The Water Feature on the Wooden Walkway

At the time, we didn’t notice the building across the river…

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Outside our apartment there is a river, and along forty feet of it there is a wooden walkway. Next to the wooden walkway is a little ditch, and in the ditch there are fifteen evenly spaced jets. These jets, on the days that they are functioning, shoot water in an arc over the wooden walkway and into an oblong pool on the other side. The jets create a staccato tunnel, the imaginary ceiling of which is high enough that a person can walk along the wooden walkway without any worry of getting wet. It is an excellent place to take pictures.

Cesia took my picture under an arc of water on the wooden walkway outside our apartment. At the time, it was not our apartment. At the time, we didn’t notice the building across the river because we had no reason to. It was the 18th of February 2016, nine months and four days before I would propose to Cesia. 

Since moving in to our apartment I have looked out the window a hundred times and seen people playing in the water feature on the wooden walkway. They use their hands to redirect the water, splashing their friends. Parents hold the hands of toddlers who want to investigate the strange way the water moves. On windy days, or days where the water pressure is weak, people run and duck and dodge the jets, like they’re avoiding laser beams guarding a bank vault. A lot of people take pictures exactly like the one Cesia took of me. 

There is absolutely no meaning in this coincidence. We didn’t look at the building, back in February 2016, and determine to make this place ours. We didn’t decide, in May 2017, to live in a place that had any particular significance to us. Like almost everything, it just sort of happened.

Cesia just happened to attend a university thousands of miles away from her home. The university just happened to be in the city I was in. We just happened to be using Tinder at the same time. We just happened to be available the next day to get coffee. And so on.

The coincidence of us taking a photo outside the building we would later move in to, is nothing compared to the coincidence of us meeting and forming a relationship in the first place. Or it isn’t a coincidence. We have both had to be patient when an ocean separated us, and take professional and educational risks to prioritise our relationship. And so on.

It might be a coincidence, it might not. There might be meaning in these events, and maybe not. But either way, I don’t care. I’m just glad it happened.

New bed

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted so I’d like to apologise to my thousands of readers, however, as I don’t have thousands of readers, it’s impossible.

Yesterday the bed we ordered weeks ago arrived. We’ve been sleeping on a sofa bed that is a little too small, so a good night’s sleep has been a rare treat. When the bed arrived Cesia and I were caught off guard because we were expecting it next week.

The pool on our roof was empty and we were enjoying the sun and seeing who could do the best underwater handstand (me) when Cesia’s phone rang. It was one of the building’s administrators saying some furniture had arrived for us. We quickly threw on T-shirts and Cesia went down to the lobby and I went to the flat. Two men dragged the bed and mattress inside and had me sign something and they left. Both items were wrapped in plastic and cardboard and as we heaved the bed into the bedroom Cesia said that this is the first bed that she has ever bought.

‘I bought it.’ I said.

‘OK. And I bought the sofa, the dining table, the food you eat, the wifi.’ she said.

‘Don’t change the subject.’ I said.

We tore through some of the plastic and realised that there was a lot more than we first thought so I went to the kitchen to find something to use to cut it. It says something about our prioreties that, while we have not yet bought a pair of scissors, we do own four different cheese knives. We used two of them to open our bed.

We put sheets and pillows on it and then went out to run a few errands. Cesia needed to pay her phone bill and we needed a new shower curtain because the one we bought when we moved in has already started to fall apart.

We went to a mall that has fancy restaurants and shops that sell imported meats. There was a department store that reminded me of Debenhams and it was there that we found our new shower curtain. We needed a soap dish too so we got one of those, and then walked around the different departments looking at some of the weird stuff someone, somewhere, presumably wants. There were salt and pepper shakers in the shape of slices of watermelon. For some reason I thought the salt shaker seemed fine, but pepper? Who wants to pick up a little red piece of ceramic, patiently designed and painted to look like an idealised cartoon version of a sweet, fresh, fruity piece of melon and have a stream of black pepper fall out of it?

Near the melon shakers was a shelf of wine glasses that were on sale. I liked them and so did Cesia. They’re big, like the kind you see in the fancy restaurants we had walked past a little while ago. We took four over to the cashier and we (Cesia) paid.

Later that night we lay in our new bed and Cesia reminded me that on our first night here we slept on the floor. We spread a blanket over the tiles as if we were having a picnic. We pulled a sheet over us and slept badly. The next day we (Cesia) bought a sofa bed.

