She stepped out of the taxi, regretting the jacket she had thrown on. Warm air hit her face as she shut the door, giving the driver a small wave as thanks. Her heart pounding, she took a step towards the harbour. She had been there two years before, under much different circumstances.
Stepping onto the pavement, she leant against a stone pillar, content to watch the people roaming in and out of the boat harbour as she collected herself. It was half nine at night, the sky a hooded cloak of ink as she gazed upwards.
The stars always seem brighter this side of the world, she thought.
Memories had been made in this place last time she was here. She had been trying her best to stay positive. Unable to stop the narrowing of her eyes as the bitterness twisted her stomach, she pulled out a packet of cigarettes. It was a packet from the UK and already it made her slightly homesick.
People spilled either way on the street, all destined for a bar, restaurant or club inside. She had barely been in the country for a few days and yet she sought some sort of chaos. To stay indoors didn’t offer an adventure.
“Two days in the country and already you’re out for rum,” she mumbled to herself.
Things still aren’t right, are they? she thought, the salt air making her thirsty. Lighting her cigarette, she pulled in a lungful of grey smoke. Oh, she knew it was bad for her. She didn’t care. Each time she took another breath, she wanted the surrounding darkness to swallow her up.
Eyes prickled over her skin, making her meet their gaze directly. She couldn’t shake her country from her shoulders. Instantly alert, instantly defensive.
Her cheeks unused to the feeling, she made herself smile to look less threatening.
“Your body language is so dominant,” her friend had admonished her back at home during the night out. “You’re never going to meet anyone if you carry on like that.”
Like what? She thought. Myself? Heaven forbid. It wasn’t something she had been interested in. Going alone to a bar seemed like a self-indulgent thing to do. She could take herself out for a solo drink and treat herself- hell- maybe she’d make some friends along the way.
She stretched slightly, thinking of the time she had lived in Queensland years ago. She had a perfect balance of friends and home back then. She had hoped she could recreate the same thing now. But she had been younger then. People her age now had jobs and responsibilities- some even married with children. And her?
She had a £2.50 backpack on with a 1997 Gameboy inside and some money to buy herself a few drinks.
Winning at life obviously, she thought wryly, aware that smiling to herself may scare off the locals. Taking another drag on her cigarette, she continued to watch the thirsty revellers walk inside, savouring her ash stained lungs. She had no idea where her journey was going to lead. When people asked her what she was going to do, she didn’t know what to tell them.
“Don’t you have a plan?” they asked, shocked.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Right now, two days fresh in a new country, her plan had been to seek Captain Morgan.
Everyone wanted to know her intentions, her direction. But how could she tell them when she didn’t know herself? Her direction was constantly changing like a spinning compass. Where was she supposed to go? What was she supposed to do? At the end of the day, she supposed people should just stay or go where happiness took them. People found contentment in many different ways on many different paths.
But she didn’t feel content right now. A restlessness was bubbling up inside her chest. So much had happened this year and there wasn’t a soul in this country she could speak to about it. The year had changed her. Moulded her into a mixture of something old and new. She had evolved.
“You need to come over,” her dad had told her suddenly, interrupting an argument they were halfway through having.
She had slammed her mouth shut, shocked, her heart skipping a beat at the mere thought of it. They had a facetime conversation via the IPad about once a week. Sometimes longer if she had fucked up in some way. That afternoon had just happened to have been a seriously hungover fuck up.
“Come over, love,” he said again.
Of course she would like to escape across the world- who wouldn’t? They had asked her months ago. But that would have been running away. It would have been the wrong thing to do.
Since that conversation, it had taken merely a month to sell her belongings, her car and say goodbye to her friends, family and job.
She had wanted to start afresh.
The red embers burned in her vision as she turned the cigarette in her fingers, wondering how many breaths she had left.
One. Two. Three.
She lit another one, not ready to go inside yet. Not ready to start again. She needed to think. Needed to pace herself. Things were going to change for her and she wanted a moment. Just a few more seconds-
Her mind whirled as the nicotine hit. Go to New Zealand, get a van and go over the same route she had done last time, but make it into something positive. It would be cleansing. An adventure.
Or she could go to Asia and teach in the small schools in the area where her friend lived. She could do that for six months then head off to New Orleans maybe.
Or perhaps she should just spend two months in Australia and then head over to America? Or Scandinavia?
Restless, restless, restless.
Her mind flipped back and forth, back and forth, not knowing where she was supposed to be. She pulled out her phone, scrolling through her friends’ numbers, wondering if she could adapt. She had been building a life for herself back at home. Things had been going well. Repetitive- but well. She had been trapped in a concrete life, destined for an eventual journey into a grey book.
She was terrified of being trapped. Of not finding what she was looking for.
Breathing in the last of her second cigarette, she ground it into the floor.
How was she supposed to know what she was supposed to do? How could her one life of working the 9-5 to drink at the weekend simply turn into the same thing but in a different country?
That wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted to seek the extraordinary. She wanted to create her own story.
Walking into the harbour, she felt a slight pang of boredom being alone. Her friends would have loved it here. As she stepped forwards, her mind drifted off into another daydream of travelling Australia with a couple of her friends- get a van and travel the entirety of it. Create those memories.
She was so terrified of wasting time. So scared of missing the opportunity. She had stopped being afraid of risks the past year. Each risk was an adventure.
Life was too short, too short, too short.
Her eyes scanned the docks as she passed couples and families, suddenly painfully aware of her own mortality.
She didn’t want to regret anything. That was her biggest fear.
To not live.
To not take that chance.
She didn’t know what she was looking for, or even where she was going in life. Just that she would know when she got there.