Sinead O’Brien

I Go Away To Talk To Myself

A trip has the same quality a Friday has. Everything ahead. It’s like having your back against a wall and there being no past only possibility and choice to contemplate. Today is Friday and I am setting off for Berlin, alone.

Before I went to sleep last night I acknowledged that waking up at my unholy 2.45am, I would get that feeling again. The doom of no man’s time. No woman’s time. No time zone, timeless. No, 2am is not timeless. Anyway, it’s unavoidable. I bargained with myself. It’s worth it. Besides, there is no one awaiting me at the other side. No expectations. Not like before. I relax and sleep three hours through the American phone calls going on down the hallway. A hushed lullaby of fights gone by.

Walking through the lamp-lit streets I carry my suitcase out of respect to the silent armies of neighbors sleeping but also not to scare myself with the sound. I am quite alert, a little terrified. The scene is too cinematic and I suppose that’s what has me on edge. I imagine that hear myself screaming
and hoping a neighbour would rush down to save me but really I think it would take too long. A scary thought. There’s one lamp at the end, I’m getting closer to it, it seems to have something moving just beneath it. No just a phone box. Pillar box, nothing. My mind fills in spaces with animals and invisible feelings mixed human messages with soft spiky monsters of the strange time zone. This wild hour. And it always gets me in the same way-waking up into the unholy hours. I see the main street ahead, blurred with traffic and motion, I relax immediately.

Things I see from the bus screen windows on the bus to the airport.
A Poor dead fox at the side of the motorway. Six deadbeat towns. I am collecting the deadbeat towns for later. Images fixed. They are going nowhere. Orange 4am Suburbs. The motorway gets monotonous. Numb and it’s grown to 4am which brings me closer to dawn and further from that chill in my spine.
There’s a beat up magazine in every seat pocket, reminds me of a trip to Croatia, on the flight home after separating from friends I was alone for the first time in a week. In a state of delirium and convinced that the EasyJet flight magazine contained such interesting articles, I stole it. The travel bible sat in my small Hoxton kitchen for a week. It was a totem of the holiday. I felt out of my mind and away from my body. It was funny though. It’s the action of actually taking it and having it with me in my bag all the way back that makes me laugh.
The magazine on the bus this morning offers advice on ‘how to holiday’. Wiser this time — I don’t opt in.
Here alone I realise that away from all my things, the people I know, the buildings and routines which furnish my days — I am left with two things. Myself (that which I know and don’t know), and my habits. I can see my struggle clearly, I acknowledge that, and I grow a little closer to myself. That which I want to know.

I walk past men I’m worried about with a toughened expression. I don’t think they care either way all that much about expression. And what’s the difference between walking down an alleyway you know is dangerous late at night and smiling in the face of somebody who you think is dangerous during daylight. What is the difference? Where does the distance between those two things go to? What does it add up to?
“Tomorrow I ought to smile”.
— I thought.

People here look at me weird. I don’t wonder why. I just walk this unplanned pilgrimage.
Silently satisfied.

Sinead O’Brien is an Irish writer and poet in London.

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