I thought about that night, and about how quickly things have changed since I got here. I have a few jobs and a few friends. I’ve been able to enjoy a handful of luxuries and try new foods and drinks. But it also reminded me that it’s the less dramatic, less showy things that make me happy, like being able to end evey day by falling asleep with the woman I love. Little things like making dinner together, and finding new Netflix shows we both like. Things like spending a weekday afternoon playing in a pool we have all to ourselves, and setting up the bed we ordered because our current sleeping arrangment was good, but not quite good enough, and buying wine glasses because we’re bored of the ones we have already, and coming home to our view of beautiful mountains surrounded by a fringe of tiny houses inhabited by people that know poverty I will never experience and will likely never fully understand.

I wondered if I have become shallow, or if I’ve always been this way.

This morning, as Cesia was getting ready for work, I asked her if she had any tweezers I could use.

‘For your eyebrows?’ she asked.

I had not planned on using them on my eyebrows.

Maybe I am shallow sometimes, or materialistic, or something like that. But I’m glad that I’ll always have Cesia who, without meaning too, is expertly able to keep that side of me in check.

Rain

 
Since the last post I have gotten two more jobs, and Cesia and I have booked our wedding venue. When it first occurred to us that getting married in Mexico would allow us to have an outdoor wedding, outdoors is the only way I’ve been able to picture it.
 
We went to the venue and looked around and Cesia asked several questions and looked at a bunch of papers. I took photos of the garden, set up with round tables and hanging lanterns, and the dance floor against a backdrop of green mountains and a blue sky. It was perfect.
 
We had a date in mind, in October, but it was already booked. We could gamble and choose a date earlier than we had planned, but in September the weather would be a few degrees closer to uncomfortable, and the chance of rain would increase to about 20%. You can take the man out of the UK but you can’t take the UK out of the man. 20% was too much. And it would mean less time to organise everything, and for my family to make travel arrangements and book time off work. We wanted that venue, but moving the wedding three weeks earlier seemed like a bad idea.
 
I was trying to convince myself that the 80% chance of no rain would be enough to give me confidence. I didn’t want to pretend like I knew more about Mexican weather than Cesia, and she was excited about the wedding being sooner. I couldn’t let it appear as though I wanted to push it back out of nerves or doubts about us, but I also didn’t want to be the one to disappoint her. It was as though she was throwing a parade and I was somehow going to cause it to be rained on. If only there was a fitting metaphor for the situation.
 
She spoke to her mum who came up with a good idea; ask for a different day in October. In Mexico, weddings take place on a Friday or Saturday, but that doesn’t matter to us. My family will be flying in from England. A weekday wedding won’t make a difference, and it’s still far enough in advance that Cesia’s relatives can make any arrangements they need to. We picked a day in October near to the first date we wanted. It was available so we paid a deposit and started picking our decorations and discussing the menu
 
Today it was Father’s Day and my family sat in my parent’s back garden and enjoyed the sun. It was 30 degrees in England. I spoke to them on the phone and they bragged about the sunshine. Later on I sent them a screenshot of my phone’s weather app. It said it was 40 degrees, and moderate.
 
I’m looking forward to the September rain.

I hate Aeromexico

I hate Aeromexico. I’ve flown with them three times and three times it has been horrible. The first time they attempted to reassign me to a flight that would have made me miss my connections. In the end, I missed my connection anyway because, after boarding, the plane sat on the runway for two hours. I was stuck in Dallas for 24 hours. The second time, they lost my bag.

This time they didn’t put my gate number on any screens in the airport. They didn’t say whether it was delayed either, so about 40 minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave I found an employee and asked what’s going on. He told me the flight had already boarded and I was too late. I asked someone else and they confirmed it; I was too late. I was forty minutes early and I was too late.

Except that I wasn’t, and the Aeromexico employees were talking crap. If I had listened to them I would have missed my flight and had to pay for another one. And the company I would have had to pay is Aeromexico.

What had happened was the flight was delayed. No info on the screens, I had to search for someone to tell me. I found the gate and saw the flight was going to leave an hour late. They hadn’t even begun boarding yet.

