going for the zip! She’s got it! She’s got it! The Brit has just made history! She has zipped the bag shut and the crowd has gone wild! We have a new British hero folks, the first person to ever zip an overstuffed bag shut! We’ll I don’t think we’ll ever see such an achievement in our lifetime again!‘ I was spread eagled across my suitcase, sweating and swearing at the challenge to fit a years worth of travel into one bag.

Blonde and Geo had departed a week earlier; with a goodbye meal we toasted cocktails to the trip and tried to laugh off the fights. They left the next morning for Costa Rica before Geo returned home and Blonde went on to Europe to visit family. We made promises to meet up in London but the approaching winter was too cold for her summer blood, she cut the trip off early and returned to Oz before we were able to reconnect.

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As soon as the door clicked shut a wave of nostalgia washed over me, the room felt suddenly very empty, I missed them instantly. Alaska however bounced up and down on the bed “they’re gone!! Now it’s just you and me! You and me. You and meeeee” he burst into song and jumped to the floor, trying to spin me into a kiss which I rejected, unaffected he danced around the room.

We moved back up the coast to a hotel where we spent our final week in a tango of affection and fire, flaring up before finding tender moments to promise each other the future was possible.


On our final day, Alaska left for the airport with the waking day, a sleepy departure full of hugs and whispered ‘I love yous’. And with the click of another door, he too was gone, leaving me alone once again. He flew to the UK for Christmas however unbeknown to me, he’d already slept with a girl back home by then. We broke up pretty soon after that.
I sat in Cancun airport a few hours after Alaska had flown out; plugged into a pillar, I watched the world go by from kneecap level, a sea of flip flops, wheelie bags and whining kids. I didn’t know what I was going home to, all I knew was that there was no home to return. No one would be at the airport and I was under no illusions that there was some fairy tale happy ending waiting for me.

What I did know however, was that although the world hadn’t changed, I had. Before this all began, I’d never done anything on my own, never travelled alone. I relied on someone to hold my hand through everything. I avoided confrontation, convinced if I said ‘no’ people might not like me and what could possibly be worse that being liked?

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The fear of loneliness hovered in my mind for just a moment on that airport floor, but it didn’t hold the same power it once had. I’d see the Facebook posts of parties, the groups of people giggling over lunch, couples squishing their faces together in pictures, family picnics, holidays; on and on it went and with it, I’d compare, always coming up short, feeling much worse for it. The truth was, everyone has those things, but those moments are only a snapshot, behind them lies all the insecurity, despair, heartache, frustrations and loneliness that make up being human. I wasn’t adrift from the rest of society, I just couldn’t see through the fog to realise we all feel alone sometimes and what’s more, that’s perfectly normal.

I stepped off the plane to the grey skies of Britain. There is was, exactly two years to the day of her death, the entire grief cycle having spun its course. Two years sounded like an awfully long time to the rest of the world, for me it was but a blink of the eye. Just because time has passed and it gets easier to breath, doesn’t mean the pain clears, I’m not sure it ever will but you learn to live with it. It changes you that kind of pain, making you question things, things that were lost like boyfriends and friendships, dignity and confidence. It makes you lash out and act like a jerk at times in unexplainable outbursts that you’d like to be forgiven for.

But through it all, you learn and grow and hope that somewhere your mother will be proud of you. After all, you are your mothers daughter.


I’d love to say I walked through those airport doors with my head held high, but this is real life and it was raining. I sat on the floor, jet lagged and cold, waiting an hour for the taxi I’d luxuriously booked as the last treat to end my trip with.

According to the psychologists, grief takes two years to get over. I don’t believe you ever truly get over the loss, but the waves get more manageable and those intense emotions aren’t so all consuming as they once were. For awhile I walked around London like a ghost in the background of other peoples happy lives, unsure of my own footing, the London life I’d once inhabited having died with my mother.

My mother and I arrived in this world with the beginning of spring, she left at the end of a September, never a fan of the cold, preferring to burn out with the summer. After my return to England, through the bitter adjustment of winter, finally the leaves began to bud and with it, little by little whispers grew louder, confidence returned and happiness started to warm my edges once again.

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I’d been fighting myself for so long, this journey was never really about my mother, it was about myself, about accepting who I was for every hormonal, difficult, embarrassing flaw and accepting that. I wasn’t perfect but then no one but myself ever said I had to be. And I was finally ok, being the multilayed, pain in the arse but mildly amicable person I was.

I will always mourn for my mother, I’ll crave for the relationship we had and the one I’ll never know. For the moments we won’t share, the grandchilden she’ll never know, I’ll look at the person walking me down the aisle and just for a moment I’ll feel a lump in my throat. I won’t know who to call in the middle of the night when things go wrong. I will miss her forever but that’s ok too because she taught me to face the storm and to trust myself. It might have taken a trip around the globe, Santa Claus and perhaps one or two meltdowns but I got there eventually.

My mother always said people never know how to end well. Perhaps that’s because stories never truly end, strong characters will always live on in our hearts. And after all, down the rabbit’s hole, at the back of the wardrobe, through the platform, after the second star on the right or at the end of a kites tail,…there is always another adventure just waiting to be had.


Mexico and the turtle

It was a three hour bus ride up the Mexican coast, Blonde was dozing in the seat opposite, Geo would be joining us the next day having messed up his flight bookings from Cuba and Alaska and I were leaning against one another. Alaska leaned in, pulling a headphone pod from my ear “our raccoon will be called Franklin” he smiled and turned back to the sunset beyond the window. I pressed my mouth close to his ear “no raccoon. A dog and I’m naming it!”.

He laughed “no, raccoon first, dog second. Franklin will be awesome! Especially when I dress him in a tux” he followed up his statement with noises “thrttttt” which sounded like a chirping bird despite his assurances they were entirely raccoon.


“I am not staying here!” I snapped. The taxi from the bus terminal had dropped us off in a run down street in the back of Tulum. No one answered the door, it was dark and the mosquitoes had found me. I wrapped myself in whatever layers I could but they buried into my skin regardless, by the morning I’d have forty swollen bites to scratch.

‘I’m not staying here!’ I moaned internally once we eventually gained access ‘There is one lumpy bed and an old sofa. In the same room! For all four of us to share! The air conditioning is one tiny fan that shakes in the ceiling, squealing with every rotation and threatening to fly off at any second to decapitate us! The fridge doesn’t work, the freezer is about one degree cooler than the non functioning fridge. The living room is an oven, there are ants everywhere and OH MY GOD! WHAT WAS THAT! WAS THAT, WAS THAT A COCKROACH!!!! AGGGHHHHH I’M NOT STAYING HERE!!!! And we only have one key for four people! So we either stay in or all go out together. So much for space!’ I debated, trying to get the front door to shut, only to discover the net shutter was torn to shreds, allowing more mosquitoes to come feast on my arms.


“Who booked this?!” I spun around to face Blonde and Alaska. “Geo and I did” Blonde determined. “Why?” I questioned, there had been so many options, places with sea views, balconies, private swimming pools, two beds! And all the prices were reasonable. “Because it had two bikes available for guests to use. Geo and I thought we might do some cycling” Blonde answered.

I sighed, dragging my hands down my face “What? You’re telling me we are in this shit-hole when we could have been in an apartment with two bedrooms, a pool, AIR CONDITIONING! Oh and working wifi! All so you two can have bikes….which appear to have flat tyres?! And you did realise four of us would be staying here didn’t you? We might all want to cycle….” I wasn’t surprised any more.


“I’m not staying here” I insisted to Alaska the next day as we headed out to find a supermarket. The lumpy looking mattress  must have been made of concrete because my back from screaming from it! Unable to sleep I tossed and turned itching at the bites whilst mosquitoes continued to dive bomb for me. “I’m going to book somewhere else” I determined.

“But if I don’t come with you, you’ll just hold it against me and I can’t afford to pay for accommodation twice!” he retorted. “I feel trapped here! I can’t stay in a room with those two for two more weeks! And I’m getting eaten alive! Look at my skin!” I held up an arm, great welts broke angrily in the pattern of star constellations across my skin. “Well what do you expect me to do!” he snapped back.


We yelled at each other as we walked back from the store. It irritated me that he wasn’t sympathetic to my cause and worse, that he was could only snap back rather than listen.

“Don’t follow me” I’d had enough, yanking my shopping from him into my arms and stomping off. Alaska followed “you’re going the wrong way” he called down the road after me. “Well you don’t have to follow me!” I yelled back stubbornly.

He had a point though, all the streets looked the same, I was completely lost. I walked into a random shop and asked for directions “four blocks over”. Alaska appeared at my side “see, I told you, you were going the wrong way”. “Ughh fuck off” I hated being wrong, I hated it even more when people pointed it out to me.

I let him walk ahead, turning off on a side street to get away from his over the shoulder glares. I contemplated buying a coconut from a street vendor until I realised I wouldn’t be able to carry that and the shopping, plus the machete looked rather dirty, the last thing I needed was the runs! Especially when the big sign above the toilet told us ‘do not flush paper’.


Two blocks later, my bearings had all but given up when I turned a corner and walked straight into Alaska, it appeared he too was lost. I wanted to be mad at him but at the sight of me, he asked “you lost too?”. I tried to pull my smile down, determined to hold onto the annoyance but my eyes gave it away and he laughed. We wiggled our way around the streets until we came across the blue gates signalling home. Swapping the keys over, Blonde took off for a walk “it’s really easy to get lost, stick to the main road” we called to ignoring ears.

An hour or so later, a storm rolled into town, breaking down some of the closeness we’d all been suffering. Alaska had managed to persuade the gas on the stove into action, as I emerged from the shower he presented me with an egg sandwich he’d already taken a bite from. “We should dance in the rain!” he announced as we took bites from the sandwich – not exactly in turn, his two for every one of mine. I stood in the yard in only my towel, heavy rain splash on my closed eyelids as the sky rumbled above.

Alaska appeared with giant slices of watermelon. “Thanks but I don’t like watermelon” I reacted. “Try, it’s good” he handed it over, I held the giant wedge with two hands, unsure how to proceed. “What do I do with the pips?” I shouted over the arguing gods above. “Spit them out, or eat them” he yelled back.


So we stood in the rain of the storm, under an umbrella sky of dark clouds, spitting pips to the ground and watching them swim to the gutter. The watermelon juice ran down our chins and I’d smile as he’d lean in to kiss the flavour from my face.

