The Longest Summer

After 5 months in New Zealand and 3 weeks in Australia I was back at home, and after a week the depression kicked in. A lot of things became clear to me. Travel does that to you, changes you without you realising, so that when you come home you feel unsettled and unsatisfied and you dont know why. What became clear was that I was 25 and for the first time in a long time I was single and had no clue about what I wanted to do with my life. I realised I had made a huge mistake coming home so soon and all I could think about was getting back to Australia as soon as possible. But I had no money and no job. Even if I could find a job there was no way I’d be able to save as much money as last summer, by the beach in Brittany, working 10 hour days serving endles drinks and ice creams to sunburnt tourists and keeping the locals happy with a steady stream of espresso. Where had all that money even gone? Apart from on flights to New Zealand and having to replace all my stolen stuff in the first week and then on repairing the car, and then buying another car after the first one decided to pretty much explode on the drive to work one day… ah yes, that could be it. Instead of sticking around longer in Queenstown and working during the winter season I had spent what was left on my money on a flight to Brisbane to bum around the east coast of Australia for 3 weeks.

Now I was broke and depressed, and the dreary prospect of my first summer in England since uni filled me with cold dread. I had to make money, and fast. I signed on to Jobseekers. I applied for a teaching position in a summer school for international kids and got accepted for a 2 month programme but this didn’t start til mid June. I worked minimum wage shifts at a village pub during the day and long nights at a bar in the evenings. I put pretty much everything I owned on Ebay. I actually contemplated going back to work at Butlins but the mere thought made me start hyperventilating and I told myself I wasn’t that desperate. Not yet anyway. My (married) best friend didn’t understand why I wanted to leave again. Why not settle down? Get a steady job. Get married. Get a dog. Grow up? My Mum didn’t understand either. ‘You have to decide what you’re doing with your life at some point’, she said, ‘you can’t just keep travelling around forever.’

I could see their point, but I wasn’t ready. There was a time when I thought I was. After all, the original plan had been to do a couple of ski seasons, travel about a bit, get ‘it’ out of my system and then come back to Brittany and my French boyfriend where I would get a job as an English teacher and we’d live frenchly ever after, hurrah! Even now I still get the occasional pang for the petite vie francaise I could have had. I still miss him. Despite our complete incompatibility. I think that’s probably the very reason I fell in love with him in the first place, because it couldn’t ever really work . I remember once we were walking along some stretch of craggy breton coastline somewhere. I had lagged behind a bit, he was ahead in his scruffy too-big coat with his scruffy little dog and it struck me how everything about this place was just him. He really was the Kevin to my George Sand, my cormorant. (Obscure French literature reference, sorry) He would never leave. Would never want to or need to because this place was a part of him. He was my opposite in every way. I was here with this unquenchable thirst for travel, for new people, new places. And he had already found his bliss, he didn’t need to look anywhere else. I loved him so much in that moment because i knew loving him was impossible and i saw gaining his love as a challenge. One that I would inevitably lose.

So I worked all summer. and as soon as I had enough money I booked a one way flight to Sydney. And for a reason I couldnt explain, a return ferry crossing to France the weekend before my flight. To see him. I don’t know what I was expecting. A revelation? A sign that I should drop my dreams and plans and everything to be with him? I knew that wouldn’t happen, I knew it was over. But that ‘what-if’ was still there and I knew it would nag and nag at me until I was sure. And yes, maybe a part of me was hoping. Hoping he would ask me to stay. Even if we both knew I’d go anyway. He’s the only guy I’ve ever cried for. Really cried for, as in shut myself in my cabin and ball my eyes out till I fall asleep a snotty mess cry. I don’t understand him, and my heart aches trying to. The stupid thing is I know he’s right, we wouldn’t work together, not really. I’m too flighty and he’s too down to earth. It’s the idea of him that I want of course, and like everything, reality never really lives up to expectation. But I’ve never been able to think logically when it comes to him. Je l’aime. Je l’aime. Je l’aime. And I realise now what people mean when they talk about heartache. My heart hurts. Like physically hurts, like something is tugging at it. What a stupid idea to come and see him for 2 days. And now I’m leaving for the other side of the world again, my head is still a mess, and I know a little part of my heart has torn off and will always stay over the sea, somewhere on a windy breton shoreline, with him.

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