November 01, 2015

Summer, in a nutshell

« Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell
and call myself a king of infinite space
were it not that I have bad dreams »

I've been home for a week and I am not sleeping.
I lie awake at night, not in my bed, but next to it, under the skylight, watching the stars. They look so much dimmer here.
In the morning, I lie still with my eyes open. I fear that if I get up too fast, the momentum will carry me out of the house and on the road, with a bag on my shoulders. Old habits die hard.

They call it being home but it doesn't feel like it at all. It's like I have forgotten how to be here. It's all too clean, too easy and complicated at the same time. Everytime I close my eyes I'm elsewhere – I see the moonlit waves in the sea of Java, I see the warm rain falling through the jungle, I see the stones of an ancient temple wrapped in morning mist. I see Cambodia, Indonesia, India, and it hurts to know that they are real places somewhere, not dreams – but dreaming is the only way I can reach them now. And so I keep silent and I don't sleep.

But life goes on and I have places to go. First to London, where I live at my brother's for some time. Here the familiar is finally bearable. Every morning I wait for my nephew to wake up, we have breakfast together, watching summer rain fall on the garden. We ride red buses and his head rests against my chest while I tell him stories from my travels. His curiosity is boundless and he always has a lot of questions.When I'm alone I just wander around, taking random trains through the city or sitting in parks writing in my journal. There are less things to write about now but small miracles still happen.

Here I also meet a friend I haven't seen for a long time. I remember him from a different life, in a different country that was neither mine nor his. We meet in Greenwich under an incredible sunshine. I take three different trains to get there and I look at the city made of glass towers, a shocking contrast when I think back on the last place I went to, up in the Himalaya. When I see him at the train station everything seems to shift, as if my previous life was resurfacing. It's a strong feeling, but it's not a violent one. Seeing him walk towards me I feel calm, and my smile is real. « It's so good to see you », I say as he hugs me, and these words are just the ones written in my mind. We spend the whole afternoon together, walking in the park and talking up a storm. I try to observe him without him noticing but everytime my eyes linger for too long he turns and catches me. I wonder if he thinks the things I'm thinking. Finally the day ends and we walk back to the Thames. There is a boat sunk into the stone of the dock. The light is red and turns his blond hair to flames. For the first time since I came back I feel I'm in the right place. As I am heading home, I know I'm going to see him again soon.

Two weeks later, as I am about to leave the city, we meet again in a different park. Walking next to him, his hand in mine is a new feeling, but it doesn't feel strange at all. And when I kiss him goodbye at the train station, I feel serene I know this. I know how to say goodbye in a way that will make people come back to me. He tells me that he'll come to France and I smile without knowing if I believe him, or even if that matters at all. The moment is all that counts, and it's beautiful.

On my last night in London, my brother and I sit in the garden, talking with desperation for all the things we forgot to say. Leaving this place is bittersweet. I look at the sky who is far from being black, powdery clouds tinted orange from the streetlamps, and it is quiet inside my head. I think that I have a home here, but not one with walls and a roof and a room of my own. Home is my brother's voice, my nephew snuggling against me, the wind in the trees in Greenwich Park. Home is a pair of frosted blue eyes quietly watching me. I think : maybe there is a timing to your return. It might not be a good timing, but you should trust it anyway. And for the first time it seems like I have done the right thing.

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