When they did start boarding I waited in line and watched the numbers on the screen change from 20:00 to 20:30 to 20:42. The plane had been delayed again as I and a hundred other travellers stood in the 30-degree heat for over an hour. When we eventually got onto the plane we were given a half-cup of water to drink and an-hour-and-a-half later we landed. By this point I had been travelling for 28 hours and I slept through the landing.

I grabbed my stuff and walked off the plane. I walked up to the baggage carousel and grabbed my suitcase. I wheeled it to the sliding doors where Cesia was smiling at me from the other side. And as tired I was, and as annoyed at Aeromexico, and as sweaty and dehydrated I had become, I didn’t care anymore. I wanted a hug, and my hug was only ten feet away, and I couldn’t help but smile.

Airport

This morning Cesia and I woke up at 3 o’clock. She showered and I dressed, and then we called for an Uber to take us to the airport.
 
The last time this happened was in December and the plan was that she would go home to Mexico for a month before flying back to England. Unfortunately her job needed her in Michigan for a project, and it extended her time away for bout three weeks. That was hard.
 
It was frustrating having our plans messed up, and it meant I was bored. I am easily bored and when I’m bored I do one of two things: get lazy to the point of self destructivness, or I get productive and healthy. Back in December I had finished my assignments for that semeseter, and was working on first and second drafts for the assignments for my next semester. I was bored and alone. I spent my time watching too much netflix and opening a bottle of wine at four most afternoons. This time I’ll go the other way and be healthy and productive.
 
At the airport we checked her bag and then found somewhere to sit until it was time for her to go through security. We’ve done this a few times and it’s pretty easy now.
 
There was one time when she left and neither of us new when we would see each other again. It turned out it would be five months, after which I flew to Mexico for Valentine’s day and we decided that five months is too long.
 
This time it will be a little over two weeks. There were no tears as we said goodbye and I watched her disappear through the barriers. I took a bus home and slept for a couple of hours and woke up when she messaged me to say that she had landed in Frankfurt and that she was all set for her next flight to Houston.
 
We bought her some new luggage tags yesterday, and instead of writing her parents address on them she wrote her email. In a little over two weeks I’ll be flying out there too and I’m hoping that she’ll have been able to find us a flat in that time. I like the idea of writing my own Mexican address on my tags.
 
When she went through security and I could no longer see her there was a moment when I felt a little emotional. It reminded me of the times we’ve said goodbye for months, and the sadness and fear that comes with a long time apart. But then I realised that this would be the shortest period of separation we have ever gone through. We could do this. I bought a Tropicana and cheered up.
 
As I’m writing this Cesia is still in the air. I’ve done some laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and listened to some Spanish lessons. Our flat feels a lot emptier without her so I’m playing netflix and podcasts and audiobooks to stop the silence driving me crazy. I pressed pause to write this post but now I’m going to watch another episode of Archer, decide what to have for dinner, and wait for Cesia to message me and let me know she’s safe on her way home.

Finishing University

Yesterday I handed in my final two assignments. This means I am finished with university forever, or until I do a Masters, which I’d like to. To celebrate, Cesia bought me a bottle of Cruxland Gin that I’ve been wanting to try, and we drank it while eating bread and olives and sundried tomatoes.

I’m not going to reminisce and wax lyrical about the university experience – in the next few weeks there will be a million student bloggers that will do that for me – I just want to talk about my last semester because It was a little weird, but I’m proud of it.

I did two modules: Writing the Novel, and the Independent Study Module. Writing the Novel is similar to other classes in that we had weekly seminars and regular tasks to complete. We had frequent contact with our teacher who gave feedback on the work we were doing for our final submission. The Independent Study Module (ISM) was very different. No classes, you design your own assignment, and contact with a teacher only happens if and when you arrange it. For the ISM I wrote a 30 minute film and an essay on genre, and for Writing the Novel, I wrote the first 5,000 words of a novel, a synopsis of the entire plot, and an essay on why people should think my novel is good.

These are two quite big assignments. And they have the same deadline so it’s a lot of work all leading to one day. And they are both creative rather than traditionally academic. It is for these reasons that the university didn’t allow me to do these subjects simultaneously until I had an argument with a faculty member.

This was about a year ago and I had decided which modules I wanted to do and simply needed the university to sign off on them. They had a couple of students ask to do Writing the Novel and the ISM concurrently and had turned them down, recommending other modules that might suit their interests. This is what happened to me but when they turned me down, I turned them down harder.