Geo arrived later that day, as did the apartment owner who showed us through to a secret second bedroom, built into the garage. It wasn’t any better than the first but at least we wouldn’t all have to share the one room.

Blonde and Geo booked an organised bus tour so Alaska and I rode the bikes to nearby ruins before finding a small beach fronted bar to eat seafood and drink Pina Coladas. We laid in hammocks, swaying back and forth watching the sun sink and moon rise over the ocean. “We should probably be getting back, it was a long ride to get here and it’s getting dark” Alaska advised.


“Oh no, we’ve stayed out too late” I realised as we walked back to the bikes “the mosquitoes are out!” I screamed, swiping four off my thigh “quickkkkkk to the bikes!!” I ran. We peddled as though our lives depended on it, Alaska laughed behind me as a cloud of the blood biters formed behind me if ever my peddling slowed. It was getting dark and the bikes had no brakes, I tore around corners unable to slow, it was only once I’d reached the accommodation that I realised I’d left Alaska far behind.

We arose early the next day to go swim with turtles but Alaska announced he was sick. So we napped and laid around instead, I made smoothies and searched for jobs on the computer, tortured by intermittent wifi. “Even though I’m sick, I’m glad I’m here with you” Alaska rolled over on the bed, speaking in that feeling sorry for yourself kind of way that men do when they catch man-flu.


With Alaska a little more perky the following morning, we hired a scooter “why can’t I drive?” I enquired when Alaska insisted on being the named driver “because I don’t want to die today” he responded. “Err, I just drove you around all of America!” I pointed out. “Exactly, I’m amazed any of us made it!” he smiled. “Hey! I’m a great driver” I declared. “Didn’t you crash the car and get a speeding ticket?!” he laughed, which was technically true but I felt justifiable.

I sat on the back of the scooter feeling far less stable than if I’d been in charge. Alaska revved the engine, we lurched forward, and abruptly stopped. He tried again, we sped down the street, my hands only just managing to hold on before I fell off the back. He raced through the gaps in the speed bumps as we headed to the beach, the wind tore at my face so I buried it in his back.

He sped up on the open highway, less careful until the wheels slipped from beneath us. We spun to one side as he tried to correct the steering, over compensating as we skidded to the other. The scooter veering dangerously low either side as I pictured my skin being torn from knees. We flew across the road, I screamed before he managed to gain control. “WHAT THE HELL!! YOU ALMOST KILLED US!” I yelled when we finally reached the beach. “Well I wasn’t doing it on purpose!” he snarled back “it’s not like you would have done any better” he stated meanly.


The beach wasn’t quite as idyllic as I’d been hoping, a bit dirty, a lot of tourists, grey coloured sand plus a ring of seaweed on the shoreline that made crossing into the water a slippery path of crustaceans and litter. But Blonde and Geo assured us there were turtles to be found, and therefore slippery crustaceans would have to be abided!

We swam out into the murky waters, waves slightly too choppy for any clear visibility but no turtles could be found. Disappointed we returned to the apartment, dogs flying out of yards to chase the scooter “faster” I screamed as they tried to nip my heels.

“You didn’t see any turtles?” Blonde asked that evening over dinner “we went yesterday, there were loads. Geo gave one cancer!”. “What?” I questioned. “I touched one” Geo added, I turned to Blonde confused “apparently if you touch them, you can give them cancer because they’re allergic to humans” she informed.


“Can I drive today?” I enquired the next morning. Alaska sniffed, still suffering from his cold “no, you’re not on the insurance”. Despite my reluctance to risk my life again by his driving, I climbed on the back of the bike.

“Ooh these are cool!” I announced when we’d arrived at the cenotes, large pools of water in limestone sink holes. “You go in first” Alaska nudged me forward. The water was cool but not unpleasant “come on” I called swimming further away from the dock, the dark overhanging caves disguising the crystal cut clearness of the mirror in which I’d entered. “Oooh” Alaska giggled at the change of temperature to the humid heat we’d been suffering all day.

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“Oh wow,  there are fish in here! And bats! Look up there!” we stayed mostly in the light where the sun drifted through the trees and showed the bottom of the pool, far deeper than it seemed. The dark parts of the cave scared us a little, unsure how deep we could swim into the black and if we’d ever come out again. “Shall we try another pool?” Alaska asked after our skin began to pimple and teeth chattered from the cold.

“This one is even bigger!” I squealed, my t-shirt billowing around me as I jumped into the water. Despite our modest diet in Cuba, I was still feeling uncomfortably heavy from our American diet; my skin had a strange puffiness to it, I was convinced I’d grown cellulite on my knees and calves, and even my feet felt fatter. I tugged at the t-shirt, trying to keep it from floating up in the water whilst Alaska’s words from months before floated through my mind ‘well you have got a fat ass‘ ‘you’re not attractive’have you got any pictures from when you were thinner?‘.


We were having a nice time in Mexico but my legs met in places they hadn’t used to, my hip bones were much more cushioned and I was pretty sure I once had a collarbone!

You’re doing this to yourself, you’re ok, it’s not like you have to wash yourself with a stick on a rag! And look, he loves you, so what if he doesn’t find you physically attractive, who needs that?’ I asked myself ‘Ummm I do!’ I answered. ‘No, it’s fine, I’m totally self assured, I’ll just be content in my fleshy, flabby self and be happy for good health and a positive outlook. Yes. I’m having a lovely day. This is fine. If I feel too self conscious to take the t-shirt off and reveal my bikini body, fine, but let’s just enjoy these beautiful pools and not worry about it’ and just as I gave myself a prep-talk an eruption of chatter burst the stillness and drew our attention.


I looked up in time to see a horde of diamanté covered wedged heels wobbling down the wooden stairs to the pool. Long, slim, tanned limbs followed until an army of Valley Girls stood before us.

I’d never seen people like them, Barbie come to life in all her various guises. Tiny bodies with stuck on boobs, waists that looked sculpted, bums usually reserved for fitness models in magazines after a lot of photoshop. They each wore a face full of carefully contoured make-up and hair so big, they might topple over if they leant too far to the side. I yanked at my t-shirt and wished the pool really would swallow me up. All the insecurities I’d ever had raising to the surface. I felt mortified and so self conscious I almost couldn’t move.


I treaded water for awhile trying to plan an escape route whilst the girls removed tiny denim shorts and cropped tops to reveal even tinnier bikinis, more dental floss than swimwear and yet magically, everything on their body seemed to be supported, remaining in place. I glanced at Alaska, the big jerk looked like all his Christmases had come at once! A massive smile was spread across his face as I deemed he too had never seen creatures such as these in real life.

Whilst Hugh Hefner’s wives descended into the water, squealing at the cold and running back up the steps to “Ohh Tiffany, it’s soo cold, you go first” “No, you first Courtney” I swam around to the other-side and escaped the water, pulling my t-shirt away from my skin with that annoying suction sound.

I went and waited by our bags for Alaska to join me so we could head to the safety of another pool. I waited. But soon I was surrounded by Valley Girls, who’d decided they needed sun-cream for the shaded cave. I stood in the middle whilst models lathered each other up, trying not to listen to their conversation but unable to avoid it “What are you talking about? You look so slim! You do not have a belly! Why am I so white! I feel pasty! You have amazing boobs, mine aren’t as good as yours” they swapped back and forth.


Alaska had taken the route to leave the pool through the busy side of the dock where the girls were all entering, of course he had! I watched as he took great delight “after you” “Do you need a hand, here…” “it’s not that cold, I’ll help you”. By the time he’d joined me I was a beating myself up for every Teddy Graham ever consumed and had convinced myself I was the most hideous creature to ever walk the planet.

“I knew you’d be feeling self conscious” was the first words he spoke, a look of amusement twinkled in his eyes. It kind of angered me, if he knew that, why hadn’t he come straight out of the water and hugged me or something? I don’t know? Made me feel special rather than the weed in a garden of roses? Perhaps I expected too much?

In reality, I knew I didn’t want to look like those girls, and I was perfectly fine as I was, no matter what size or shape but I seemed to construct rejection, loneliness and self confidence into physical appearance. In some warped logic, I was convinced everything would be better if I was thinner, prettier, smaller ass’d.


For some reason, right at the very bottom of it all, I thought that if I was prettier, people might like me more and then I’d be accepted and good enough. This went beyond the grief; that had only dialled things up and I could never quite get control of my self esteem during the whole grieving process. Instead, I’d worn those insecurities like a sign around my neck, inviting the world to chip away at them and telling myself every word was true.

I thrust it at Alaska to take swipes at and then blamed him for doing so. I guess these things go back to childhood, classic Daddy issues anyone? You don’t get the attention from one parent so you cling to the other but it’s not enough so you develop this extroverted, attention seeking persona that’s tells you, you’re only as good as the next male figure thinks you are. Grief dug it all up and made those buried issues more vulnerable and exposed to the seasons.

We moved on to another pool but the Stepford Wives in making only followed, I tried to swim between caves to escape but succeeded only in bashing my head on a low hanging stalactite. “Can we go soon?” I begged Alaska, my fingers tracing the bump in my hair.

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We returned to the apartment just as it was getting dark, as I curled up on the bed, Alaska was about to head out for water when he paused in the doorway “why the hell am I getting water! I’m the one who’s sick!” he sniffed for good measure, apparently his bug hadn’t stopped him from swimming in cold pools all day but when it came to going five minutes around the corner for water upon an evening, well, he was a dying man!

“I can’t go out when it’s dark, look at me! I’m covered! No offence but my concern for your dehydration is out weighed by my fear of gaining another hundred or so mosquito bites!” I cut my reply. The fight escalated as they always did with us until Geo and Blonde walked in.

They gave each other knowingly looks and smirked “we were just saying today we wondered if you two would be fighting or having a good day. We settled on fighting” Blonde sat smugly. “You know, if you were sick, I’d go get you water” Blonde turned to Geo, her legs draped over his lap.

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“Oh, I’d get you water too” he dazed back adoringly. I felt ganged up on, Alaska informed the room I was selfish. “How is me not wanting to get water because I’m the only one the mosquitoes seem to go for and as soon as I step outside I’m covered in them, making me selfish!” I screamed back. “Because I’m SICK!” Alaska yelled. Blonde laughed “oh this is fun, I like watching you two fight, you’re both always yelling at each other” she looked at Geo bemused who only draped an arm around her shoulder and stroked her in sickening longing.

