Driving down the motorway from Lac du Salagou, my last stop in Languedoc before entering the Pyranean region. As the blue mountains open up in front of me, a sudden surge or adrenaline, a sense of achievement, as if this is what I’ve been waiting for, this is the beginning…
All those years I’ve dared to dream of adventure, of travelling, of uncovering myself, of trusting myself, alone. That feeling, that exhilarating feeling; this is it, I’m doing it. That feeling, that excited feeling I can’t quite keep a hold of; it keeps bubbling up and manifesting itself in a laugh, a squeal, a lonely smile. Goose-bumps on my arms. (Although, admittedly that is more than likely down to the intermittent air conditioning, now pumping out such cool air I’m verging on too cold- but I must savour it, every last drop before it breaks again and I am plunged into intolerable extreme heat. Cool air, a moment’s respite from the hideous sweaty incompetence of the broken fans in my van. And when the moment’s over, as it inevitably will be, the only answer is to drive faster and faster, to will the air to surge again through the A/C vents so we can all go on with our lives.)
Out of my window, mountains, rain, people.
Ah, people. People, people, people and their interactions. Their interactions that I no longer seem to be a part of. Sometimes days will go by and I won’t be altogether sure if I’ve even opened my mouth. I brought this all on myself of course, I came here to be alone, to learn to trust myself, to dare to not fill my days with distractions. Of course the extreme lack of conversation brings out the absurd and the manic in me when I am eventually let loose on an unwitting victim.
Yesterday, I carried out an entire phone conversation in French. I mean, it’s unlikely I’ll be hired by the British embassy to undergo diplomacy talks. No, nothing was really achieved. No one came away from the interaction feeling anything but extreme awkwardness. But just to say, I made a call, which started and ended in French… and no one died. There was an excrutiating part in the middle in which I was asked my name, which unfortunately doesn’t have a French translation, no matter how hard I try to say it with what can only be described as a put on, embarrassingly Yorkshire sounding French accent. The whole escapade became absolutely unbearable when he broke and shouted loudly in English “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” and all I could do was continue repeating “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah… I felt so awkward after the whole debacle I had to dive immediately into water, in attempt to wash away the shame, but alas, here it still is.
One of the times I miss people most is when I have some sort of mishap- as I inevitably do and have and will every 10 minutes for the rest of time, as that, dear friends is my destiny. Laughing at yourself in the face of derrangement is a good skill to have, but sometimes I feel the full gravitas and hilarity of the situations I find myself in are wasted on just me.
Just now, for instance, I thought I’d make myself an innocent pasta salad. What could go wrong with a salad you might ask. And yes, you’re right, to the layman, a salad might seem a simple meal, no need for intricacies or frivolities and thankfully, there are no flames involved. And I might counter with something like, you’re not opening your mind wide enough, my son. Imagine the unexpected, contemplate the impossible, consider the realms of possibility and you will be astonished. Never doubt my capabilities as a madwoman, I once served caramelised washing-up liquid carrots to 40 guests.
I digress. So, in an effort to save washing up (an ordeal like no other when you have a sink the size of an infant’s shoe and a broken tap, now just reduced to a mere hose with only one setting [really fucking powerful], which to access you must first press your face up against the window pane and then kneel before as if at a tiny alter, receiving what can only be described as the world’s weirdest baptism), I thought, ingeniously, I’ll make my salad in the bag it came in to reduce bowl usage and then mix by shaking it up .
Naively, I hadn’t even considered the catalogue of ways in which it could turn into an absolute palaver. Obviously, inevitably, you might say, the salad bag rips open, covering both me and the van in oily, leafy, raisiny, pasta… oh, and not forgetting the mayonnaise. That pesky mayonnaise. The eyebrow mayonnaise. The socks of mayonnaise. Raisins in crevises you didn’t even know existed. The van looks like it’s been brutally attacked by the cream-pie act at the circus. Defeated, I scrape the pathetic looking remains off the filthy floor and accept my fate. Floor pasta it is. It’s a Pyrenean delicacy don’t you know. Still finding aspects of the salad about my person now, an hour later, as I write this. Ah, good. Sun dried tomatoes on my inner thigh.
N.B. Reading this back it dawns on me how unremarkable these occurences indeed were, and yet I’ve managed to scrape an entire essay from their sorry remains. Dancing on the verge of mental collapse, the lack of human contact tricks me into believing the mundane is indeed worthy of an 1000 word commentary.
Sometimes the lack of company is a beautiful gift. Alone in the wilderness, walking for hours across streams, fields, through forests. Sitting beneath a tree, staring up, up, up. Surrounded by mountains. How did I land here? There is no possible way to articulate the beauty, or the feeling that accompanies being surrounded by it, immersed in it and having no one to share it with. It becomes intangible, dreamlike, exhilarating, overwhelming. It’s as if the beauty is multiplied infinitely by the amount of solitude felt. The wonder at having the opportunity to experience this, and it’s just for me. I’m so open and in love with my own company, it’s a shame I have no one to share it with.