Waking Sleep

I’ve started sleeping where and when I can.
I sleep with my keys between my knuckles, jaw clenched. My dentist says I’m grinding my teeth. He gave me a retainer. Putting in a retainer on public transport and passing out like a narcoleptic is not a wise move at the best of times. It’s not going to end well where I live. Gurning, on the other hand, implies instability. It wards off potential perverts, thieves and weirdos. But it concerns my dentist.
You can’t keep everyone happy.
I’ve started sleeping on TfL. Unreliable, but I’m an insomniac so I’m used to unreliable. I plan my journeys as I lie awake in bed. Acton to Clapham. Willesden to Camden. Ealing to Mile End. Leave an hour earlier. Find a seat in the middle so I don’t feel bad when I open my eyes to a pregnant lady being ignored by the entire carriage. Clutch my bag, take my keys out, and breathe deeply. Metal groans and gasps lure me to sleep. I can the feel eyes every time the doors kiss their teeth at me. I rest my head on a stranger. They recoil and I jerk awake to see a Greek chorus of sombre faces floating in front of me like defective holograms, flickering in and out of the light.
I’m staring with my mouth open.
I let the creaks and whines pull me back to sleep as we go underground.

Light hits my face and I immediately wake, check my phone. I’ve got 20 minutes to kill. There’s a park near the next stop. Sleeping in public places provokes the unnecessary concern of mums, fearful pensioners and the unwanted attention of the police. I think I was once moved along by an officer on horseback. But it may have been a dream. I can still hear the hoof beats trailing me as I walked away.

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Shit. I zoned out and missed my stop.

I check my watch: five minutes. I get off at the next stop and cross the platform to get the next train back. ‘Parallel Jalebi’ plays in my head as brightly coloured saris, excited children and annoyed commuters move along in synch with the music. An impromptu MTV moment brought to me by chance. I move through the crowd like water, slowly, clumsily, eager to get out.

I’m late. They haven’t arrived yet. I watch couples wander off hand in hand down Roman Road. Tourists stand in front of me like I was a lamppost and work out how to walk to Shorditch. Uni students marvel at the man in Hammer pants and a gold flat cap pushing a scooter past the pub where they are drinking. A hand rests on my shoulder.

I talk too much. It has been a while since I had a face-to-face conversation with someone. A real conversation, not an argument, or a sales call. I remind myself to shut up. Silence often scares me. I enjoy moments of quiet, but then I feel afloat in space and I worry I’ll disconnect from reality completely. Tom blames social media.

I blame social awkwardness.

Easier to work out what Disney character I am than contemplate the fact that I’ve been alone for over 5 days, and haven’t spoken to a person IRL for weeks. A huge chunk of my life is virtual.

I’m seeing friends, something that’s become harder and harder to want to do. Being around people. Seeing people, physically seeing people, messes with the illusion I’m asleep. I can trick myself into thinking it’s all a dream. Just bursts of noise, or colour, weaving in and out of silence that I can watch like a painting or ‘Gogglebox.’ But right now I’m confused. I don’t know if it’s real or not real. I zone out, smile, look vacant. I drift in and out of conversations that I’m certain I’ve already had with people who felt the same but dressed differently. Indifferent. I’m bored. It feels like I’m trapped inside my body and someone is punching me repeatedly. I excuse myself to hyperventilate in the bathroom. I fall asleep.
I sleep soundly on the tube. I think in part it’s because I’m surrounded by people. I’ve never liked sleeping alone.
The banging wakes me up. I exit the bathroom ignoring the pissed, pissed off overweight woman dying for a slash. Everyone’s left. The tightness in my chest disappears.

Adrenaline stops me from sleeping on the journey home. I feel awake. Everyone on the tube has a greenish hue. The lighting on the tube does that. I catch the person in front of me staring and I stare back. Embarrassed, he plays with his phone. He glances to see if I’ve stopped looking. I’m still staring. He gets off at the next stop.

I like watching people. Looking at their faces as they read the paper, hold their children, hold hands, doze off drunkenly. The sun is setting. As we leave the tunnel, faces go from green to gold. Eyes squint. The train feels silent as I get off at my stop.

When I get home I lie on the wooden floor in the living room and stare at the strange shapes on the ceiling. The wallpaper is peeling. I drift off to a conversation I’d had with a man I’d loved, in a place I’d seen in a painting once. The intimacy makes me sob myself awake.

It’s 4.06.

I plan my journey into work.

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Know your role

Everyone is good at something…right?

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

The Great Escape

Distance can really help to gain some perspective on life.

In the last month I have been making a more concerted effort to find a job. A friend of mine pointed out to me that if I actually made an effort and a plan, rather than planning to escape as I always did, maybe I would get where I wanted to.

Fair point.

I am not the most patient person when it comes to my goals. If I haven’t made it work in a month it starts feeling like failure. The panic sets in and I start looking at the international teacher posts on TES, or escort work.

I get desperate.

In comparison, I am far more functional in a foreign country alone, with limited funding and only the clothes in my back pack. After 10 years of travel and living abroad I have grown to have more faith in that version of myself.

The woman stuck in her parent’s house isn’t to be trusted and is a proven flight risk.

After the last four months I needed to get away. Recharge. Try again. I needed Brazil.

My days would start with the view of Mount Corcovado and coffee. I visited The Selaron Stairs, Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and relaxed on Ipanema and Copacabana. In the evenings I would have conversations with friends, grab a drink, have a laugh and make the best of my time in town.

I was pretty proud of how well I had managed on my own, a feeling that I’d forgotten after months of rejection emails and depressing bank statements.

In my short time in Rio I visited Paraty and Ilha Grande. My Portañol (Spanish/Portuguese mash up)  was getting me through the day and I was able to have conversations where I would normally be taught how to pronounce things, (that r is a killer) or how to swear.

Add to this the fact everyone in Rio seems to be a walking gym advert, and that they advocate for teeny bikinis and no tan lines, then you’ve got a city I can get on board with.

After talking to a few people, I found out that it might be possible to get a teaching job for the new year. So why not move there?

I’ve never had more reason to leave London. Everyone would understand if I gave up. If I went back to Mexico. If I went back to teaching. But things had changed and an escape plan, though great for the short term, would not get me where I needed to be.

On the way to the airport Nelson, my taxi driver, explained the meaning of the word saudade, a word unique to portuguese. He said it was the feeling of missing something you hadn’t felt or experienced in a long time. Like sadness and nostalgia, a longing for something that you didn’t have anymore. Though bittersweet it didn’t always have to be sad.

He then serenaded me with Girl from Ipanema before telling me all the beautiful girls lived in Rio, and I should come back.

I promised that I would when I had a job.