And I want to wake up with the rain
While I’m set there in your arms
So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me
I’m at work right now, and Norah Jones begins to sing on the radio, so now I’m also lying in an armchair in the small front room of the small house I rented in England for the first half of my graduate degree. I could only carry a couple of suitcases to England to last me a whole year, so only a handful of CDs came with me. Norah Jones was one, and I would put her dreamy voice into my portable player on rainy Sunday afternoons, and read my research from a pink and green armchair with a cup of tea and some caramal McVitie’s biscuits – which are a little like shortbread cookies with a layer of chocolate and caramel on them. You buy them in a wrapped tube from any newsagent’s – which is like a gas station store without any gas pumps outside. You dip them in your tea, and the caramel melts just a bit, and they slip into your mouth one by one of their own accord until you realize you’ve eaten half the tube. My little house was a fifteen minute chilly walk from the center of town; a bit far to lug groceries, a bit brisk in the constant drizzle, but the twice daily walk kept me healthy and out in the air and atmosphere.
Stratford-upon-Avon was an absolute dream of a place to spend a year. Tourism is its major draw, which means droves of people, but also means that it is well kept and tidy, and safe, and has loads of public transport and people to help you navigate it, and if I was ever lonely for home I had only to step into a dim and cozy pub to hear familiar American voices. Christmas that year I spent with some friends of mine who lived in a third floor flat in the Fulham area of London – we bought a tiny Christmas tree, and I strung it with popcorn and cranberries, which the boys ate right off the tree one night when they were drunk. Christmas day we made a roast pork with crackling and veg, and pulled Christmas crackers – then took a football down to the green and played Aussie rules football in the drizzly rain.
But that’s not where I am right now. At the moment, I’m in that chair, dozing with a book in my hand while Norah croons in my ear, and the rain falls, and my tea cools. My heavy eyes close, and I know I still have ten months left to live in this enchanting place, and tonight I’ll be heading into town to have a drink with some friends, and I have plenty of time, all the time in the world here and in my life and in my youth, so I can live in the fullness of this half sleeping moment, and not worry about what else I should be doing. This is exactly what I should be doing here and now.
Do I miss the place? Or the grad student lifestyle? Or the certainty that what I was doing was exactly the right thing? I don’t know which I miss more, but I am melancholy and homesick for that cozy armchair this morning. 2002 was not so long ago, and yet how far I feel from the 24 year old me. Miles and miles, an ocean of depth and distance, and drifting farther and farther away.