It is dusk, the horizon is yellow, I am underneath my favourite patch of sky. This place that I used to hate turns out to be the only place where things make sense. It is so much quieter here than at school, where it feels like there are constantly multitudes of people asking for my attention. When the sun is out and I can lie down so so quietly on the back lawn, there is nothing better. Here, I can relax.
At 5:30 on Saturday morning, the fire alarm went off. I remembered my coat and keys but not my shoes. As everybody emerged from their rooms and filed outside, I stood barefoot, hacking and shivering, on broken glass and cigarette butts. Some people had not gone to bed yet and held cans of drink. Someone had been smoking weed in their rooms, and some imbecile third-year who didn’t even live with us started going off about shit that drunk people think makes sense. I had a strong urge to slap him. I think this was the last straw.
The sun was coming up, and I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep. I’ve made a habit of insomnia ever since Tuesday last week, when I spent the interval between sunset and the sounds of the first morning trains in a panic. I booked a very early train home. I felt shit: I’d had three and a half hours, total, of sleep, I was sniffing constantly and unable to breathe properly, and the thought of my own bed was the only thing that made sense. It was a hard journey. On the underground escalators, I had to keep my gaze trained on the silver ridges under my feet lest I be overtaken by panic. Later, I shoved a lady out of the way with my shoulder simply because she was too busy fondling her beau’s bum to move at the pace I needed her to, and, I think, because I wanted somebody to take my anger out on.
The train was mostly empty. I huddled in the corner of my seat with my sunglasses on and closed my eyes. The only other human I could see was a frail-looking woman to my left, with dainty wrists and little glasses—someone’s grandmother. I felt safe falling asleep in her presence. She would look out for me.
It had been a shit week and I was desperate for some good sleep. I was sick of the sight of snotted tissues by my bed. I couldn’t stand that it was never completely silent in my room in London. I could no longer stand the idea of having to forgive people for doing shit things over and over again. I had to process so much shit and I didn’t have the space. People. Everywhere. Always.
But the thing is, these people also have kept me sane. Distracting me from shit, telling me what I want to hear (“He is an absolute wanker”), tiring me when I want to be nicely tired, sharing food, bedrooms, and spliffs. My whole worldview has transformed since the start of university. Groups of friends are a thing now.
I like that, but it is a lot to process. Along with every other stress—essay deadlines and insomnia-filled nights and what to eat and money lasting till the end of term and where to live next year and managing my general anxiety—I now have friendships to maintain, the stress of trying to give people as much of myself as I can. Right now I’m the one who needs as much of myself as I can give. ♦