Almost October

I feel like I finally have a moment. That’s not true, I’ve had plenty.

I can’t believe it’s almost been a month since I’ve left London. It doesn’t seem like that long. It’s all been a blur, really. It’s strange.

The whole coming home experience was strange. I think I did myself a service by stopping in Toronto on the way back – it definitely eased me into the idea of returning.

TIFF was there, and my friend Jo, so I booked a hotel for a week and a flight back to Omaha. Since I was flying into the States on Labor Day (I just typed that with a ‘u’… sigh), there weren’t really any decent flights (or at least flights I thought I could make with a layover) either to Omaha or to Toronto. I was flying into Boston and I thought about staying the night and just flying out in the morning. Then I thought back to being in Boston in June before London and I really didn’t feel like lugging my FOUR large suitcases to a hotel and then back to the airport the next day, only to have to recheck them (and pay up the ass for that). I Google-mapped the distance from Boston to Toronto. Not bad.

I decided on renting a car once I got into Boston and then driving straight to Toronto. Seven hour flight, followed by an eight hour drive: putting me into Toronto at about 4am the following morning. I admit, it wasn’t the best timeframe, but either I would get tired along the way and have to check into a hotel or I would get to my hotel in Toronto and sleep most of the next day.

I had all of my bags packed and lined up by the flat’s door. I had checked and re-checked every nook and cranny of that place to make sure I had everything. The laundry was done, the dishes were clean; I logged out of Apple TV. Everything was ready to go. Except me. I couldn’t sleep. I was going to get up around 8am to finalize everything and get to the post office. Had to ship a box and a small suitcase home (mugs and shoes). At around 4 or 5am, I was still up and everything was ready to go. I decided to get a few hours of sleep, couldn’t hurt; I’ll sleep on the plane anyway. Woke up on time, got the box and suitcase shipped, made my last Kilburn High Road Starbucks trip. Essentially, I spent the morning trying not to cry and neurotically checking and further re-checking everything.

I was going to have a cabbie friend take me to the airport, but his cab broke down a day or two before. I was planning on being distracted on the journey to Heathrow – chatting away and probably shedding a few tears in the comfortable presence of a friend. Now I was stuck with a stranger and didn’t feel like talking at all. He was very nice, though. He had stylish sunnies and a die-cast model of a London taxi on his dash. We chatted a little bit, but mostly I stared wistfully out the windows, watching familiar streets slip away. As we got on the M4, I couldn’t help but think that I like the view from the opposite lane – the one heading into London.

Checking in was painless, even the part where I had to pay for my fourth bag. I had my last London Pride with a sandwich and headed for my gate. On the plane, I had a couple glasses of champagne and texted my family to let them know we were about to taxi. The steward, David, was pretty confused when I asked him to help me turn my seat into a sleeping bench (as it was a 230pm flight, after all). I popped a sleeping pill and hoped to wake up to the landing announcement. Somehow, with three alcoholic beverages and an herbal sleep aide, I woke after just a few hours. I spent the rest of the flight attempting to sleep and watching Star Trek Into Darkness.

When we landed in Boston, David asked if I got enough rest and if I need anything to eat – I had told him I was about to get a rental car and drive eight hours and he was concerned. “No wonder you wanted to sleep!” Whoever unloaded the baggage put all four of mine in a row, so that was fun. Getting them onto a trolley was even more fun. Had to ask a fellow passenger for assistance getting the fourth bag on top of the heap. Then the real fun began. Unfortunately, Boston Logan Airport is separate from the car rental places, so you have to take a shuttle. It was humid – which I was not happy about, nor ready for – and the shuttles were across the street and down the way. Really?

After more struggling with my bags (I realize I’ve only myself to blame for having so many and for them being so heavy) and about an hour at Hertz, I was in my piece of shit Nissan. With about 100bhp, an automatic gearbox, and interior reminiscent of a ’99 Pontiac Sunfire, I set off out of the parking lot. My left foot didn’t know what to do at first – wanting to be on the brake pedal instead of at rest. Jesus, I thought, I have driven an automatic for ten years, I have a manual for under a year – and at that, I don’t drive for three months of it – and I’m already forgetting how to just let the car drive itself. Stopping at all of the goddamn east coast toll booths resulted in the same sort of confusion. Oh my God! I can idle and then just drive off without doing anything!

I wasn’t tired, oddly enough. I was excited to be behind the wheel of a car again – even if it was a piece of shit. I hadn’t realized how much I missed driving: turning the music up and rolling the windows down, singing at the top of my lungs and tapping the steering wheel along with the beat. I was so ready to have a break from driving, what, with all the idiot drivers in Omaha. Three months is a long time, though. It felt good. I only stopped once for gas and once for food; otherwise, it was straight on til Boston.

I think I did the drive in about seven hours. I don’t know what Google Maps thinks people are going to do – maybe, obey the speed limit or fuss with antsy kids – but I knew for sure I wasn’t going to take close to nine hours. Bitch, please. I love driving at night when hardly anyone is on the road. Driving up to downtown Toronto at night was also a treat: seeing the CN Tower all lit up amongst the skyscrapers. Found the hotel, parked the car, took a shower, and fell asleep as the sun came up.

