Monday 26th October
By some miracle I managed to avoid any kind of sadness until the end of week four, when – since things come in threes – all of a sudden I was hit with loneliness, homesickness and a bout of very real flu. Thankfully G had booked train tickets some weeks ago to come up to visit me that weekend; whilst I knew my illness would prevent the perfect weekend I’d had planned his visit really couldn’t have come at a better time.
We met at the station on Friday lunchtime. Having gone from spending all weekend, every weekend together it’s been odd to find this new normal for our relationship; we’ve talked everyday and spoken on Skype numerous times a week, but naturally it’s not quite the same. However we’d just about settled into this new routine, and so now we were back together there was a strange element of getting to know one another again. True to our roots, we got coffee and sat in the station cafe to catch up.
I’d felt fragile the previous week and having G here immediately helped me to reassert myself in this environment, which remains a little new and uncertain. Rather than get the bus straight from the station we walked back past the walls, over the bridge and through to the city centre; I pointed out things I knew, and realised how much I didn’t. Stopped in at a local for some food before getting the bus, something G hasn’t done since he learned to drive five years ago. “I don’t feel like I belong here,” he told me at one point. “That’s okay,” I said, but I was thinking, Me neither, sometimes.
Once on my campus I showed him around the college and my house, and then we went for lunch in the Glasshouse. G hasn’t been to university so I wanted to show him around the main campus, so we headed back there after our meal. It was good for me to walk all the way around campus, not just the bits that I have classes in – we made our way through Derwent College and past Heslington Hall (the beautiful old building York uses all over its website and prospectus despite the fact that most students will never set foot there). From there we walked past the Quiet Place and the lake, avoiding a large herd of campus geese who were waiting to prey on a innocent family feeding the ducks, and around past the Exhibition Centre.
I took him over the bridges and through Market Square, and up the stairs to the library where we stood on the bridge looking out over campus. Realised that I’d subconsciously taken the same route as when I was shown round on my post-offer visit day which, bizarrely, was only earlier this year; that day I’d looked around in fear and confusion – how will I ever know my way around this place? how will I ever live here? how will I ever become a part of this community? where will I fit?. Now, already, my routes are automatic; I know what I will see when I turn each corner, open each door. But that doesn’t mean I quite fit yet.
It must have been a little overwhelming for G to be in a place that was new in so many ways; huge and alien. We bussed back to my campus and spent a lazy few hours in my room watching a film and just being around each other, until we headed into town for our meal at Jamie’s. As we’ve come to expect we were treated with great service and wonderful food, and long conversation.
The next day we planned to explore town. After a lazy morning we effectively spent the whole afternoon just wandering around and looking at whatever we found interesting. We walked to the Minster and through the park behind it, taking in the war memorial there, and around the backstreets.
I showed G the famous Shambles and we walked through the brilliant market. We ate a late lunch in a sweet little cafe and then treated ourselves to coffee brownies from the market which we took down to the riverside through the museum gardens. Stayed a long time.
This year’s season change has been incredibly slow, and as such unfathomably beautiful. I’ve been so lucky to experience it in my first autumn here. We made our way through the gardens, admiring the autumn colours, and then decided to walk to the big Morrisons; although I normally shop at locals it’s not a long journey and we took the route along the city walls which I hadn’t had a chance to explore until now. Picked up food and a film and then made our way back to the bus and home, for fajitas and a cosy night.
For G’s last day we spent the morning at mine before once again taking the bus to town; G’s train wasn’t until the mid-afternoon but we went early to be sure. Rather than eating in a cafe we went to a wonderful bakery and put together a small picnic, and ate in the Minster gardens. It was a perfect autumn day and the park was filled with families; we watched a toddler walk in autumn leaves for the very first time. Happiness was everywhere, so long as we avoided the inevitable goodbye which ticked ever closer.
Stopped off in Waterstones for a hot chocolate, and then walked to the station. The platform. A weird combination of wanting the train never to arrive, and to just get here so it would be over with. When it did arrive, and then leave again, it hurt more than expected.
Sat in my own bleak sadness back in my room I combed through the photographs from my phone and began to edit them. Looked over my reading for the next day and upcoming week – essay week – and felt a little better. Back to the new normal, which in a strange way now feels familiar. I don’t think I know what ‘normal’ means anymore. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but it’s manageable at least. Just keep managing I told myself. Mondays make things better, and so does looking at happy pictures.