Ughhhh it was too much to take, Blonde smiled like a cat ‘get out! Get out now you smug, stupid bitch‘ I yelled internally wishing I could go for a walk or get away but the mosquitoes buzzed at the windows trapping me in. Blonde laughed “You guys are always fighting. I don’t think we’ve had one fight have we?” she looked at Geo again for confirmation who was smart enough to smile back, all the approval needed. I wanted to scream.

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Alaska and Blonde were trying to sort out money the next morning “you’re a smart guy, I’m sure you can work it out” she informed him. “Oh my god! You’re being so patronising” I butted in. “No I’m not!” she said defensively, I repeated her phrase back to her.

“No, I’m just saying!” she countered. “Well it’s hard to keep track of everything when you keep all of these hidden costs with 15 dozen bloody receipts for everything!” Alaska stated. “I just keep track of things” Blonde lifted her head defiantly. “Yeah, every single cent!” I pointed out; Blonde seemed to forget the numerous coffees brought for her but made sure to charge back every bottle of water or stick of chewing gum she bought for others.

Alaska laughed at my comment. “Ughh you two are hard work sometimes” Blonde informed, shaking her head. “Ha!” was all I could manage before Alaska tore into her, before I knew it, both were in full screaming mode, Geo trying to cool things down but being pulled in every direction by his childhood friend and the girl he’d fallen for.


The stress of the apartment combined with the growing anxiety of going home and what might happen had been triggering mum dreams. She just kept dying. Over and over again when ever I closed my eyes. ‘Please don’t die!‘ I’d beg in my sleep, tears crystallizing on my cheeks in the dark whilst Alaska snored alongside. It had been nearly two years, the world had moved on, but for me, she still died for the first time in my arms every night.

I swam out far into the waters, Alaska had given up, returning to the sand to sleep under a palm. The waves rose and fell gently, I let them submerge me, my snorkel mask providing all the air I needed ‘please let me see one, a hint of shell, the edge of a fin, something’ I called into the gloom, desperate for a sighting.

It was calm beneath the waves, I didn’t feel like I was drowning any more, I knew I could resurface whenever I needed and there would always be air waiting for me. But the stillness, the cloudy waters, shapes in the dark, I was at peace with them at last. It was almost two years and finally I could fall beneath the surface without being consumed.


I felt suspended for a moment, peace washing over me at the acceptance, the world a frozen dream, alone in the gloom but finally ok with it. The world hadn’t changed, but I had learned to live it it.

And slowly, another miracle. A face appeared out of the dark. Swimming directly towards me, a slow dance of graceful wings glided into the light as the turtle and I came face to face. He turned at last and nodded I follow, together we swam further out to sea, he dove down to the sand beneath us, introducing me to his wife who winked in reply to my smile. I watched from above as their neighbours popped around, my own private street party. When it was time, I surfaced, I surfaced back into the day, to a clear sky and promises of tomorrow.


Cuba and ongoing battles

I lay watching the ceiling fan, silently trying not to rupture the storm that was Alaska. We’d reunited at the airport in Mexico; Alaska flying in from LA and Geo from San Francisco. Blonde and I, who’d arrived a day earlier, spent the night in separate hotels, keen to avoid each other. It was the first time I’d been alone in over three months; I awoke rested and dare I say…almost optimistic! A good nights sleep really does do wonders!

I’d arrived at the airport excited; Blonde and I chatted incessantly, almost clinging to one another whilst relaying every detail from the few days spent apart. Our conversation was manic in the speed of exchanges, our smiles frozen, both of us in fear of mentioning the fight in LA. We were all jubilant at the prospect of reaching Cuba and being together once again, well, all except Alaska who snapped from tiredness at every turn.


Alaska paced back and forth that night, complaining about anything he could grasp, exhausted from not having slept for 30 hours due to an overnight flight, he tore up the world in frustration. We were staying with his extended family, the grown children of his aunts husband; Alaska felt responsible for organising the group, showing gratitude and entertaining, all of which he was too tired to manage but carried the burden regardless.

After an oddly satisfying breakfast of boiled eggs, hard bread, mayonnaise and tinned spam the next morning; Alaska and I laid on the bed, his irritation not having improved from a nights rest. “What can I do to help?” I asked. “Just tell me you love me” he returned blindly.


We stayed talking awhile, I thought he was perking up, I was wrong. “You don’t get stressed like I do” he stated out of the blue. “What? You know nothing of my stress” I jarred.

With it drawing close to the end of the trip and approaching the two year mark of my mothers death, I’d been thinking a lot about how things had turned out and how they might have if she hadn’t died, or had I made different choices.

Somewhere in an alternative reality, if I’d have kept the baby, my toddler daughter would be running up to Granny right now asking for white chocolate buttons, there would be a home with pictures on the wall, a partner, a family. I’d have a job, security and with that, a sense of belonging. I’d have known nothing of how deep and dark emotions could run, of how quickly things could be stripped away and the awful loneliness that consumes. I silently longed for that other world.


I didn’t regret the journey or how my life seemed to be working out; embarrassed and ashamed from my behaviour at times, yes, but generally, I thought I’d held up kinda well, in that, car crash, what the hell am I doing kind of way. But it had also been the hardest, most challenging period I’d ever know and probably ever would. I’d felt raw and exposed, so stripped back a gust of wind might have broken my fragility. There were times, when I wanted to sleep and never wake up again. When every breath was hard to swallow. And the utter desperation of loneliness sunk so deep into my bones, I ached from it. So when Alaska told me I didn’t really ‘get stressed’, I could only stare at him.

“You know why I have grey hairs coming through at 26?!” he shot at me in that aggressive, direct way he had when something was bothering him and he wanted to lash out at whoever was nearest. “Genetics?” I smiled. “Because a childhood of heartbreak. Grey hairs come from stress caused by love” he answered as if it were scientific fact. ‘Does this mean I didn’t really love my mum, or Bridezilla or anyone else because my hair remains a satisfactory shade of mahogany?’ I pondered.


“Then why am I not grey?” I couldn’t resist. “A childhood does not compare to a year” he explained and I wanted to smack him for it. “Ummm” I was trying not to rise to it, keen to avoid another explosion like LA “you know nothing of how I’ve felt, you can’t compare it” I couldn’t help the anger rising. “I have a reservoir of sorrow” he explained “you only have a well”.

Alaska’s tiredness darkened his mood for the rest of the day, short with everyone except me, I suspect he knew I’d pull away if he had a go at me again. Blonde got the worst of it, she couldn’t help herself, asking perfectly innocent questions that if she only thought for a second, would have been able to answer herself. It wasn’t her fault but she wasn’t reading Alaska’s temperance “do you think your cousin will drive us to Havana tomorrow? Are they cooking us dinner? We were thinking of going to find a beach, will you cousin give us a lift?”. I was avoiding her, partly embarrassed of my own behaviour in LA, partly sore from the exchanged words of that argument but mostly I’d had enough, the initial reconnection at Mexico airport was short lived. Alaska vented about everyone else’s idiocy and then got agitated by anything I said. He fell asleep with the fans whirling. I was cold, he stole my sheets and refused to be disturbed, yelling in his sleep when I tried to pull them back.


“I’m going to have to babysit the other two all afternoon” he moaned the next day when I expressed my preference to avoid them. The cousin took us into Havana that morning. We walked the rubble streets, still being cleaned after a recent earthquake. Old Spanish buildings, statues with faces worn away from years of sun, eye sockets glazed over with dust, bicycle taxis, eyes of the locals on us “where you from, where you from” they called hoping to engage in conversation for spare change.

Alaska disappeared down an alley, he’d moaned about being stuck with the other two but he left us all. I felt abandoned, he’d been complaining that everyone would get lost but he left me. As though seizing the opportunity Blonde and Geo took swipes as we walked on “Why’s Alaska so grumpy today?” she asked without looking for an answer. “You never get frustrated” she smiled at Geo. “No, neither do you” he smiled back, they both looked at me so I played along, hating it “yep, me neither” I gave them the tools. “Oh yeah, you’re such an angel aren’t you Becky” Geo looked at me pointedly, him and Blonde exchanged a smug look, the sides of their mouths curled up. ‘Oh you’re both so wonderful aren’t you’ I swallowed.


“Chica Chica” a man called as we passed. “What’s he saying?” Blonde asked Geo, even my lack of Spanish knew Chica meant chick. “He’s talking about you” Geo gave her a doe-eyed look. I literally saw her ego grow, she baited him “oh he’s talking about Becky” she said with a sly smile waiting for Geo’s reply “no, he’s talking about you” he corrected “everyone’s looking at you” he added to her beaming face. My eyes rolled “we should really be getting back to the car, can you check the map?”. “Oh, we’ve been walking in the wrong direction” Blonde realised, tilting her phone.

We sat by the river drinking mojitos, Blonde and Geo finally finding a drink they liked despite not being fans of alcohol. Alaska laughed as Blonde and Geo slurred their words, playing up to the attention. The coolness of the evening blew in on the breeze. Alaska didn’t catch my annoyance whilst Blonde and Geo made drunken hints about how they never fight in comparison to Alaska and I.

My period arrived in the outhouse with the crooked door hanging off one hinge so you could look out to sea from the toilet seat. I felt low and weepy returning to the group, watching them laugh as the alcohol warmed their spirits, I felt left out and cold. I sat back down, watching the scene through a pane of glass, not really part of it.


Blonde and Geo continued to drink “Tango! We should go tango dancing” Blonde announced, her elbow slipping from the table to everyone’s amusement. “Geo, you can dance because you can dance with me” she lent in, smiling at me as she said it as though it were a challenge. “I don’t have any rhythm” Geo answered but looking like the cat that got the cream at the prospect of Blonde dancing with him. “Oh you will when you have a few more drinks” Alaska laughed. “We will find it, the rhythm, in the mojitos” the cousin stated in broken English.

A few drinks down, Alaska and I concluded the other two were too drunk to do anything other than trip over each their own feet. Blonde leaned out the side of the car window, resting her spinning head on her arms “he’s got a machete” she called as we passed a man on the street. “Nothing wrong with that, a man with a machete is an awesome thing” Geo deemed. “Why am I talking like an idiot” Geo uttered a while later when his words weren’t falling into order. “Why isn’t the dog waving back at me!” Blonde yelled. “Hey dogs are people too” Geo insisted. Alaska leaned over from the front seat laughing at the exchange of conversation. I sat in the back, sandwiched between the two drunks, never feeling more sober in my life. Geo was sick in the toilet bowl as soon as we got home “go rub his back” Alaska instructed to Blonde.