They explained that the amount of work involved in the two modules is too much, and the independence of the ISM can be a stumbling block for many students. I said I can handle it. Their worst argument though, and I still find it incredible that I was offered this as a legitimate reason for why I couldn’t do the subjects I wanted to, was that, “historically, they have never taught Writing the Novel and the ISM concurrently.” That is a terrible reason not to do something. Historically, I’ve never ran a marathon. Historically, minorities have been oppressed. Historically, people died of polio.

I reminded them that the year I would be taking these modules would only be the second year the university had taught Writing the Novel so, historically, it was impossible to do both. Historically, the university didn’t teach them, which means that the historical argument is at best nonsensical, and at worst hypocritical.

I explained my point of view, and then offered to be an experiment; let me do this, and if I fail, you can point to me as a reason that you don’t allow future students to do the subjects concurrently. I was allowed to do both modules.

I then decided to neglect one of my other modules. Literature and Psychology, an interesting subject but sadly, it was far too academic. I knew that, of the four grades that are averaged to decide my degree, this would not be one of them. So instead of struggling over an essay I found tedious that wouldn’t count towards anything, I did the absolute least needed to pass, and instead focused on a script I would later submit as the ISM, and a novel extract that would become my Writing the Novel assignment.

It’s a risky technique. I got a bad grade for a smaller assignment involved in the ISM. In fact, I had messed up enough that it was only a few marks over my Literature and Psychology grade that I had ignored. It meant I couldn’t make any more mistakes.

I worked hard. I made notes in my phone as soon as they cam to me. I scribbled things on the back of receipts and napkins. I took notebooks to my job so I could work when it was quiet, and I edited and edited and edited until I knew it was the best I could do. Then I sent it to my friend Alex who graduated from the same course last year. I worked his feedback into my project and sent it to him again. I sent it to my teacher and repeated the process over and over. Regardless of what grade I get (I have to wait about five weeks to find out) I’m sure I did everything I could.

When I saw the low grade I got on that small ISM assignment, I was surprised. I read the feedback and understood where I had gone wrong, but, like I say, I was surprised. I won’t get any more feedback until I know what my degree grade will be, so, if I have made another mistake, I have to wait about five weeks to find out. It’s already too late to do anything.

At work yesterday I booked two days off. At the moment I only work two days a week, I have done more, six days a week for months, but right now I only do two.

We expected it to be busy because of the Grand National, an EDL march, a football match, and the fact that the sun was out meant that a lot of people would be travelling. For some reason it was dead.

James and I spent the shift listening to music and hanging out. We talked about me leaving and I figured out that, for me to have enough time to do what I need to before I go I should hand in my notice on the 26th April. Two weeks after that I’ll work my last shift. Two weeks after that I’ll leave the country.

I’ve been working here for about three years. I moved out of my parents’ and into Birmingham. I had some money saved up, enough to pay for a tiny room and a few tins of baked beans, but I needed a job. After a couple of months of applications and not hearing anything back, I took the first job I was offered. It was a night job, working alone, cleaning, and making food, a little customer service was involved.

Two years later I had a flat, some money saved up, and near suicidal depression. Night shifts, among other things, were killing me. In winter I wouldn’t see the sun for weeks. I couldn’t sleep. I asked to switch to days.

In the day I could talk to people. I started exercising and eating healthier foods. I stopped drinking a bottle of wine every morning. I don’t think I was alcoholic, I think I was bored.

If you’ve ever dealt with depression in any serious way you’ll know that there are books of insights and statistics about it. Then there are hours of debates worth having about those books. I’m not going to do that here. Suffice to say that medication helped and so did Netflix, and so did exercise, and so did talking to people. Not therapists; my therapist was useless, but talking about my day with Cesia, or a friend or family member helped me unwind or put things in perspective or something. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

I went to the gym earlier today and the sun is shining so I’ll go for a walk later. I’ll have Cesia with me and we’ll talk about our days and our plans. I’ll probably try to speak Spanish. I’m lucky to be able to say that depression is only a memory.

In a few weeks I get to say goodbye to the job that nearly killed me. I’m excited to go to Mexico but I’m realising I’m excited to leave England too. Excited to say goodbye to my job and my city and the weather that is, at best, unreliable. All of those are minor details compared to what I’m going towards; a new country, and new culture, a new language. A wife and in-laws and maybe the start of a career. The sun is shining outside my window, but it’s shining brighter in Mexico.