I met my friend for coffee recently.
I had wisdom tooth toothache and she is a dentist. We were meeting for more exciting reasons than for her to look at my mouth, but whether she liked it or not I opened my gob and pointed out the pain, all the while stretching and pulling at my face like it was putty.
I had my very thick hair cut short the previous week. I had a ton of antibiotics last year when I was unwell, I talk more about it here. As a result my hair was all sorts of crazy and had died in parts. So I chopped ten inches off and was able to donate the long ponytail to make a wig for a child suffering cancer. THAT’s how much hair there was. THAT’s how much hair I have. Wild short curly hair. Difficult to put it in an elastic, if you know what I mean. In other words it’s a triangle shape and frizzy. The day I met my friend it was as above- untamed and wild. Along with the slightly swollen jaw and grey face from a feed of painkillers (and from consuming red wine the night before) I was not at my best.
Low and behold we were sat next to a heater.
A blow heater that pumped air at our legs from the minute we took our seats at the window. The window seats you have to perch on. Awkward little seats where your feet slip off the pedal from time to time. I am flustered about the tooth and heat and the growth in my hair volume from the heat and the being flustered and the tooth and the cycle of it all…so I opt for a coffee and a glass of tap water.
My friend and I chatted. We’re actually collaborating on a fun project related to water bottles (I love water bottles. I own many colours and shapes and sizes). We hope to put some cool inspiring words for the runners out there onto a water bottle.
I sketch out some possible bottles, we do some research and discuss pricing amidst other life catch up. The usual coffee chat.
I sweat some more from the blow heater at our feet and we talk some more. We finish up and my friend heads on. I tell her “I’ll get this, go on , go on”. She shakes her head and insists I don’t do that. I bow my triangle head of frizz and lift my right hand gesturing “Go, go ,go”.
She leaves and I get in line.
I had somehow (stupidly) wrapped myself back into all four layers of clothing that I arrived with- a thermal long sleeved vest, a body warmer, hat (mainly used for settling the hair), and oversized woolen scarf. And a camel winter coat. Adding warmth to an already very intensely warm situation. An overheated situation. I stood with the heat and the layers and the hair and hoped I could get to pay soon and return to the fresh air outdoors.
I approach the till to pay. The usual situation of “oh… eh …sorry…you go ahead…” “No you..” Terribly polite folk in some coffee shops. Eventually I look up…
A Familiar face is before me.
My reaction is slow, my hands start to sweat (more flipping sweat). In other words- A sweaty pause.
Reality sets in. It’s the guy I snogged when I was at Uni! The one who I religiously sought after at the night club (oh heavens, the memories flood back. The embarrassment.) on student nights. Specifically student Thursday nights in Belfast.
I have an immediate flash back of him visiting my pig sty student accommodation and us standing at the door because I was too mortified to bring him in.
I cannot remember his name for the life of me (classy bird) but he knows me. As soon as he looks at me with my flushed face, swollen jaw and triangle head he recognises me. I know him.
It’s momentarily intense. I sweat some more and we exchange pleasantries about art and life and the coffee he serves. Then I zoom out of there. Flustered and embarrassed about the hair and the sweat patches and the embarrassing memories.
It took me back.
It was like I was back to being student Aly from thirteen years previously for that moment in time. Except we weren’t in a club with shining lights and pumping R&B music. I wasn’t wearing flared jeans, a halter neck top and loop earrings. We were in a coffee shop, the one he manages, with a pot of frothy coffee and a worktop and oversized coffee machine between us.
I went on a little journey.
I had a lovely drive home thinking about how fun those student days were. Not with the snogging and the lights and the vile student accommodation, but the freedom and the excitement of what my future held, of the travelling I intended to do and the faces I had yet to meet.
Let me put it out there in case this is your first time reading my blog.(Perhaps I should have said it at the beginning.) I am a happily married woman. I adore my husband and his acceptance of my hair and sweaty pits, flushed cheeks, creative unsteadiness and sporadic outbursts of unexplained rage. But I am human and I still go on journeys.
Journeys that take you back as opposed to forward. This little coffee shop experience, albeit a brief moment in time, a simple hour out of my day and the actual encounter with coffee shop manager man being merely seconds of that hour, took me on a journey down my “memory lane”. Proof that moving forward isn’t always where journeys take us.
My life today is still as exciting as when I was a student with HUGE elements of as much of the unknown as what you have when a student, but it’s ‘different’. I have more important decisions to make in the day about the welfare of two small kids at my heels than how many cans of diet coke I could fit in with my art folders for the walk into class.
My student days inevitably shaped my today. The act of bumping into that guy was like a right of passage to allow me to day dream for a bit.
I remember seeing a programme about the fear of flying and using hypnosis to help ease the fear. They talked about revisiting a place where/when you were at your happiest because this allows you to be calm and stay in a heightened sense of awareness. This act of revisiting brings about feelings of calm. When I feel fear I tend to revisit the birth of my second child. Some may think me crazy linking birth and calm together, but I do remember that time as one of the happiest.
What a lovely thought to think that memories can bring such physical joy as well as emotional joy to our beings.
Here’s to welcoming the backward journeys as well as the forward journey which is inevitably called Life, no matter how they are instigated.