The drive from Edinburgh to
I put the packet into my handbag. I didn’t need to be seasick to wish to die. The tannoy announced that the ferry was leaving in fifteen minutes. I lifted my eyes to the Englishman, trying not to cry. He took my face between his hands.
‘You’re eyes are very blue today.’ He looked at me for a very long time, then whispered, ‘I love you.’ We kissed.
And then he was gone.
I stood in the middle of the large space wondering if the ache would ever pass. A woman in her late thirties came into the cabin, dragging two heavy suitcases. She introduced herself, but I couldn’t talk. I nodded to her and mumbled my name. I sat on my bunk and pretended to look for something inside my bag, hoping she’d not see the tears running down my face. I tried to control myself but all I wanted to do was scream. My stomach ached, my chest felt as if it had caved in. As I watched the ferry pull away from the dock, with the afternoon light fading, it felt as if my heart was left on the jetty, a part of my body being ripped away.
I went to the cafeteria, which was full of lonely men, lorry drivers, I presumed. I bought myself an egg and anchovy open sandwich and a bottle of Elefanten. My Father had told me this was the strongest beer you could have and I wanted to be anesthetised. I spotted the packet of travel sickness pills in my bag and swallowed two, downing them with gulps of beer. After the meal I walked around the ship. I went up to the deck, or the ‘Upper Scupper’ as the Englishman called it. I smiled, then fought the tears again. I saw there was a film on later, some adventure tale or other in a couple of hours’ time. It was only six o’clock, but I felt tired and drunk from the beer so I decided to go and lie down in my cabin.
I slept for 23 hours. I woke once or twice to the movement of the ship and once or twice to people coming in and out of the cabin.
‘We were worried about you,’ the woman who I’d met when the ship was still docked at
I’d slept through the crossing. The woman told me the seas had been heavy and that many people had been sea sick. She’d decided to spend the time in the bar and had met a great guy. Why was she telling me all this, I wondered wearily. I felt slightly drunk myself, as if I’d been drugged. Then I remembered the sea sickness pills. Perhaps I shouldn’t have taken any alcohol with them?
The short train journey up to
‘The wanderer returns!’ my Father said. He hugged me and I felt as if he was truly glad to see me. The girlfriend giggled and my Father said, ‘I’m going to take you both out to lunch!’
I nodded and thanked him, though I wasn’t at all hungry. In my ruined suede jacket I felt the cold and shivered. We walked towards my Fathers’ dark blue Saab.
‘Happy New Year,’ the girlfriend nudged herself close to me, ‘How did you celebrate the arrival of 1983?’
‘Oh, we went to the pub.’
She launched into a long tale about a language course she’d attended years ago in
My friend at the
I looked at her serious eyes. That must have been what everyone thought, I realised. My Mother, Sister, Father, the girlfriend. That’s why everyone was so glad – relieved – to see me. What did they think, that I’d just stay, marry my Englishman and abandon my studies for good?
The possibility hadn’t even occurred to me. Or to the Englishman.
Why hadn’t it?