We were sitting with the family the next morning when Blonde walked in wearing a strappy vest top, her hair unusually piled up top of her head, displaying a map of love bites all over her neck. “We’re going to the mountains today” she declared, making a show of walking around the table, twisting her head back and forth as though looking for something. “Do we have to stay with them? They took swipes at me all day yesterday, I thought we were suppose to be having space” I leant into Alaska as Blonde continued to walk about like a peacock.

We laid around on the bed again, no hurry to get up and nowhere to get to. Conversation turned to Alaska’s ex girlfriend and with that, sex. “Well how often did you and your ex have sex then?!” I enquired, he’d been excited that Geo might finally have seen some action, expressing how hard it was to meet girls back home and even if you did manage to get a girlfriend, the girls were always bitches who used sex like a weapon. “Three times a year” came the reply. I was shocked “what do you mean? Three different people or actually just three separate times?” I tried to clarify.


“Just three times” he looked away. “How can that be? You were dating your ex-girlfriend for what? Three months? Don’t tell me you only had sex three times in three months! She lived around the corner from you!” I was confused.

He clammed up “well yeah, we did it once, then I went away for a few weeks, then we did it again but she said it wasn’t comfortable so we waited awhile, tried again, then we ended”.

I thought for a moment “but, but that barely sounds like a relationship” I wasn’t being terribly tactful. He closed his eyes and refused to look at me. “Why is this so hard for you to talk about?” I pushed. “I put it in a box and left it behind” he deflected. “Why do you find relationships so hard to talk about? I find it hard to admit when I was wrong or apologise or when I’m embarrassed or insecure. But I still talk about that stuff, I don’t always want to but I try ” I explained, wondering if we had it in us to be really open with each other.

tell me.gif

“I know you find it hard to apologise” he stated “speaking of which, you never apologised for taking your stress out on me at Yosemite”. I pushed my head into the pillow and let out a sigh “I don’t feel I need to apologise”. “Yes you do!” he sat up, ready to explain his standing on that fight once again. “But I don’t feel I do! We’ve been through this already, why are you dragging it up again?!” I stared at the fan, tired of fighting but he continued to push until I found myself revisiting the memory once again and listing all the points where I felt I was right in it “….we’ve already discussed all this, we moved on” I concluded.

“I need you to apologise to me” he laid back down and closed his eyes whilst he waited. I stared at his face, tracing his features with my eyes, the shape of his lips, the constant angry crease between his eyes, always giving him a slight look of annoyance. It would have been so easy to kiss him, instead I let the silence draw out, finally speaking one word “no”.


His eyes snapped opened but I spoke before he could argue “I’m not apologising when I feel it would be a lie.. It’s not genuine, I won’t be forced into saying something I don’t mean! Stop trying to control me!” he’d got my back up, I’d switched from wanting to lie on the bed and hug him to fighting the urge to march out the room. “I’m not controlling you!” his voice began to rise. “Yes you are, why do you always orchestrate a fight between us? We were having a nice time and now look where it’s heading?” I was so tired of fighting but the old buttons were being pushed.

“Me?” he laughed meanly “You’re the one always in a mood! Why do you think Geo said that yesterday? About you being such an angel!”. My fists clenched “because he’s got Blonde in his ear moaning about me losing my shit and taking the car, he’s so puppy dog in love with her, anything she says he’d go with!” I spat back. Alaska stared at me, any light in his eyes extracted, leaving only dead pools “yes but he’s also been on the trip half the time, he’s seen you be in a mood for most of it. You’re always moaning” for someone who wanted to move to England to be with me, who had started naming our children and insisted he loved me, he sure had a way to make me feel shit about myself.

Eeyore feeling bad.jpg

“Right that’s it” I was done, I got up and headed to the bathroom door, keen to escape the environment before I said something I might regret. “Don’t walk away!” he glared, more or a warning than a request.

“No fuck you, fuck all three of you! None of you know me, you don’t know what I’ve been through the last two years, you don’t know the person I was before all this, the fun happy me who was, generally, very positive and go lucky. All you know if the grief version and you judge me for it! The version stuck in a fucking car with Blonde asking a million stupid questions, copying every thing I do and then trying to compete at every turn. And you! You putting all your issues on to me, always asking for help like I’d be able to save you. And Geo, who’s 27 and never done anything, never lived away from home, had a relationship, lost anyone close to him, fuck, he hadn’t even kissed a girl since he was 15 before Blonde came along! No! None of you get to fucking judge me! Fuck you all!” I shut the bathroom door, stared at my reflection in the mirror and took a deep breath, steadying myself on the sink for support.


“You know why, I like you the most when you’re like this” Alaska called through the door, I closed my eyes, wishing I could shut out the next manipulation that was sure to follow. “Because you think I’m being real” I replied, not wanting to hear him say it. “Yeah” he called back, I turned the shower on, letting the water drown out the rest of his words as I submerged my head in the stream.

His words, Blonde’s words, even Geo’s at times, they cut through like knives as the water tried to wash the wounds away, despair trickling down my back. ‘Was I nasty? I certainly had it in me but was that how people saw me? Was I always in a mood?’. It felt like it recently, I couldn’t remember the last time I was happy, I feared it had been years. I still felt like I was simply existing, not really living. Trapped in the now but nowhere left to run to, I couldn’t go back and yet I’d gone around the world and still hadn’t found the answers. I didn’t want to be the person they described me as ‘this isn’t who I am! I’m a happy person, I’m fun, I am, or at least I used to be. I think’.


Alaska tried to grab my wrists when I finally emerged from the bathroom, appearing with a cloud of steam. “Why is it ok for you to expect an apology from me but I can’t get one from you?!” he was angry. I told him to fuck off, retrieved my hairbrush and returned to the sanctuary of the bathroom. He did, I heard the main door close with his exit, leaving me alone to fight my demons.

I found him on the beach a short while later, we talked over our difference, my feet digging a hole into the sand under the shade of a single palm tree, our words trying to balm the wounds. We spent the evening with the family sharing a meal of rice, pork, potatoes and plantain fritters, it was a simple meal but full of flavour and free from the corn syrup of America.


Keen to avoid Blonde and Geo again the next day, this time Alaska and I headed to the mountains. We rode in the 1952 Chrysler, battered cream leather seats, no seatbelts, cigarette trays, wooden handles and chrome details. It was spacious and solid, six decades old and a credit to both the manufacture and the mechanic who kept it’s wheels turning after all those years. The old car rattled whilst warm breeze streamed in through the windows and caught my hair. Alaska closed his eyes, his curls flying around his face and a smile travelling across his lips, one arm hung limp out the window.

We sat by a waterfall that only the locals knew, kids jumped into the pools, swimming in and out of the caves. We snacked on the sweetest mangoes I’d ever eaten, I didn’t even like mangoes but I liked them, sucking the flesh from the skins, juice dripping down our chins, we smiled at each other.

We played dominoes that night with whoever dropped by the house, rum and cokes poured over ice, hot air and sticky backs, a ceiling fan offering the only respite from the heat whilst the sky turned pink behind the palm trees.


Blonde was in a mood the next day, I didn’t care to ask why, happy to stay as far away as possible. She took swipes at Alaska over breakfast but left me be, too scared to say anything I might bite back for. After a morning round of tears to Geo, curiosity got the better of me and I asked the problem, concerned it had to do with me. I hadn’t said a word to the girl since we’d arrived in Cuba, actively avoiding her where possible, what had I  done now?!

Perhaps my avoidance was upsetting her? But after LA, I couldn’t be around her, I didn’t want to explode again but enough time hadn’t passed. Geo informed me she was crying about old text message arguments sent six week earlier in Vegas, I couldn’t care, I didn’t want to be part of it any more. ‘Friendships die sometimes, that’s what happens. Bridezilla taught be that’ and then I felt guilt and bitterness for thinking that lesson.


“The food is really bland here” she complained, my eyes shot up from my plate, fork suspended in mid air, searching Alaska’s face, that blazed. I glanced at Geo who was watching us both, even he seemed embarrassed by the statement.

We were sat eating a meal of rice, potatoes, onion and breaded fish, simple yet delicious. A meal lovingly prepared for us. I’d felt humbled by the generosity of the host, sharing what little they had, every bite warmed my belly that someone had taken the time to make it for me. I looked at Blonde, probably for the first time properly since America. Had it been my family we were staying with, I’d have taken her aside ‘you want to be in a mood, fine! But don’t you dare act so rudely or insult this lovely family who have welcomed us into their home!’. Alaska was fuming, containing his patience only for the sake of his cousin but ready to pounce the next time she crossed the line.


He didn’t have to wait long, the next day Alaska was sitting talking to Geo over lunch, asking for details of how to get the bus to Havana, Blonde walked into the room and interjected herself into the conversation “it’s perfectly simple,  if I can work it out and I’m was suppose to be the naive one of the group, then you should be able to manage the bus too” she flashed me a quick look to see if I’d caught it. I glanced over my spaghetti at Alaska to see if he recognised the slight, he nodded back.

“Excuse me! I wasn’t talking to you! I was talking to Geo, if I wanted your opinion or advice I’d ask for it” he snarled. She stepped back as if bitten, looking at each of us for support, even Geo seemed fed up, finding no solace, she retreated to her bedroom.

go away.gif

Alaska and I spent the afternoon at the beach after returning from Havana, reading to each other from the book I was digesting. We looked like one of those awful couples, locked in their own world reading sonnets or some shit. Geo sat alone further down the beach, reluctant to join us, keen for the space as Blonde refused to leave her room.

That night Blonde discovered Alaska alone in the kitchen “I want a copy of those pictures tonight!” she demanded he instruct me. “What?” I questioned at the relayed message “I told her I’d give her a copy of MY pictures when we get to Mexico, we’ve got three weeks! Why is she in such a hurry now?! I said I’d copy them, why does it have to be done this second! She had a camera, we took the exact same shots!” she’d been trying to demonstrate some power over me all week, she’d pushed me to the wall but I was never going to let her win!


