Living on a cliff has its ups and downs. Mostly ups, I mean, being a cliff and all. You can clearly see who may need hot oil dumped on them as they brave the incline. Wait, nope, not that one. We’re a peace centre.
You can see the ocean from all the windows! That one’s great for calming down brain waves—a trick you may need when a tribalistic gathering of people not yet taller than a meter are nodding their heads, wagging their tongues, and chanting about a guy named Joe who works in a button factory. Yep, the view comes in handy.
As far as downs go, well, that will be the jumping point for this blog. Because humans perceive loss far more intensely than gain. Gotta love psychology.
Living on a cliff has illuminated where I feel significant absences compared to my life back home. For example, I now know just how much I adore avocados and beans. To retrieve the former, one must wrap their head around the thousands of miles that the avos journeyed after coming of age. Then, you must walk about an hour and a half, spend no insignificant sum, and unwrap the plastic, which takes juuuust long enough for you to contemplate the environmental implications of your privileged taste buds. By the time you hack into the flesh with a spoon, you are acutely aware of how bad that avocado tastes. It’s not the avo’s fault. It’s homesick. Beans are a whole other story altogether. To find some that have been prepared with an ounce of love, not just shoved in a can with some water, there are buses and trains involved. Sidebar: there’s also a drought of sexual intrigue. You knew that’s where this was going. But I couldn’t place that at the front of list when other things like omega-3 rich foods were competitors!
So, last week, I decided to go on a quest. Target in sight: flirtation.
A snow storm had rolled in. A big one. We’re talkin’ an inch or two of snow. The night before my adventure, our town had effectively shut down. I walked around with heightened cortisol levels, approaching many a housemate and saying, “I need you to tell me that the buses will be running tomorrow.” Very few of them said, “The buses will be running tomorrow.” And if they did, I saw the doubt behind their eyes. I could not would not admit defeat. I included a strappy tank top in my layers of clothing and went to sleep.
The hiking begins. I need to be in town to catch a bus at 7:20am. I’ve overslept because of a severe morning allergy. The ear buds are bumpin’ with Demi, and I’m waddling along at breakneck speeds on ice because salt is whispered about like a hot new student from a different district, but yet to reach these parts. I wish that I had traded my flashlight for a table salt shaker.
I’ve been sweating under the bus stop for five years. I wonder if I’ll regret draining my life savings to hire a taxi to somewhere, anywhere, with a train to Belfast. I approach a family in their car and tap on the window. The first of many times that I remember my facemask and say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that it’s purple and stripey. I need to instigate a self-defensive fight like I need—NOTHING—there is NOTHING that I need aside from a bus to leave this town so I can go be CHARMING. The dad tells me that buses are often cancelled because some dingdong designed the bus terminal on a steep grade. There is no possibility of failure. I will start running to Ballymoney if need be. I smile and feign gratitude. Then, I wish a pox on his poor puppy for not offering his empty car seat. I’m sorry to that pup. My hips wouldn’t have fit with their new potato padding anyway. I have ragrets.
This is the first time that I danced on this trip. It was spastic and joyful. I climbed on and off of the first 2 buses, which were not mine, when I forgot to check numbers in my ecstasy. The third was my steed. I climbed aboard and sat while the driver sped around winding corners, scooping up school kids who were cool as cucumbers. They never doubted the bus, unlike present company.
We can fast forward the next few hours. Just know that they were a montage of public transit workers telling me to turn back. “This is the worst weekend of the year to visit Scotland,” they said. “You will get stranded. Do you really need to go?”
Yes, Larry. Yes. I really need to go. An undergraduate boy told me that he liked my haircut yesterday and I forgot my middle name. I have booked a ferry. Step aside, Larry.
The ferry ride is magical. I often say that living at Corrymeela is like living on a cruise ship. I would like to amend that statement. Living at Corrymeela in winter is like living in ski school. You get dropped off, and escape is virtually impossible, but it mostly doesn’t matter because there are delicious chicken fingers and activities for dayz. Living on a cruise ship is another fate entirely. One that I considered during that ferry crossing as I ran with a gaping mouth through the arcade and lounges of varying color schemes. 5/5 would recommend taking a ferry.
