I visited the nearby pub tonight, determined to make a go at a proper Friday night out. It’s less then an “avenue block” away in Manhattan terms but perhaps the zaniest trip I have taken on foot in a long time. Once the sun has set, the only light sources are the headlights of passing cars and the roving beam some farmer has set on the sky. There is no sidewalk, the road takes several sharp twists, and in many spots, the only place for a pedestrian to avoid traffic is in grass and nettles that reach one’s calf.
After one false start wearing total black, I donned a bright yellow dress and set off, making a mental shopping list as I walked: flashlight, large dog, hiking boots.
The pub itself has the warm wood beams and fireplaces one expects, plus a large attached restaurant and outdoor seating. Dork that I am, I sat at the bar reading a Joanna Trollope, peering over my book to gather clues about the local songs, mating rituals and plumage patterns. But there wasn’t much to observe. Perhaps because of the regatta taking over neighboring Dartmouth this weekend, or perhaps because the pub is surrounded by wheat fields and cow pastures, I saw a total of eight people in the bar during my hour and a half visit.
An hour and a half during which I nursed a mere half pint, wanting my wits about me for the trek home.
I watched “EastEnders” over dinner prior to going to the pub, and before that, spent most of the afternoon writing in various spots around the house- the overgrown garden, a windowsill in the living room, on my bed. The past ten days have been characterized by long stretches of total isolation, punctuated by brief conversations with the host-mom and very long Skype conversations with my mom.
I have a bad habit of summing up a situation in the first ten days, and my summation of this particular situation is that I will be “alone,” as in having few if any nearby friends or lovers, fighting off the rural silence with constant use of my iPod, entertaining myself by chasing pheasants with the dog, the entire time I’m here.
But all day I’ve toyed with the notion that bad may be good. I admit that during this summer’s tumult I reassured myself with the fantasy that eventually I would land in a country I appreciated, with a fair and likable host family, instant friends, and easy access to loved ones. Imagine my surprise to be in a situation where only two of those elements are in place, and yet I want to stay. It’s like the fairy godmother waving her magic wand and turning your carriage into a pumpkin. It doesn’t make sense. Unless, of course, you need pumpkin pie more than a ride to the prince’s ball, but didn’t want to admit it.
I wouldn’t write if I wasn’t isolated, and writing is largely what I came here to do.
Tonight I’m toying with the notion that fairy godmothers sometimes wave their magic wands and turn your carriages into pumpkins, so that you have to walk, alone, down a windy road in the middle of nowhere in total darkness, hoping someone isn’t drunk or disorderly driving down the wrong side of the road, very quickly, ready to run you over. And for whatever reason, whatever your past circumstances, you’re going to be that girl wearing the bright yellow dress, practically begging to be hit. You’re going to ask your fairy godmother what the hell she’s thinking, and she’s going to say, this is what you wished for. Listen, walk a little faster, and be grateful for the occasional headlight that shows you the road’s next turn.
You will get home.