Alaska only shook his shoulders and tried to hug me. “No! You think I’m being petty! I told her I was done with the road-trip and with her! I don’t want to make any effort any more, she infuriates me! The snide comments, subtle digs, the way she’s bossing every one around! Did you hear her earlier ‘I’m going for a walk! Geo, you’re coming with me!’ ‘We’re leaving early tomorrow to go to the town aren’t we!’. She’s not the boss of Geo but she’s horrid to him and he doesn’t even notice” I complained. “Oh he does, but what choice does he have. He’s desperate for her to fall for him” Alaska added. “She treats him appallingly! She’s been in a mood the last two days. I’ve not said one word to her, made no comments, not risen to any of her remarks or attacks and actively stayed out of her way” I stated.

“Oh I know!” Alaska offered looking at me kindly. “What’s that mean?” I enquired at the tone of his remark. “It’s been noticed, my family are starting to ask if you’re ill or something. You only leave this room for meals or if we’re going out! You need to be the bigger person, you need to make more effort”.


“Why do you keep saying that? I thought I was being the bigger person, I’m staying out her way and not rising to anything. I’ve taken all her comments on the shoulder and not even rolled my eyes! I thought I was doing really well” I seemed to be failing again without knowing how.

You need to make more effort. Your absence is missed, people notice when you’re not around” Alaska pointed out, I started to smile thinking it was a compliment but then he added “and then it seems like you’re the one in a mood” and my smile faded again.
“But I’m removing myself from the situation. I don’t want the drama, the comments etc. I’m not acting like that, why do I have to put up with it? Why do you call me out but no one calls her out?” I asked, everything feeling unjust.


Heading his advice I set about trying to copy the pictures onto her USB sticks, for five hours I sat trying to transfer the images “are you going to come downstairs, you’re being antisocial” Alaska stood in the doorway as I was half way through the transfer process “I’m trying to copy the pictures, I thought that’s what you advised!” I couldn’t win.

The disks were too small to fit the files, by midnight I gave up and fell asleep. We all headed to one of the famous beaches the next day, long white stretches of sand. I hid under a t-shirt, ashamed of my swollen body from all the American candy I’d consumed.

Blonde continued to make demands about the pictures right up until I’d gone to bed despite Alaska’s best efforts at explaining the USB’s simply weren’t large enough and it would be a much slower process of copying, uploading, deleting and repeating, all of which we didn’t have time for in Cuba. Blonde was having none of it and insisted she had the pictures the next day.


Geo and Blonde forgot to bring money to the beach and as such, had on funds to cover the taxi home. We arranged a time to leave however when it came to it, Blonde decided she wanted another dip in the sea and stayed out in the water determinedly.

We waited until Alaska lost his patience and swam out after her, telling her we were leaving. She started to moan about the pictures again, I could see their discussion getting heated by the frequency of arm movements and splashing of water. Geo swam out to break up the fight whilst I remained with the bags, determined to stay out of it. All three of them treaded water, rising and falling with the waves yelling at one another, wild arms and sulking faces.


Alaska returned “come on” he nodded his head angrily. We walked together to the taxi rank, no longer concerned if they followed. They did. Alaska turned to Geo, asking him to translate to find out the cost of the trip with the taxi driver in Spanish. Blonde turned to me “for future reference we wanted to stay the whole day!”. I glanced at Geo, recalling his preference to leave an hour earlier, it appeared she now spoke for both of them. Alaska stared at her blankly “don’t give a fuck!”. Blonde looked around for backup but with Geo busy, found none.

“The taxi said he’d take us” Geo returned. Alaska and I turned to leave but Blonde fought back “I want those pictures tonight! You have to give them to me today!”. I was fed up with the demands, spinning on my heels “they are MY pictures, taken on MY camera, by ME! I do not owe you anything! I tried to copy them for you yesterday, for hours! But your memory sticks are too small. I’ll copy them when I can but if you keep acting like a spoilt brat and making demands in such a rude way, I’m not going to do anything!” I stated, hoping that would be the end of it.


“But you kept telling me to take pictures on your camera!” Blonde complained. “Yeah, when I was driving and couldn’t. You had two cameras and a mobile phone of your own. It’s not like I was stopping you taking your own pictures!” I pointed out. “I want the pictures today. And the edited versions too!” she insisted, climbing into the car. “I’m really sorry Becky, I know, she’s, she’s a bit wound up at the moment” Geo tried to explain “noooo! It’s not your fault. Sorry. Sorry you’re in the middle of this. Sorry, it’s not you, sorry” I tired to explain to Geo how guilty I felt that he was caught up in it all.

I sat in the taxi watching palm trees fly by, my irritation once again threatening the happiness of everyone else’s day. I’d drawn my line so clearly in the sand, but it was almost salvageable at the airport in Mexico, however, after a few days in Cuba, even Blonde could see any patience was at an end. I desperately wanted to be as far away from them all as I could possibly get, we might not have been in car any more but that tin can of claustrophobia still seemed to be over our heads.


The Jerk

The average sized person contains around 7×10(18) joules of energy. That’s enough to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs. On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in LA, I unleashed my energy and with it, all the destructive force.

“Do you want to drive to LA?” I asked. “How long is it?” Blonde replied, I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was reluctant, probably thinking it was unfair of me to expect her to do the entire stretch. “It’s about an hour and a half” I answered, avoiding eye contact, already having calculated the five hours I’d driven the day before and the three that morning, compared to her two yesterday and one that day.


Somehow, I ended up driving regardless but after an hour of sitting in traffic I pulled off into a run down shack of a town to find a bathroom and swap over. The high street was a ghost town, boarded up windows and broken down cars “do you want to get back on the free-way and we can find a gas station there?” Blonde offered.

The sharp stabs on pain in my shoulders advised otherwise “no, there has to be something around here…” I spoke through gritted teeth. After 12 weeks I was sick of doing the majority of the driving. I hadn’t noticed it at first, not until Alaska pointed out it was always me delivering a third more each day. I’d worn it as a badge of honour at first, a silent act of martyr to push through over the final hump and get us to that night’s accommodation. But my efforts went unnoticed and finally became expected; unconsciously I started keeping a mental log that rubbed away, yet another thing I’d failed to communicate.


It really was unfair on Blonde ‘how could she not notice I was always driving more often and longer, she’s just selfish and lazy!’ I’d moan internally when she’d suggest we swap over, only half the time put in. Realistically she was probably completely unaware or thought I’d say something if it was grating. “Yeah but I haven’t had my coffee yet” “I’m tired” “well I can drive more later on” she’d respond the few times I did brave a confrontation on the subject, but my words always seem to go in one ear and have drifted out again by the next day as the cycle repeated itself.

“I’m going to nip to the loo” I stated once we found a supermarket, “I’ll come with you” Blonde followed. I knew I was being petty but the conversation in the car had been getting to me, I could feel agitation building. I needed a moment alone, to calm myself before I rolled my eyes or got snappy, but Blonde never quite mastered giving other people space, and so, together we went.

“Can we sort the money out, who owes who what?” I asked once back in the car. “Yeah, I’ll do it in the next few days” Blonde decided, adjusting the mirrors to her position in the driving seat. “No!” I said a little too sharply “I’ve been asking you to look at your receipts everyday for the last two weeks and you keep saying you’ll do it in the ‘next few days’! We leave America in three days and then we’d have to convert the money into Mexican or Cuban! It’s getting annoying, can you just sort it out tonight! I want to know who owes what!” I snapped.


“Ok. I’ll do it later. I’ve got it all here and on my phone. And on some receipts” she held up a bunch of crumpled papers with scribbles all over them, dropping some on the floor as she drove. ‘Ugghhhh why couldn’t she be organised, why isn’t it all neatly written down on her phone, with dates and who paid for what and clearly laid out? This is how you lose stuff!’ I complained to my subconscious. ‘This is how you lose stuff‘ my mothers words forever chasing me throughout my 20’s, she’d have laughed to know I was echoing her. ‘I should never have left her to keep track of the finances, why hadn’t I just done it’. I clamped my mouth shut, tasting the pill before it sat on the top of my throat, threatening to spill back out.

“Can you text the host to let him know what time we’ll arrive? I haven’t topped up the credit on my phone” Blonde asked, immune to my inner rage, she’d been out of phone credit for three days now, requesting I send messages back and forth to Geo or looking up everything that needed looking up.

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With the LA rush-hour successfully navigated, we reached our final couch surfing host, a Columbian man in his early 30’s who sold Christmas cookies for a living. Cans of Santa shaped biscuits sat boxed up in his kitchen, I was starting to think the Universe was playing some sort of Santa based joke on me that had long grown old.

After some additional nagging, Blonde, at last, sat down to sort the money out “I think I’ve lost some receipts, I’m sure there are more than these” she waved her hand over the pile of tatty papers scattered across the kitchen table “I might go check the car again”.

“Wait a sec, I’m looking up hotels for Mexico, we still have to book for when we land on Friday, or we’ll be sleeping in the airport before our flight to Cuba in the morning!” I pointed out, something I’d been suggesting we booked since before we left Australia. “I’ve got a deal here, it’s got a pool too! We can land from LA and spend the afternoon by the pool, it’s not a bad price” I twisted the computer for her to see. “Hmmmm, I don’t know, I reckon we can get somewhere cheaper, I’ll have a look tomorrow” Blonde announced, heading towards the front door, car keys in hand.


I felt provoked, infuriated I snapped “ughhh, I have been trying to book this one night accommodation for five bloody months and every time I mention it, you say you’ll look at it tomorrow! Now we’re three days away and you’re still putting it off! You know what, I’m just going to book mine, you can stay there or not but I just want to get it done”. She looked at me, anger flashing behind her eyes “fine” she clamped her mouth shut.

I tried to be friendlier the next morning, I really tried. I woke early, tip toeing around not to wake Blonde whilst I showered and gathered the washing, ready to put in the machine as soon as she awoke and could give me her items. I was sat at the computer searching for jobs “I’m going to go top up my phone, do you want to stay here and get the washing out when it’s done?” Blonde reported, jingling the car keys.


She returned in time for lunch “I picked up some food” she called cheerfully and set about plating up some salads. “Ahhh thanks for getting these” I’d been a little annoyed to have been left with the washing and waiting around all morning alone but most things can be forgiven when presented with lunch. “So shall we head down to Santa Monica in a bit? We can walk around for awhile and then maybe watch the sunset on the pier?” I suggested.

