Today we conversed with cows. Myself and Little One making friends over a wire fence. We’re on the move again. We’ve dusted down our backpacks, locked the front door and put the keys through the letterbox. It didn’t involve flying halfway around the world this time – in fact, we didn’t have to get on a plane at all. Not even a boat, just got in our car and drove south for four hours. We’re housesitting in East Sussex, a beautiful part of the world, and similar to Norfolk, our home county, only with rolling hills, and fields of roaming cows instead of inactive sugar beet. We were supposed to be housesitting in Hungary three weeks ago, but after terrible news we had to cancel and make alternate plans – so here we are, watching the sunset over lurching hills, gossiping with cattle.
I spoke last entry of how Crow, my OCD avatar, went missing after we received that horrific news. Sadly, he’s been trying to sneak back into my life, and presented himself as a clamouring crackpot yesterday on the M25, when he suggested that I open the passenger door and fling myself onto the busy road. I beat him back with a blank refusal to listen to his fiendish ramblings. It was tough, and during the battle, I lost myself in a fog of depression, which worked in my favour, as I fell onto the cold blade of sadness rather than the machine gun fire of intrusive thought. Oh, lucky me, suffocating in a black bin liner instead of walking into the spray of an AK47 on full automatic fire. I remember the old saying, how the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
We crossed the Dartmouth Bridge – such an amazing structure, and a testament to what the human race can achieve. “You also cut each other’s heads off for conflicting religious beliefs,” smirked Crow. And I had to agree with him.
He’s made other appearances this week, but I fought him off with a returning compulsion of blinking my eyes at set intervals, and other daft rebuffs that for one reason or another give me moments of peace away from those flapping wings.
I’ve met new people, which can be hard for me – approached them with a firm handshake and a nudge in the back of my brain, a careful reminder that no-one lives forever. F*ck feeling awkward at new relationships; who cares if these well-spoken locals think I’m less of a human being, or a gibbering moron, a babbling lunatic even? All three if they choose – although I’ll be the first to concede that they’re probably not thinking these things at all…they actually seem rather nice.
I smile because we’re all going to be gone in a blink of the Universe’s eye anyway.
When I meet new people, they get one of three Yans. On a good day, they get Yan the Optimist. He is confident, hopefully pleasant, probably talkative, eyes focused on the positive. Often courageous, sometimes fearless, this fleeting figure is unfortunately scarce, almost limited, and I feel lucky when I step into his shoes.
On a bad day – a typical day – they get one of the other, not so user-friendly versions. There’s Yan the Furtive – doubtful, forgetful, stammering, red-faced as he looks for an exit to leave the immediate area. You will frequently find this Yan laying on his bed, or in the corner of the room pretending to read a book.
And then there’s Yan the Berserker, existing only when there are other people in the room, like the sound of a tree falling in the forest. He is restless, looking to flood the dark alleyways with water from a gushing river. Obliterating awkward silence with any available noise. Dead inside, but outside painting his walls with an electric brush doused with metallic, glowing paint. He is a blazing ball of red light – the worse he feels, the brighter he burns. He is a hungry wind, a foghorn in the mist, a manic clown juggling sticks of dynamite. “Yan’s a character, isn’t he?” I hear them say. “He mustn’t have a care in the world…”
A few people peer through my mask like it was made of glass. It’s usually the fellow sufferers of depression, anxiety or blasting intrusive thoughts. It takes one to know one I suppose.
I’ve said it before but I think the clever ones, or the ones with great social skills, are able to hide their pain better than others. They have louder, more detailed masks because they don’t want to be a burden – which of course they’re not. They know how to apply the makeup, and sometimes recognise the mask on other people too. I’m not one of the clever ones, by the way, I just don’t like being the reason for people to stress or worry, so I cover up my woes with strips of colourful wallpaper. Time and experience have made me quite the handyman – I have friends who think I’m the happiest person on the planet.
I often wonder what my world would have been like living as Yan the Optimist. Using my time to create a better life, planning for the future instead of years spent dwelling on Crow’s cruel whispers. Today would have been a different day indeed. Although let’s face it, I could be dead. Sliding doors and all that. I’d simply be on another path, and maybe I wouldn’t have met Little One, and that would be unthinkable.
There are a thousand forks in every road, each leading to a new destination – another fork. A man who is killed on his way to the shop would still be alive if he’d had his newspaper delivered to his doorstep. Tiny things create mighty waves. Butterflies and flapping wings.
Back to the here and now, and those cows have shuffled over to the other side of the field. Was it something I said?
There are sights to see and adventures to be had, even this close to home. Things to do in this little corner of the world. A new road. Norfolk with bumps. I’m watching a crow perched on a telephone wire. I point it out to Little One and we both smile. That f*cker follows me everywhere.
“He’s part of you,” says Little One.
It’s cooler now, time for a hot drink, followed by a cold beer. I’m closing the conservatory door as well as the laptop.