At the port, I took a bus ride for about an hour to the nearest town with a train. People who enjoy travel know the subtitle for this comic square: “Oooooh who knows if I’ll ever get there, but who cares because this country is prettyyyyyy.”
Fast forward again to Glasgow ~5:30pm.
My train friends took my number and told me that I was brave. When I talked to people about my lack of preparation for this getaway, they consistently used the words “brave” and “crazy.” Thanks, guys. Needed that, honestly. I bust out of the train station in the city centre, inner soundtrack blaring, “Iiiiiiiiii’m comin up so you’d better get this PARTY STARTED.” I consider my possibilities:
· find a place to sleep
· eat food
· go to a museum and eat a really good muffin
Notice that I have written, “find a place to sleep” at the forefront of that list. That is because, for the next few days, I never ever prioritized it, and that was a tragic flaw. I set off on a snowy adventure. I’ll walk the whole city! I’ll make friends! I’ll do it all on an empty stomach!
The first inner leg excitement…
After 20 minutes of walking, my inner thighs are burning red hot. But I know this heat from Chicago. It’s a false alarm. It signals, “I am dressed like a puff pastry, skin hidden from the nonexistent sun. My stabilizer muscles are on overdrive because the city had a council meeting and voted unanimously nay for shoveling.”
I have an address plugged into my GPS. It seems like a really cool place to stay. I’m going to check it out in person because I’m too cool for phone calls.
In 90 feet, turn right.
Thank you, I will. And thank you for using feet.
In 20 feet turn left.
Aye aye cap’n, left we gooooo!
In 10 feet, turn left.
Alright, but that’s through a graveyard, and I hate graveyards, soooooooo….
Devastation. Isolation. Drama. These are the words that describe my inner life. The GPS brought me to a massive, hilly graveyard and told me to stay to the right. I followed footprints in the snow, confident in the compadres that came before. The snow was up to my knees, and I was wading through. Head as low as my spirits. And then, thud.
I whacked my head on a metal fence.
The owner of the Sasquatch footprints has led me to the fence he clearly hopped to flee from all of the angry ghosts whose graves he trampled. I, too, have trampled those graves. But my legs are shorter and tired. I begin to climb because what other choice do I have? I’m not a rational being with the humility to turn back. I’m a badass adventurer who will hop this shit no problem.
Now, I want you to picture this with clarity. I’m straddling the top of the fence. It has pokey ornamentation, and the diamonds look like the things that hover above Sims characters. My trembling forearms are the only thing keeping the Sims from ripping through my jeans, leggings, underwear, and entering me for all to see. I’m trying not to laugh. I’m yelling to passerbys, “OI! HEY! DO YOU SEE A GATE? CAN YOU HELP? I’M A LITTLE STUCK. I KNOW, HILARIOUS, RIGHT? YES, I’M AMERICAN.”
Penetration is an imminent threat. I look to the heavens and know that She is sitting back with her arms crossed, shaking her head with languid movements.
I get down. I retrace my steps. I ask for directions. I get lost right in front of them. They giggle. I hide behind the first door I can find and realize that I have stumbled into a scarcely populated bar. I pull the woman bartender aside and say, “I don’t want to make it obvious that I’m in trouble because the sun is setting and there’s hella dudes up in here. But if you were me, a dingbat who didn’t arrange a place to sleep for tonight, where would you go?”
Her response has landed her in every Hall of Fame. I don’t know how Halls of Fame work, but I would like all of you to induct her please. This woman handed me a room key, saying, “The guy who was supposed to be in room 1 got stuck from the storm. It’s already paid for. It’s ensuite. Checkout tomorrow is at 11am, and if you come back down, I’ll make you a burger.”
A moment of silence please for that woman.