For the first few days, I didn’t really do anything. You could say I was a bit jet lagged and utterly drained. I got lots of sleep, room service, and ingested many hours of Netflix. (Finally got around to watching The Office UK – LOVE). My friend Jo came to stay a night in the hotel and surprised me with a couple tall boys of London Pride from her shop. That’s a true friend.

Finally, when I was rested enough to venture out, TIFF had officially started. I made my way to the harbourfront (there I go again), as it was only about a mile from my hotel. It was such a beautiful day – perfect weather. Down at the water, there was a strip of sand with lawn chairs (or should I say, ‘beach chairs’) and big, yellow umbrellas. How the hell could I not sit there a while. Across the water was a landing strip for one of Toronto’s airports, so I watched a few planes land. Soon enough, it was almost time for The Fifth Estate to premiere. Unfortunately, the tickets were sold out, but I wandered over to where the gala was to be held. Right away, I spotted a gal in an ‘I Am SHERlocked’ shirt and knew I was among friends.

I didn’t have the best spot for the red carpet, but I did get to see Benedict Cumberbatch arrive, as well as Laura Linney and a few other costars. It had cooled down and gotten very windy at that point, so I started back to the hotel. On my way, I noticed a pub called The Elephant & Castle. I almost kept walking, but I was drawn to it with its English name and red phone booth out front. I especially had to go in because Elephant & Castle was the last stop on my Bakerloo line in London – couldn’t have been more appropriate. Ended up sinking about six pints with this guy who owns a film company – he was in town to interview the stars at The Ritz. Said he’d look into a runner job for me in the next couple days, but they were likely already sorted. Turns out, they were, but I figured as much. Nice guy, anyway. He was married with a little girl, so we talked a lot about how important it is for fathers to make their daughters know how beautiful and special they are, as well as teach them what to expect from men as far as treatment and respect. As soon as I realized just how much I am my father’s daughter, I started to tear up and got homesick for the very first time since leaving three months ago.

The next few days, I ventured out with Jo and her friend, Lucie, for lunch at The Windsor Arms and drinks at The Ritz-Carlton. Jo spent the night in my hotel room the night before I had to go on to Omaha. I had a right time lugging my suitcases, yet again, to a taxi and through the airport. My arms were so sore from lifting and pulling and moving those damn things when I got home that it felt like I had done a strenuous workout. I guess I had. Much like I had felt when I got to Toronto. That, and a hoarse voice from all that singing…

Home. Mom and dad greeted me at the airport and I got to hang out at my brother’s new apartment that night. It was instantly normal to be back, or like I’d been there for so long already when it had only been a couple hours. Still surreal, I guess – especially because my brother had only just moved out of my dad’s and it was weird to see him in his own environment. I won’t get into that because I’ll just have a breakdown about how grown up he is, much like the one I had in London on his 21st birthday.

When I got back, I had about a week to do my twenty-page masters capstone paper, along with media accompaniment. I had my topic and about twelve books, but needed journal articles as references, too. Naturally, I started doing all of that on Thursday. The project is due Sunday. Friday was highlighting information I could use. Saturday, I typed up everything I highlighted. Sunday, I started cutting things down and actually writing. I’ll admit that I underestimated labor time a tad, but from the sounds of it, a couple of my classmates weren’t going to finish on time either. I emailed my professor and she said I could turn it in by Wednesday and be fine. There was no way in hell I was going to A: need that long, or B: let it take that long anyway. I had it in by Monday at 5pm. Nineteen pages, thirty references, and a 25-slide PowerPoint to go with it. I was done. Thank the Lord.

Now I just had to wait and see if I needed to make any revisions. In the meantime, it was Operation: Apartment Overhaul. Starting in my bedroom, I went through every single thing in my closet and got rid of two trashbags worth, rearranged my furniture, oh, and unpacked all four of my suitcases; from there, I bought a new entertainment center that would hold all of my movies, reorganized my bookcases, moved around some more furniture, and decluttered enough to fill four large tubs. Tubs are in the garage along with my luggage, apartment is clean and organized (save for my desk area, just a tad), and my life was almost in order.

I still hadn’t heard back about my damn capstone. My other classmates heard either Saturday or Sunday. I emailed my professor to see if she was able to access the PowerPoint, you know, to maybe spark her into saying ‘oh yeah, by the way, you passed.’ All I got back was, yep, I could; thanks for checking! Then I thought, great – everyone else has heard back, but she’s probably getting ready to tell me that I have all these revisions to make or that I missed the mark completely and I’d have to redo the entire thing. I even dreamt about it that night – I got an email from (who I recognized as) the dean and he said that I got an A- and then proceeded to tell me what everyone else got. I woke up wishing that were the case. Finally, that night, I emailed the professor asking, as politely as I could, when I should expect to hear back. I just wanted to buy a frame for my goddamn degree and get that motherfucker on the wall, next to my bachelors degree, my notary, and my warrant.

She emailed back saying that all grades were out, degrees were complete, and that I got an A-.

I got in my car that minute and went to Target for a frame. Found the perfect frame, on sale, and my masters degree now hangs proudly among my other accolades. Dreams really do come true.

Now. My apartment is almost perfect, I officially hold a masters in media psychology, and I’m jobless. My goals? To get back into the gym, to start writing (something, anything), to find a job in TV/film/media (particularly something to do with British TV/film); mainly, I want to be free. I want to be free to- to do what I want to do. I want to get loaded, and I want to have a good time. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to have a good time.

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