“How much longer are you going to be?” Blonde nodded at the computer I was typing away on. “Almost finished, give me ten minutes and I’ll be done” I answered without looking up. “Ok well I might go for a walk then” she decided. ‘I just said I’d be 10 minutes! How far are you going to get in ten minutes?! Can’t you just hang on ten minutes? Fine, just go, I just can’t today!‘.


Half an hour came and went. I packed the computer away and sat on the couch. I cleaned the plates and stacked them away. I used the bathroom. Folded the clean laundry. Looked at Facebook. At the clock. I put my shoes on. ‘Where was she!‘. “Hey, where abouts are you? I’m done here, ready to go when you are” I text. No reply. “Ummm are you nearby?” I text fifteen minutes later. I tried to call, she didn’t answer. ‘Umm should I be worried?’ I pondered. ‘She’s probably calling her mum, that’s why she’s not picking up or responding to the messages‘. I sent a message on Facebook. The hour passed. ‘SERIOUSLY! Where the fuck is she! I said I’d be 10 minutes and she’s been gone over an hour! We were suppose to leave ages ago! She’s wasting one of our last days and I’m stuck inside!’. The hormones began to race.

“You know what, fuck this! If she won’t answer her phone or reply to text messages, I’m just going to leave her. Screw it, I’m taking the car. She takes the car without saying anything all the time, I’ve never taken the car. Fuck it, I’m taking the fucking car and going to Santa Monica for the afternoon. It’s her own fault for pissing off for so long!” I decided, grabbing my bag and heading to the front door. “AAGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” I groaned to the door, she’d taken the hosts keys, I had no way of exiting the apartment without leaving his apartment unlocked. I stomped back to the couch and flopped down.

fucking kidding me

I was bored and annoyed. “WHERE ARE YOU!!!!” I text, everything screaming at me for the unfairness of the situation, bright sunlight streamed through the window teasing me, I felt trapped in a box. I paced back and forth, every moment stretching into hours. “Fuck this, fuck this. I’m so fucking bored!!!” I complained to the walls, acting like a caged animal.

After an hour and a half I’d had enough. “Screw it, I’m taking the car! And if the apartment gets broken into, well, that’s on her!” I rationalised unfairly, all sense of self control long since gone. A strange sort of excitement rushed over me as I clambered down the stairwell, the rebelliousness at taking the car without permission. Only I couldn’t find the entrance to the underground parking lot, deflated that my adventure had ended so easily I huffed my way back to the apartment, the door was locked.


“What!” I knocked to no answer. I didn’t understand, now I was trapped in the building, couldn’t workout how to access the car park and was locked out the apartment too. I stamped my foot just as my phone rang “WHERE ARE YOU! ARE YOU IN THE APARTMENT? IT’S LOCKED!” I yelled. “I’m outside, I just went up but you weren’t there so I locked it” Blonde replied.

I flew down the stairs, every hormonal impulse I ever had heightened beyond control ‘calm down Becky, there’s probably a reasonable explanation for this two-hour disappearing act’ the logical side of my brain insisted ‘fuck off! It’s been two decades! I’m so fucking mad right now. She’s done it on purpose to annoy you‘ the emotional side screamed back. I took a deep breath at the fire exit door ‘ok, be nice‘ I warned as the door opened. And then I saw Blonde sitting in the car. ‘SHE TOOK THE MOTHER FUCKING, FUCKING, FUCK FUCK OF THE FUCKING CAR! AGAINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN‘ I lost it. I absolutely lost it.


In thirty years of friendships not once have I raised my voice to a friend, not once. Sure I’d had plenty of fights over the years, drawn out silences, short text messages exchanged, notes explaining who said what in class, but I’d never yelled. Not even at Bridezilla and she probably deserved a good yelling. No, if I was ever upset at someone, I’d bite my tongue and go moan to my mum until I felt better. But not this day, this day I became something else entirely.



And you know what? It felt AWESOME!!! Why don’t people scream at each other more often? It feels utterly amazing to yell at the top of your voice, throwing in as many swear words of choice as you can. It was as though every bitter pill I’d swallowed came tumbling out and I felt so much better for it, poisoning the air. It felt amazing for exactly three minutes and then I ran out of words. Blonde however hadn’t, I guess she’d been holding back her frustrations too, and unleash them, she did.

“I didn’t know you were trying to call me. Your messages all just came through at once. I thought you were on your computer, you seemed irritable, I didn’t want to disturb you, I thought I was giving you time to finish what you were doing, I didn’t take the car, I went to the apartment as I hadn’t heard from you but you weren’t there so then I went to get the car…” her excuses all seemed plausible but I could only counter them.

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“You’ve been gone nearly two hours, I said I was almost finished, why would you not think that there might be something wrong with your phone if you’d not heard from me in that time! You always take the car! You were just doing what you wanted to do as usual!” I snarled.

We were driving by the time Blonde started listing off all the ways I was a terrible person, how all the couch surfing hosts had agreed when she read out the text argument exchange from Vegas to them, how I needed to get my hormone levels checked out “there’s nothing wrong with my hormones”I screamed back. “You’re a nasty person” she spat.

It stung, “well you’re fucking selfish!” I countered as she drove erratically in the direction of Santa Monica. “You need medication for your hormones, you’re a nasty person, it always has to be your way” she repeated. “Are you fucking kidding me! It’s always your prerogative first! You always do what’s best for you, never thinking of anyone else! You act like you’re the victim all the time,’oh poor Blonde blah blah blah’ fucking grow up! It’s pathetic” I insisted, no longer feeling the need to yell.

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“You’re horrible, it’s always your way, you get in a mood and I can’t say anything” she started to sniff. “Oh here we go, go on, cry, poor Blonde, again!” I rolled my eyes.

“See! You’re nasty!” she insisted. “No! Every time anyone calls you out on your shit you put on crocodile tears so people feel bad for you!” I answered, beyond fed up. “They’re not crocodile tears! I’m upset!” she instantly stopped crying.

“I can’t be bothered pandering to you any more. I’m done! All I do is spend my days explaining stuff to you because you’re completely incapable of reading a situation or knowing the appropriate thing to say, it’s fucking exhausting!” I calmed down after that but Blonde was far from done, continuing to yell.


“And you’re always yelling…” she went on. “I haven’t said anything for the last twenty minutes, you’re the one yelling. You’ve said the same thing ten times over, like usual! I get it, I’m the worst person in the world, you’re the greatest person, you’ve made it all clear. Shall we just leave it now?!” she didn’t, she kept going, reeling over and over again every single thing I’d done wrong.

“OK! Right, I get it! I’m done. With you. With this trip. With everything! Tomorrow we can part ways. I’ll go stay with my friends, you can remain with the host. The car is in my name, I’ll just pay for the last two days” I instructed.

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“What if I don’t want to stay with the host! I don’t see why I can’t come stay with your friends, we don’t have to talk” she asked naively. For the last time my eyes rolled uncontrollably in their sockets “because they’re my friends, why would I bring this” I waved between her and me “into their house! It’s not really my problem what you do any more” I spoke callously “I’m done with organising everything for you!”.

“Well then I don’t think you should get to stay at the couch surfers tonight!” she shot back. “What, with the person we met together, at the same time, who neither of us had any prior relationship with? It’s not like you’re friends with him! I’ll leave in the morning. You can do what you like!” we fell silent after that, pulling into the busier traffic as we approached the coast.

Tears started to spill behind my sunglasses, I tried not to sniff and reveal myself but I couldn’t hold them back. Blonde didn’t notice, or pretended like she hadn’t and I had no right to want her to care. I turned my head to look out the window and great blobs dripped down my face, whilst I subtly whipped them away. I felt sick  and empty, it was all I could do not to wail, partly from release but mostly from desperation.


We parked in a multi-storey car park near the beach and agreed to meet back in a few hours, Blonde strolled away from the car as I hung back. As soon as she was out of sight I cracked into inconsolable tears. I felt awful ‘What was my problem! I’m an asshole! I’d gone beyond snapping, she hadn’t deserved that, no one deserved how I acted. I’d called her a selfish bitch, I’d gone so far beyond what was acceptable, there was no coming back from this’ another wave of tears engulfed me as I tried to come to terms with destroying another relationship, hurting Blonde was like hurting a puppy, as irritating as I’d found her, the blame lay at my door, all she’d ever done was be naive and innocent.

I’d never sworn at any of my friends before, well not to their faces at least. Of all the things she’d said back, it was the nasty comment that really stung. Most of her arguments had been true, but the nasty one? ‘Was I really a nasty person?’.  Things usually hurt the most when you’re scared they might be true.


The car was hot but I couldn’t leave my bubble, it was all that was left. Sweat mingled with my tears. There hadn’t been a single day that passed since mum had died that I hadn’t missed her, there were countless times where I longed to hear her voice. But at no point in the entire two years did I ache so badly than in that moment. Not that I deserved it but I so wanted her to tell me ‘it was ok, how I’d coped really well and for as long as I could, I was bound to boil over at some point, Blonde would forgive me and most of all, I wasn’t nasty’. It didn’t matter that I was 31, as I sat alone crying, I really, really wanted my mummy.

And because the world is made up of a million tiny miracles, my phone beeped.


Burnley, my fellow expat friend from Oz “hey chick, how’s it all going?”. I wiped the snot with the back of my hand and laughed a tear as I typed an explanation.

“You’re not a nasty person at all, you know that! Travelling with someone is super hard. We discussed this before you left, you knew it would be hard. I was the same way with the girl I travelled with. I looked like a super nasty person too but deep down I knew I wasn’t. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s ok to get upset and stressed out, you’re human and it’s hard to be in close proximity with someone that you don’t know that well and travelling certainly makes or breaks people. I’m here if you need me doll…any time!”. I smiled and cried and smiled a little more, feeling just a little less alone.

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“But Blonde has a point, I have been really irritable the whole trip and snapped whenever she’s done something annoying which felt like a lot! It’s been so hard, everything has got to me, when she wears my stuff, buys the same things as me. She never leaves me alone, it’s a million questions, all the time. I can’t take it any more, I’m so tired, I’m tired all the time. I feel like I’ve been fighting for so long, I can’t do it” I wrote, not really talking about Blonde at all. “Everything she said was true, anything I said back sounded petty because I just can’t articulate it. I hate that her and the boys think I’m this moody, irrational cow. It’s horrible feeling like a bitch all the time” I sent the message with fresh tears streaming down my face.

