22 September 2017

It's the end of the world


Yesterday, as the rain was stopping, Naomi and I set out for an open night at the secondary school she will likely attend — an all girls school just about a mile walk from the house on Victoria Road. We walked up there and back, holding hands and chatting about the school and life in the UK and the trip to Japan Yoko and the girls will take sometime next year. The school was everything I wanted for her, from my impression — small and serious, but not too serious and the student that took us around had an intelligent conversation with Naomi and me about the things that they did. I worried a bit outloud about it being single sex, and the student told me not to worry, that girls took on the role of boys in the school sometimes. It's hard to explain, she said, but I knew what she meant. Later, I brought it up to Naomi during a small rejoinder about gender fluidity, after she shrugged her shoulders when I returned to the point.

On the way home, Naomi and I also talked of alcohol and drugs because the year sixes has seen a video wherein some boys have a drink with their mates. Naomi used that word mates to describe the friends and that stuck with me for some reason, standing out like an odd marker of Britishness in an otherwise unmarked conversation. Naomi was adamant about never taking drugs or wanting to drink and we chatted about our experiences, her's with me drinking, and mine with my teetotal parents. We talked about her friends and the schools they wanted to attend and the entrance exams. We rounded the corner at War Lane and came back to home, Naomi disappearing into the house and me lingering on some work that I needed to do on my computer in the front room.

The contracts for the house on Victoria Road are finally signed today. Once the landlady has signed them, no one can pull out, which seems to be the underlying concern in house buying — it will be ours from the second of October. Like the completion of the PhD or my weight loss this summer, the ending of this process has felt like less of an accomplishment than I thought it would. I'm thirty five, and this is the first home I've owned. I shouldn't be worried about settling down, and the implications of another three to five years in this place, but I am. What other future could have been imagined, I think as I ride my bike down and then up and then down and up again to Newman University on the edge of Birmingham, this place that I love, but only really fell into by accident. Chris came through on Wednesday night, sleeping on our sofa on the way to Herefordshire like it was 2015 again, and I suddenly wanted to be back in the Swedish woods, heaving with spirits. Some image of me, the atheist, standing after a long run, my shirt off and sweating in the early morning air, mouthing take me with you to the trees, like my life might suddenly become a Haruki Murakami novel.

The whole of my experience in this country can be described in the anecdote of ordering toast instead of full English breakfast at a men's breakfast. I describe myself as an immigrant and people stare at my blankly — I guess that you technically are, but it's different. There are immigrants, and then there are immigrants. Of course you would buy a house. I feel my British consciousness magically appears at these moments to say, You must remember that the organising principle in this country is class. Your class dictates the future you have, not your immigration status. My life is full of these little interactions that are best explained in the awkwardness they produce — it's funny the things one can learn by being stared at blankly. Oh, you were being disingenuous. Right, yes, sorry. Who knows if you should apologise or just shut up.  There is nothing less British than a genuine apology.

I feel fine. I feel out of place and awkward. I feel baited. I feel complacent. I lack energy. I feel the opposite of angry most of the time now, but I don't know how to describe it. I feel like I have more to do than others. I feel tired. I feel worried about the end of the world, and then silly for worrying about the end of the world. I feel happy to be under seventy six kilograms and then immediately worried that next week, or next month, or next year, I will not be. I'm frustrated with Britishness and my lack of it. I've let my coffee get cold, haven't I. The sun is coming up — I best go for my run.
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