Back to Brighton. Back to weekend hordes and swathes of shiny windows selling colourful flower design handpainted nothing. Back to pints of empathy in womblike interiors, drugs dealers texting out their daily menu across the blinking city lights. Noone’s got the money for the electricity bill (wait til it turns red) but everyone’s got enough for a cheeky gram of charlie. The lights blink white, red, red, off, white, red.
I’m leaving Centenera. The reason is a vomiting bug that laid me up for several days whilst my adopted family discussed their future plans. If it wasn’t for that I surely would have gone with them, caught up in the exhilaration of thinking WHAT DO I WANT FROM LIFE? WHAT DO I ACTUALLY NEED? But as I groaned and churned and churned over my life and hopes and guilty undercurrents of things left undone and unfulfilled expectations things just crystallised differently. I’m leaving.
I’ve spent two years here and couldn’t hope to summarise. I won’t say that I’m a different person because what is a person other than a sequence of disjointed impressions and subconscious responses constructed into an artificial narrative long after the fact? And if I’ve been a little more disjointed than most, well, then this narrative can be a self-referencing crisis of confidence in its own fictions, a story of what happens when you lose that capacity for language that has given us memory and a sense of self. I lost the ability to demand what I wanted in the name of the great I AM. And that’s why I’m leaving.
I’m going to satisfy the parts of my ego that could never be comfortable just being, unless I was DOING SOMETHING WITH MY LIFE. Not for status, or perhaps a little, or for money either, but to be able to say at the end of the day, I MADE THIS. (Or perhaps more realistically – running blind through the woods from the creeping back sensation of fear at the thought that today – one whole day of my short life – what I made was nothing). I’m going to, I hope, apply to do a doctorate researching something that I feel deserves saying, that isn’t being said and that excites in me that feeling of beauty and RIGHTNESS that when I came back to Brighton to visit and picked up the right book sent sparks flying down old tracks and lobes lit up to say, hey, could it be that NOW is the right time? If I never did this, I would regret it. (who am I to say what I might feel in the future, or that I even have one?) Perhaps I owe it to my past self (and how can one owe something to someone who never really existed, a construction of my self-serving memory). But for sure, it isn’t for the money.
I understand that I ought to think about my future and I do. They say that you have to look after number 1 because noone else will. WHAT A SHAME, as in we should be ASHAMED, that we won’t. (I mean we- the royal we – the modern western capitalist sociopath we – how I hate to hear myself spouting angsty adjectives to fluff up my sense of unease but there is a distinction to be drawn). But perhaps that depends. In Spain it’s normal for families to look after their own and perhaps that’s why they aren’t so cripplingly afraid. But now, right now, nobody has anything, and nobody can do the looking. People are living thanks to church handouts because they have nothing to eat. Two more years of this and people are expecting revolution. In Madrid the people are demonstrating, the police are demonstrating, the judges and prosecutors are demonstrating, day in day out, and the events get barely a whisper of reporting. My life’s experience leads me to expect a big ineffective nothing, but what a short and unusually privileged life that has been.
Living here I felt for the first time the sickness drop away, the seasickness from constant buffeting from people people people and adverts and new cars and the constant screaming visual and aural noise noise buzzing anxiety health scare terrorist is your home clean enough are your teeth white enough is your tongue pink enough? Noone gave a shit about the colour of their tongue before those leeching insidious adverts and I hope to God that most people have managed to forget again. I found it impossible to live in a way that I felt right about even coming back to England for a short period, all resolutions and good intentions notwithstanding I am as likely as anyone to sink down into panic and convenience and nip into the nearest cheap crap shop for a seven-quid stitched in China backpack. Miguel Brevies draws a cartoon showing a father and young children looking out over a third-world landscape. Look, he says, that pile of mangled corpses died so we could install the new TV nanoprojector in the family cat! We pass on our high morals to our children, the caption says. Turns out that my high morals are not very durable.
Thinking honestly about what I do want and need, language becomes the sticking point. I could not imagine, logistically and legally, constructing a life in this way in my own country. But speaking my own language perhaps I might be better able to reconcile my past and future without fear of what I was leaving behind, to find new paths to continue the unfinished, to let my will play its part in the glorious ebb and flow of easy communication. Spanish somehow makes me 15 again, responding and blurting from panic rather than choice, always hearing my wordspits and thinking where the hell did that come from?? My social skills came late and hard-won and as such I respect easy communication for the miracle that it is. Just as Centenera taught me to respect the flow of the water.
Maybe I lost out by not appreciating the chance to be somebody new. Could be a wasted opportunity or a lesson lost in looking back. Either way, that struggle has shaped my life and my decision perhaps more than I’ve allowed for.
So goodbye to Centenera. The long mananas, the heat and the quiet and the dirt. The good will that I never really understood. The lessons so very many and various answering questions that I still haven’t unravelled the asking of, hair roots creeping and swelling and cracking apart assumptions so that I feel new and unsteady even back in late-night streetlight sadness. So now it’s brb England, consider this a new experiment, and perhaps I will be back.