I waited as Burnley typed a reply through “you have come so far, and being snappy isn’t like you, have you thought why you’ve been feeling like that? I was the same when I was travelling, I was constantly snapping at the other girl” this surprised me, for Burnley had been one of the most laid back, easy going souls I’d ever met, if she’d had similar troubles travelling, perhaps this wasn’t unusual after all!

To be honest it’s totally understandable to feel the way you do, after everything… Take a step back, you don’t have to stay with them, take a few days and see how you feel, this is your experience too and you want to enjoy it! You’re not failing lovely, I know what you are going through, you’re ok” Burnley added, I silently thanked the stars for letting me have her as my friend.


The next day I left. I drove to my friends, the friends I’d met three years earlier with Bridezilla. I hadn’t seen them since the holiday with Bridezilla but we’d stayed in touch online, they were vaguely aware Bridezilla and I no longer spoke. If I’m honest, I was a little worried about having to explain that relationship breakdown and now turning up without Blonde too! I was afraid they’d also think I was a nasty person, but fortunately, because people are lovely, they welcome me with opened arms, settled me on the sofa and gave me tea. That’s what people do with British people in crisis, they feed us tea and it’s exactly what we need!

I felt awful to be heading to Disney World the next day with my LA friends without Blonde. I messaged asking if she wanted to join us, that I’d come pick her up, she sent a frosty reply declining. I couldn’t blame her.

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Whilst I wore Minnie Mouse ears and rode roller-coasters, Blonde took herself for a walk. Feeling a little lost and hurt she strolled the streets of LA until she came to a large building, the sign on the front of the building struck her curiosity and so, she walked into the headquarters of the Church of Scientology.

I posed for pictures with Cinderella and filled my arms with Disney merchandise. Blonde was rushed in for testing “oh dear, you have big emotional problems, you need urgent counselling, we should do it now” she was told. She’d been amused at first, texting Geo a running commentary of events but when Blonde decided she’d had enough she made excuses of being hungry and needing to go for lunch in an attempt to leave. The church offered her crackers which she then panicked had been poisoned, running out on to the street convinced she was about to be brainwashed.


Two days later we sat next to each other on the plane to Mexico in silence, heading in different directions for our hotels once we’d landed. The next morning we reconnected with the boys at the airport to fly to Cuba, another three weeks of each others company…

The Big Sur, Santa and the return of hormones

Honestly, we haven’t seen any mosquitoes, you really can’t miss this” I closed my phone to Blonde’s message, I was sulking. We’d driven north from Yosemite, back to Lake Tahoe. It had been over two months since our first stay with Matt Damon, he’d been amongst the first of our couch surfing hosts and remained one of our firm favourites.

With Alaska and I not having settled our differences from the fight earlier that day, I was continuing to self-alienate, refusing to join the others on the beach, using the threat of mosquitoes as an excuse to remain in the car alone. “You have to come see this!” Blonde messaged again. ‘Damn it, I did hate to miss out‘ I muttered, heading to the beach, rewarded with the most incredible sunset “it’s caused by the pollution from LA and San Fran” Alaska pointed out as I joined them, I ignored him hoping his words wouldn’t dull the sky for me.

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We dropped the boys at the bus station the next day, waving them off as they made their way to San Francisco, to stay with Geo’s aunt. Blonde and I had chosen to remain a few days longer in Lake Tahoe, keen for a rest. “So, come on, tell me about the trip, what’s going on with the boys?” Matt Damon enquired as soon as we returned.

Blonde and I glanced at each other, neither quite sure where to start. We relayed what details we could but the conversation was stilted. I liked Matt Damon, the first time we visited, he and I stayed up long into the night talking. He had that wonderful calmness about him that was so rare, the type of quiet where silences aren’t uncomfortable and anything can be shared without judgement. I’d been looking forward to catching up again, to talk to someone outside of our group but who wasn’t too far detached from it all, someone who understood.

I wanted to talk about Alaska, my growing anxieties of the relationship I found myself in but I didn’t want to have that discussion in front of Blonde. Gradually, as the weeks rolled on, I became aware exchanges shared about Alaska to Blonde always made their way back to Geo who in turn let them slip to Alaska, before we knew it, the car was a circle of Chinese whispers. “I’ll tell you later!” I laughed at Matt Damon’s questioning on the subject. Blonde looked put out, insulted to be excluded “well I’ll talk to you separately as well!” she stated to Matt Damon. I rolled my eyes. “I hate it when you do that!” I was unaware she’d been watching me “It’s really rude Becky!” Blonde pointed out.


With a few days to relax, no driving, no sightseeing, no boys creating drama; I breathed a huge sigh of relief, stretched out my back and….got right down to making myself busy.

Conscious it wasn’t long until my return to England and with no mother’s house to base myself from whilst I sorted my life out, I flew into action. Searching for somewhere to live, updating my CV, applying for jobs, looking at mobile phone contracts, arranging my social life; I worked myself up into a state. All in all, the realities of life came crashing back down, adult life seemed a little overwhelming after a year of gallivanting around the world.


Blonde returned from the supermarket that evening and found me at the computer on my bed, she perched on the end “I couldn’t find the right butter” she complained before bursting into tears. “Oh my god! What’s happened?!” I asked concerned at her reaction, placing the computer aside.

“I don’t know. Seeing you all stressed and trying to get stuff sorted for when you get home made me think about when I go home too. I started to get a bit worked up about it. Then I went to get the stuff for dinner and I couldn’t find all the ingredients, so I went to another store and they still didn’t have everything we needed, so I came back here” she offered up half laughing, half crying in gulps. I laughed with her “oh god, girls are the worst aren’t they! Why do we get ourselves so worked up over nothing! I totally get it though, sometimes if feels like everything just gets on top you and you need to let it out” I replied, smiling, wondering if I ever took my own advice.


Matt Damon called up the stairs announcing his friend’s arrival for the BBQ. “I’m going to go get changed” Blonde turned to me wiping the last of her tears away, “cool, I’ll be down in a second”. I smiled as she left, a little touched that she came to me and slightly nostalgic at knowing that feeling, when there isn’t really anything wrong but you feel a bit overwhelmed regardless.

My phone beeped a message from Alaska, asking how my day had been. As I listed all the progress I’d made in trying to sort my life out, that little hormonal devil on my shoulder began to filter in some dark thoughts. Blonde wasn’t writing her CV or looking for jobs, she’d gone on dog walks and read magazines all day. When she goes home, she has a loving family to pick her up at the airport with open arms to embrace her, a bedroom with all her belongings exactly how she left it. There’s security, home cooked meals and the world no different, all waiting for her return. And yet it was her crying about feeling stressed.


I’d confused my reaction at the time for a flash of PMT, but in reality, I was jealous. I was so jealous it stirred all these emotions that I didn’t know how to process and ruptured my go to response of angry. A wave of sadness engulfed me as the realisation that no one would be waiting at the airport to collect me. My mind raced back a decade earlier, my mother and I waiting eagerly at Heathrow.

He’d been gone a year, travelling the world with his girlfriend but finally, he was coming home. My mum’s face was etched with excitement and then worry when my brother’s face didn’t walk through the sliding doors. We waited hours unaware his flight had been delayed, causing him to miss a connection. Eventually, the doors opened and there was my lanky big brother, more skinny and tanned than he’d left. My mum’s face practically burst with joy at the safe return of her son, the love shining out of her like sunbeams. But not for me, that face would not be there when I arrived jet lagged and cold from the change of climate and the realisation broke my heart a little.

Blonde had everything to go home to, I didn’t even have a home. I’d worked all day trying to straighten things out for a smooth return to normality but she’d been the one to cry. It’s unfair I know, but it made me kind of mad. That’s what jealousy does to a person, it makes you concentrate on all the things you don’t have, forgetting the amazing things you do.


The following day, Blonde and I set out for some morning paddle boarding, it had been a long time since she sat on the front of my board as I negotiated the waves at the beginning of our trip in Hawaii, I’d thought at the start, we’d be so close by the end but our friendship had frayed with every new day, no inner twine of history and time to hold it together.

I needed to get back to the house and finish off a few more emails but was easily swayed into going for a walk along the lakefront. Within moments the hormones were reigning their ugly head as I became frustrated at Blonde walking too quick for my legs to match pace comfortably. I stopped abruptly “I’m going back, I don’t have time to walk” I announced spinning on my heels.

I marched back in the direction of the house, annoyed at myself for being too short with Blonde, verbally and physically it turned out, annoyed my long legs weren’t quite as long as hers to match the speed. Annoyed that I couldn’t act like a normal person for half an hours walk without letting my hormones get the better of me. I walked faster, mentally checking all the things I wanted to get done that afternoon. I was so engrossed in my own thoughts I almost missed the old lady hurrying across the road to me.


“Can I ask you a question?” the woman stopped “Are we in Lake Tahoe?”. I was confused, of course we were in Lake Tahoe, where else would we be?! She’d have had to of driven here to have come from anywhere else but before I could answer she added “I’ve pee’d myself” she gestured to a damp patch on her trousers that I hadn’t noticed. “I’m lost. I have Alzheimer’s. I know I went for a walk, I’m staying at my brothers, but I couldn’t remember how to get back and I couldn’t find a bathroom. I’ve been walking around for ages. I don’t know where I live. Where will I live?” the panic bubbled over, as she burst into tears.

I didn’t know what to do other than tell her it would all be alright. “I’m so embarrassed” she remarked, gesturing to the wet again “it’s fine, don’t worry, honestly, we’ve all been there” I stated, pretty sure my drunken stories of early drinking accidents weren’t really of any comfort as we walked the streets trying to find a familiar house.

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I called Blonde to come meet us with the car, deciding it might be easier to drive around than walk, or worse case, find a police station for help. Somehow, I managed to track down the brother’s telephone number on the internet and call his wife. A rather disgruntled woman appeared at the front door as soon as we reached the correct house, she was angry, yelling at the old woman “where have you been! I told you not to go out! I was about to call the police. I thought you’d been kidnapped, how would I pay the ransom, we haven’t any money…” she went on as the older lady was ushered into the house.

