Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reading and Great Expectations

This is a continuation of my posts about my trip to England last May. Left it rather late, I know, but better late than never eh?

The bus ride from Heathrow to Reading Station is just long enough to catch my breath. I feel as though I’ve spent a lifetime walking through terminals and it’s wonderful to see something other than the inside of an airport. Fields of yellow flowers whiz by and I’m immediately enchanted, even after Nathan mentions they’re called “rape”.

We’ve kept up a steady stream of conversation, only briefly touching on our mutual favorite subject of porn websites and, quite before I realize it’s coming, we’re off a roundabout and speeding through town. I’m slightly terrified at how fast everyone goes through these narrow streets. Buildings stand tall on either side, cheek by jowl, and it feels as though we’ll go careening into them at any minute.

But of course we arrive safely and begin dragging my luggage away. Nathan is quite the gentleman and takes my giant suitcase, leaving me with purse and duffle bag, freeing me up to stare in openmouthed fascination at the new surroundings. My Sperrys are pinching my feet and the day is quite grey, but I could care less. I’m in complete awe, head swiveling back and forth, trying to take in everything at once. Striding amongst these beautiful buildings, hearing the traffic noises, watching these people go about their business…its sensory overload.

It isn’t a long walk and soon we’re struggling up the stairs to the flat. I’m given the tour, shown the spare room and bathroom, and sit across from Nathan, content to chat for awhile. The front room is very tall with giant windows overlooking the street.  It’s cozy and unassuming, modern and definitely a reflection of its inhabitants. Overflowing music shelves are in the corner and a lovely contemporary looking light fixture hangs nearby. All around I’m catching glimpses of their life that, up until this point, I’d only read about. Like their little wooden replicas on the mantel and the new couch.  It feels like I’ve stepped into a parallel universe – from the pages of Mr. London Street to actual London Street.
We’ve left today open, not knowing what I would be up for after hours and hours of travel. To my surprise, a nap is the furthest thing from my mind. I’ve got loads of energy and I head off for a quick shower, ready to go out and explore.

I gather some clothes and my shower bag, make my way to the guest bathroom, and stand staring at the tub. My quick peek during the earlier tour obviously hadn’t registered, because now that I’m giving it my full attention, I’m a little confused. There isn’t a shower, exactly, but a detachable head and hose sitting on a stand atop the cold and hot taps. There isn’t a curtain to stop the spray from getting all over the room and I’m wondering if this is what European showers are like. Do they all sit in tubs and hold the hose over their heads? Do they stand so that, when they spray themselves, the water goes toward the wall behind the tub and not toward the door?
I could go out and ask Nathan, but I’d really rather not. It’s much too early in my trip to be this confused, and about something like a shower. Instead I decide to leave my hair dry and my makeup intact, which would take me the better part of two hours to redo anyway, and just wash my body. I strip down, turn on the taps and spend the next few minutes twisting around the tub like an eel – sometimes kneeling, sometimes sitting, and once attempting to stand...which doesn’t work at all. I do manage to get clean, but I’m doubtful about how well this is going to work out for an entire week.

We’ve got all afternoon to pass, waiting on Kelly to get off work, and we don’t waste a minute. We wander through town, without the burden of luggage, and I get a proper look. There wasn’t much about Reading on a tourism front when I did research for this trip and I can’t help thinking how wrong that is. There’s an interesting mix of historic and modern, with a few odd fixtures, like the Oscar Wilde “shaped” gate, thrown in. A brief pop in a church, a peek through the closed gates of the Abbey Ruins and a glance around Forbury Gardens with the giant lion statue in the center, have me wishing I’d brought my camera along. I realize that I’ve been throwing in the occasional skip and attribute 75% of this unusual movement to excitement, 25% to keeping up with Nathan’s long legged gait.
We eat lunch at a tiny table under an awning at Pret a Manger, watching the steady stream of foot traffic. Nathan is a lovely tour guide, though he has a tendency to keep apologizing for his town that I don’t quite understand, knowing how much he loves it. I’m a bit in love with the place myself – the architecture and the river views, the quiet pockets of park and bench, the long cobbled streets, the statues and gargoyles. My little corner of the world is so far removed from anything like this that even the everyday shops and cafes are exciting.

We end the afternoon in a pub called The Alehouse (or Hobgoblin, as it was once known). It’s my first pub experience, my first taste of cider and Perry, and I’m immediately hooked. We take our drinks to a cubby round back and settle in. Scarred wooden walls rise up on either side, leaving a small opening to get in and out. The tiny table and benches are charmingly battered, the walls covered with residue from old beer mats used as decorations – it’s the perfect place to have a drink and unwind, the perfect place to meet Nathan’s famous other half.
I’m relaxed and slightly buzzed when Kelly appears, but no less eager to meet her. She is everything I expected and then some – energetic and warm, beautiful and funny. We’ve become friends on our own terms already and it’s a different dynamic than Nathan and me. Our friendship is, I think, very much “a girl thing”.