The next 12 hours are a blur of warm baths, howling winds, and fluffy duvets.
I march to the Glasgow Film Fest and have a blast and a half in the daylight. The half blast was what got me. Shoulda figured out where I was gonna sleep before that half. It’s dark, and the city centre is tundra. I sit down at a restaurant to eat some pasta because even in a time of housing distress, an Italian restaurant with a full menu of gluten free options is not something that you walk by.
The girls next to me are drinking wine and making fun of someone’s small penis. I decide they’re exactly the right folks to introduce myself to. They immediately invite me over, but then, I receive a message through Couchsurfing from a lovely Argentinian couple. They have sent their address and told me to start thinking about what movie I want to watch. My people! I wave goodbye to the penis-bashers, and they bless me with wishes such as “I could never do that. You’re mad. Don’t get killed.”
I start following my GPS once again. Now, if you take nothing away from this cautionary tale, take this: Why do we trust our phones? Or at least, why isn’t there a way to input preferences such as: Shortest route that stays above ground and is well lit for the love of God.
At the first underpass, I look left. I consider making a run for The Wee Curry Shop and never emerging. But I say aloud, “Gail. How many people have called you a brave motherfucker?”
I come out on the other side victorious. Only to realize that it’s a whole string of underpasses. They’re clean, and there are murals and no other people. But this is when it hits me that I’m in a whole other country from the place where I’m known. The children I’ve raced. The parents who’ve patted my shoulders. They gone.
In 20 feet, turn left.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH I am in stitches. Folded over, laughing my cold, tired ass off. Where the flying fuck am I supposed to turn left? There is a multi-lane highway, and I will not play Frogger. Not today, Satan. I’m supposed to go to grad school! I have an art therapy event this weekend! I’ve clawed my way towards health for over a year of bullshit! The tears of laughter are freezing on my cheeks. And then, I see the bridge. The stairs are covered in snow, so I proceed with extra care so as to avoid another infamous Norwegian tumble.
Ximena and Javier were #relationshipgoals, and I assured them that United Statesians don’t constantly beat each other with fraternity paddles like in Dazed and Confused. But they did wonder, and we should all remember that. In the morning, blurry eyed and boxer briefed, they asked why I was sneaking out like it was some sort of booty call. “We do eggs here,” they said.
Here it is! More excitement between the legs!
I had an hour in Ayr, waiting for a bus to take me back to the port. First, I bowed down and said thanks to this actual place that exists—the namesake for my neti pot thingy. Squirt some salt water up your sinuses, youse guys. It’ll change your life. I walked all around, feeling very excited about the excessive use of the word “shire.” Because hobbits! Maybe I’d tell my D&D party about this magical land! Or maybe I’d keep it to myself because it’s my day off and every time I tell the community about what I’m doing on my day off, it feels like dementors have sucked out a tiny piece of my soul.
I had about 25 more minutes in Ayr. My feet tugged me towards the slowly spinning cylinder of blue and red spirals. The cowbell rang when I opened the door and every head turned. I removed my hat. “Can I get a trim?” Every man in the barber shop was yelling “no” with his eyeballs. “Um, sure,” said the scrawny worker. I proudly strode across the small storefront in a few steps, plopping down in the chair. I glanced to the right of my reflection just in time to see the wax-covered Q tips yanked from my chair neighbor’s nostrils. Jesus, thank you for my vagina. Thank you for the French women I lived with many years ago and their thoughts about hairs. Most of all, thank you that I’m not that old bloke on a windy day with chilly temperatures. His snot splash zone will absolutely quadruple in circumference. I shook off the fallen hair soldiers on my neck and made a run for the bus.
So, later, in Belfast, when I actually did hit on people, I felt sexy like the empowered, fluid version of myself. Turns out, I’ve been watching those waves out the windows very closely and mimetically modeling their behavior. Sprint until you face plant into a coast. Stay fluid, wet, and unpredictable, Gaily. And maybe, just maybe, put some thought into where you’ll spend the night when you’re traveling.