“Why was she yelling at her, it’s not her fault, she’s ill!” Blonde asked alarmed, pulling the car away from the kerb. “She was probably just worried” I answered, my face still turned towards the house, wondering what would become of the woman. It felt overwhelmingly sad, that a physically fit person could have everything stripped away from them, even their memories. I thought of my mum, how quickly the cancer had withered her frame ‘perhaps it was better she was taken so quickly, I couldn’t imagine how awful it would be to watch someone you love suffer for extended periods of time. No years of pain or invasive treatments, no retirement home or loss of independence – she’d have hated that the most! Maybe going the way she did was better?‘ I pondered internally and then felt a rush of guilt that I could ever think her death was a good thing. I swallowed back the surge of tears that blazed at my eyes before Blonde could notice any shift in my temperance.

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A day or so later, we joined the boys in San Francisco. I was getting ratty as the hormones increased, or at least that’s what I was blaming it on, in reality, I was probably worn out from being a walking, talking  pressure kettle, always simmering, ready to boil over but never quite blowing my load, just the occasional spit up to burn people with. That, combined with the understanding that I would soon be going home and then the real challenges would be faced of what I was supposed to do next! Everything was annoying me and those around me stood no chance.

It was our last night in San Francisco, Geo was going to stay with his aunt a few more days before joining us in Cuba whilst Alaska headed to LA to visit friends before he too flew to Cuba. Blonde had ruled out Alaska joining us for the drive down the Big Sur, determined that we should end the road-trip as we’d started, ‘just the two of us‘, as such, Alaska was left with no option but to get the bus.


I laid in bed, unable to sleep. Blonde was out cold on the spare cot. Geo sleeping on the floor next to her was snoring to extremes, like small locomotives escaping the tunnel of his mouth to torment me. Alaska lay next to me on the mattress, my body pulsing with frustration which he chose to ignore. Unable to sleep, anger surfaced, I needed Geo to stop snoring! I needed to get away from the lot of them! Fucking hormones!

The bitter pills were almost over flowing from my stomach, I was ready to scream in desperation. Alaska eventually sat up and tried to hug me, he might as well have hugged a ticking bomb. Nothing I tried could block out the noise, every rasp alerted my heightened senses until I was waiting for the next sound. I lay down, listening to every fucking breath, feeling so awake and so angry. My feet kicked out uncontrollably, my body riddled with chemicals and hormones that I wish I knew how to control.

We left the next morning, I, in my ever grumpy morning state had initiated a disagreement with Alaska as we departed. “Why do you always orchestrate a fight between us when we part ways?” his text once Blonde and I reached the highway. I stared out the windows, dry grassy banks, bleached yellow from the sun rose high on one side and the twisting coast of the Big Sur fell beneath us on the other. “Is it to make saying goodbye easier on yourself?” Alaska enquired.

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I watched the pelicans fly overhead; the pull of the winding road and gentle rhythm of the rolling sea, accompanied by the acoustic soundtrack we were playing on the radio was doing much to calm my senses. “Is that what I do? I didn’t realise until you just pointed it out” I replied. I thought for a moment “You’re right. It’s easier to say goodbye when you’re angry, you can hold on to that. It makes the sadness more bearable when you don’t want to leave them” a gust of wind caught my hair as I pressed send, the sea breeze so much more refreshing than the stagnant air of the roads in the mid-west we’d become so familiar with.

The shore line reflected the beauty of the sky, lending itself to the calmness. It dawned on me I’d done the same thing with my mother, I was so angry at her for dying that I’d never really accepted it, clinging on to that anger for so long, scared something more painful might be lurking underneath.

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We were shattered by the time we reached the restaurant that evening “I’m not hungry, are you? Do you think we can just meet the host, stay for an hour and then get an early night?” Blonde asked whilst we parked the car. “Yeah, I don’t want to eat either. Let’s say hi and then go to bed! He said to meet him here, it’s his friends birthday, I’m sure he won’t mind us leaving early” I yawned my reply. The host, however, had other ideas.

“The worst kind of couch surfers are the ones who turn up and just want to go to bed, can’t be bothered interacting with the hosts, use it as a free hotel” he eyed us wearingly, it felt somewhat like a warning. “We’re going to a bar after this and you two are going to sing karaoke”. The man wasn’t taking no for an answer, forcing a reluctant agreement from us, but when it came time to sing the song, I wimped out. I didn’t appreciate being bullied into doing something I didn’t want to do but worse, singing in public and what’s more, singing sober, utterly terrified me! Overcome with stage fright I refused the microphone.

Blonde took one for the team and stepped up, about two lines in I felt overcome with guilt once again and managed to join her, we sounded like a pair of banshees as we jumped about, the lyrics well rehearsed from our hours in the car. We finished the song to not a single clap. “We’ve sung! We’re going to bed!” Blonde marched up to the host, stating the facts.


A short while later I was stretched across a sofa, my feet dangling over the edge, listening to Blonde’s breathing from the other couch. We’d had a pretty good day together, and I so admired her balls at getting up to sing alone, not to mention standing up to the host. It was nice to be away from the boys, some of the anxiety of the trip forgotten as I remembered all the fun we’d had along the way.

I felt like I’d been in a mood the entire time, and for no apparent reason either. Maybe we were friends after all; that constant ache in my shoulders, the hunchback I was sure to be developing, the lack of sleep, it all seemed rather silly now. Why did I think she annoyed me so much? And my hormones weren’t that bad, especially not this time around, in fact, I was barely noticing them. A rolled over, mildly content ‘Yeah, it’s ok, we’ll all be ok. I just need to chill out a bit, the rest of the trip is going to be fine, a good night sleep will see me right..’ I told myself, falling asleep with a smile on my face.

“Right girls, get up! We’re going for breakfast” the host announced the next morning, opening a door to let a great dane bounce into the room, his wagging tail knocking everything in sight. At some point the night before I must have mentioned the Santa Claus job I’d had in Australia “I’ve a great idea” the host announced, disappearing. He returned holding up a Santa outfit “you can wear this to breakfast”. There was no getting out of it, plus I kind of felt like I owed Blonde for taking the slack with the singing the night before, so to breakfast I went. I swear Santa was out to haunt me!

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Despite insistence I should keep it on for the rest of the day, I managed to escape the Santa outfit and before long we were back on our way.

“Do we really have time for this tour?” Blonde muttered as we rode the bus up to Hearst Castle. “Sure we do, we’ll take a quite look around and get going again” I announced, the structure peeking over the bridge of the hill. “Oh wow!” Blonde remarked as the house came into view.

“Hearst employed the only female architect in San Francisco. He was looking to build a grand house on the coast but after the great earthquake that devastated San Francisco…anyone know what year that was? Yes, that’s right sir! 1906. The great earthquake of 1906. Hearst wanted to ensure his house would remain standing. He walked amongst the rubble streets of San Francisco enquiring so to who had built all the buildings still standing” the tour guide informed as we were led around the grounds. “Think I’d like a house like this” I told Blonde in a whisper.

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“Hearst was directed to a young female architect who claimed she was too busy to work on his house no matter how much he paid but after much persuasion, she finally gave in and accepted the job on weekends only. Hearst liked animals so set about making his own zoo. He sent a few men off to Africa to find him a pair of Giraffes. Well after a few weeks the men sent a telegram saying they had the giraffes but were having trouble getting them on the train. Can you guess what Hearst did ladies and gents?  Hearst said ‘no problem, give me a couple of days’. And a few days later, the men received a telegram stating ‘I’ve bought the railroad, get my giraffes on the train’. He was a character that Hearst!” the guide glared at Blonde and I who were busy gossiping about what features we’d have in our dream houses, mine had a slide from the bedroom to the pool, hers had at least three yachts moored on the private marina.

Aware of the glare from the guide, we remained silent for the rest of the tour, absorbing the history and characters entertained in this grand villa. The house was so beautiful, full of details and snippets of the famous guests who’d visited, Amelia Earhart, Winston Churchill, Edwin Hubble. Everyone ate the same, staff, guests, builders (the building was never finished, always more work to be done). Hearst was really conscious of his guests and didn’t want them to have to share bathrooms, he even built closets outside of the bedrooms so they wouldn’t be disturbed by the maid. At the time the general population had outside loos, his house had 67 toilets! And showers with seven jets – you’d never get planning permission in California for that now. He was a real advocate of women being equal, believing they could do anything just as well as men. By the time we caught the bus back down the hill to the carparks, Blonde and I were pretty much in love with the man and his home.

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“Thanks for suggesting we visit this place, I wouldn’t have even thought to come” Blonde said in passing as we left, it touched me that she would say so, I’d been a bit insistent that we visited, despite the lack of time to reach Santa Barbara before dark.

The next afternoon Blonde pulled the car over so I could nip into a store before we left Santa Barbara for the drive to LA, our final stop on the road-trip. I returned to find a traffic warden writing a ticket. Blonde sat oblivious in the front seat, unaware she was parked in an ambulance only spot.

The ticket was $300 and the warden would not hear a word against it as I tried to talk my way out, Blonde having looked up and noticed me talking to the warden pulled the car back into the road and parked across the street, leaving me alone with the now angry warden “moving the car isn’t going to help her” the warden stated sassily, readjusting her belt over her belly. She was about to hand me the ticket when an 80-year-old man dashed over to our rescue, insisting the cop tore up the ticket, we were foreigners, we didn’t know the rules and it would set a bad impression for the town. Before I knew it, the ticket was dismissed and the man was encouraging me to hug the cop.

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With the warden’s departure, the old man insisted he take Blonde and I for lunch. He was local but from England originally and keen to talk about the homeland. Indebted to him for getting us out of the rather large fine, but having already eaten and concerned about the time, we settled on coffee.

On the walk back to the car, Blonde grew a craving for frozen yoghurt. Spying a bathroom before the drive, I nipped in. Meanwhile Blonde offered the old gent a taste of her ice cream. Rather than accept the small plastic spoon she was holding, he decided to suck a drip of ice cream from the end of her finger. Blonde was too in shock to respond.


By the time we reached the car, the old man was in full swing trying to convince us to stay “the traffic will be bad, you should hang out for another hour. Or leave in the morning!”.

We said our goodbyes, thanking him once again for getting us out of the ticket. With a kiss on each cheek, he handed over his address and email with requests we stay in touch. Believing we were done with the goodbyes, I moved around to the side of the car, only to watch in amusement as he went in for one last hug with Blonde.

Only this time, he wasn’t aiming for her cheeks when planting the kiss, she dodged it at the last second and got in the care flustered. “Yeah, getting him to suck your finger was definitely sending the wrong impression” I teased as soon as the door was shut. “Oh shut up! That was so strange, let’s get out of here!” she responded, a little shell-shocked.