When I’ve had enough drinks to be brave, I tell them about my embarrassing shower experience.  Kelly looks at Nathan in reproach, asking if he didn’t explain that I was meant to use the ensuite. I laugh at their exchange, I can’t help it. They are everything I expected and nothing at all. I feel a little like a scientist, connecting and comparing letters and words to faces. Kelly has the poker face of the two, a trait I expected to belong to Nathan. He has a countless number of facial expressions, one for every situation I suspect, and he is much less intimidating in person. I’ve no idea what they see when they look at me, but I don’t waste time dwelling on it. I’m in a bubble made of perry and excitement, sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for what’s next.
My experiment, so far, is going well and as I follow them out into the evening, on our way to dinner, I know it’s only going to get better. But there’s still a sense of unreality to it all. I feel like Dorothy, only I’m clicking my heels together, asking to stay a little longer, to see a little more. Ten days is simply not enough and I wonder if, when I go home, anything ever will be again.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Crappy updates are better than nothing?

I received a comment recently that contained some rather shocking information - "it's been 8 months since you posted". Son of a bitch...really?

I haven't forgotten about this blog or any of you, I swear. I want to write again, the way that I used to, but I'll be honest: I don't know when that will be. Maybe if I bring you up to speed, you'll at least understand why I've stayed away so long and why my involvement here will be limited for the foreseeable future.

Let's see...when last you heard from me I was relaying the story of my England trip. I, regrettably, never finished telling that story but it's on my To Do list. Suffice it to say, it was wonderful and so were all the people I met. It was a blogger's meeting on steroids: Philip, Sharon, Kelly, Nathan, and some guy at a pub in Kent that was happy to randomly be introduced to "The Sex Blogger". I had no idea I was known as such, even by one person, but hey...the important thing is that he seemed pleased.

After I returned from England, I spent the summer preparing for college - getting all the stupid paperwork together and drinking a shit ton of booze because, obviously, there would be no time for that come August. At the end of July I started a new job in a completely new field that I had, technically, no experience in...but they offered me nearly double what I was already making so I said, "Fuck yes" and turned in my stilettos for steel toed boots. I don't actually do physical labor, but I work in a building out in the middle of hundreds of men that do physical labor. Which, by the way, is a blessing and a curse. It's like one of those wading pits of plastic balls - men are everywhere, smothering you, smelling weird and alternately making you want to dive in or go wash you body with Clorox.

In October I MOVED OUT OF MY MOTHER'S HOUSE. Some of my long term readers will know that this is a huge deal for me. After 8 years of absolutely no privacy and constant bitching, I'm enjoying my peace and quiet more than previously imagined. I've had a great few months of decorating and arranging, sitting on my new couch and watching what I want, throwing dinner parties and walking around in my underwear. But the best part is: I can masturbate without any interruptions. Actually, I may have overdone it the first month. I now probably own more sex toys than is strictly legal, but in my defense, if you were dying of thirst in the desert and suddenly got rescued, wouldn't you drink water until it was squirting out of every orifice? Yes, it was like that.

The same month I started seeing someone and...(cue drum roll) I'm still seeing him. He's someone that I used to date on and off a long time ago and, now, I'm all mature and shit so I can handle the serious relationship that he's always wanted and I've always been deathly afraid of. He's sitting on the other end of the couch now, watching the Super Bowl and occasionally looking at me like, "What are you doing? Why aren't we banging right now?" He likes me a lot, not just my vagina, and I like him too. It could be a serious thing, we'll see. And...he DID manage to change my mind about oral sex. I've decided that I do like it and Michael Bolton can go straight to hell.

Right now I'm in my second semester at a technical college, working on enough credits to transfer to one of the larger institutions here that offers an MFA program in creative writing. I completely abandoned my original plan of going to school to get a degree that was going to make me some money and do what I really wanted. It's terrifying and I hope I don't regret it. Last semester I only took two classes, but I quickly realized that I would be there forever if I kept going at that rate. So...I'm currently working 10-12 hours a day, then going to class Monday through Thursday from 6-9 for a total of four classes. One of those classes is Public Speaking and it sucks a giant donkey dick. As a matter of fact, my boyfriend (how fucking weird is that??) thinks I'm writing my first speech right now. I should be, but I miss this. Well...not THIS exactly. This isn't a "post", this is an update. But still, you know what I mean.

You're all a bunch of fuckers because you don't have to stay awake for 17 hours a day, stand up and speak in front of 18 year old recent high school graduates that hate everything, and fight with your mother over why she can't have a key to your house. But I love you anyway. And I miss you. And one day...one day I'll come back and write something amazing and you'll say, "Ah, THERE she is."

I do answer emails, so, if you want to keep in touch on a more regular basis...send me one. I'll reply and it might be more interesting than what you've just read. Now, you'll have to excuse me...the Super Bowl is apparently no longer that interesting and it's my turn to Hail Mary.