In Spain the sun is as brutal as I always remembered and beneath it I am home. I stay with my mum's sister- my aunt- my uncle and my cousins. Days swallow into each other with the heat.
Theirs is a cosy home where pools of light spill over the tiled floors, where the windows never close and I wake at one to find that no one is home. I notice a book I bought my cousin for her birthday on the shelf and a beach towel I used as a child. It’s so surreal to see these little mementos of the past scattered in a home I haven't visited in years. Not so long ago this would have been unimaginable.
Ten years ago their were six of us, camped out on air mattresses and sofa beds on the living room floor. Our family was whole. It could never have broken, yet it already was. Growing up does that sometimes and now there is just one of me. Being here in this house is so intense for me sometimes I feel nauseous. I visit my other family members and they chase the newest addition to our family outside where their laughter echoes back to me through the open door. Back to me. Just me. A lone comet hurtling through wide open space. I wipe a tear away roughly, afraid someone might see it. And then, a moment later it is good. So good that I find myself smiling. I find the strength to push past all of my hurt and find genuine happiness that things are coming together for them. I wanted this. I hug all of them before I go. Kindness wins. The past falls away. I begin to long for my own home, and though I find it difficult to admit, for someone to share it with. Not now obviously, but one day.
On the surface I feel okay with the way everything is unfolding, but deeper down I am broken. I am lonely out here. I am trying to stay present but I keep on wondering how I got here. I’m a seventeen year old girl, a girl who many look up to, with no real idea of what I am doing, and a writer who barely writes. The darkness pulls at me daily but I always pull myself back to light. To gratitude for the endless good that fills my life.
The dark times are necessary for me. They are the lows that pull me back and back and back like a slingshot, before launching me higher than ever. I’m not moving so I start running. The first afternoon I feel like I am flying. I can feel my body and my breath and for the first time in a long time I know I am truly alive. The sky is bright one moment and breaking open the next. Rain slaps the uneven road and soaks through my clothes. Instead of finding shelter I dance in it all the way home. I don’t worry what the people watching out of the car windows think, they’re only a blur of lights to me and besides, I know by now it doesn’t matter. I stop thinking and I only feel.
It’s time to be a writer again. I stepped out of the car into heavy rain and held my little suitcase above the flooding streets as I ran toward the building where my family lives. I sit on the couch wet and laughing. I get a message from someone I met a few weeks ago and though it was the first time we’d ever met, she tells me she doesn’t know where she’d be without me. It isn’t out of the ordinary for me to meet people who already know me in ways even my own family don’t, for a stranger to reference a thought I’d had one sleepless night or a memory I’ve almost forgotten myself. Somehow I’ve grown used to it. It is strange that my blog can feel so abstract but have a tangible effect in the real world. But I am not really here, I am in the past and the future. I am overthinking and my mind is loud with thought and worry. I look outside the windows to the pool beckoning and I tell myself: Stop living in your head and start living in the world.
It is late but I slip quietly outside and out of my dress. When I dive into the pool I expect the sharp stinging cold of the pool, but the water is warm. It hugs me as I swim at the bottom. I remember being 8 and believing I was a mermaid and the bliss of naivety floods back to me. I feel the insignificance of all my worries. I embrace all I really have, the present. After a long time I break the surface. There is too much pollution to really see the stars but I am happy to watch the moon, to know it is the same moon I have always known. Inside the house someone sees me and smiles. I know I am loved here. The heat of this place spreads all over my body when I dry, prickling my skin.
Sometimes I walk over an hour to get to where I am going, not because I can’t go a shortcut but because I want to experience everything. I want to feel my body moving, run my hands along the fences and plants I pass and smile at strangers. When it is too far to walk I take shortcuts and trains and trace the lettering on my new journal that reads “wherever you are, be all there” and I am, mostly. I am writing every day. The high rushes back. I remember why I’d thrown myself into writing with such reckless abandon. I find myself again in those ecstatic moments where my posts and chapters come together and I am shouting with glee.
I go to visit my other cousins more often. They are little bursts of light throughout my day. The little one sits on my lap and she excitedly recounts all of her adventures. Her playing at the beach, eating food from the garden, picking flowers, dancing, sleeping, smiling. I arrive and she reaches for me instantly, this little girl who I last met as a new-born. She captivates me from the moment I see her. She doesn't cry when I hold her and plays with my sunglasses. I cannot put into words what it is like, how sweetly she skips when she runs and how mesmerising her voice is as she tells me stories. We walk hand in hand to the shop and all the while I am full with love for her. She smells flowers, picks up rubbish and narrates the world around us and I think, this here is my family and I could not be any luckier. One day I arrive to find her in tears and in the misery of the moment I am overwhelmed by how beautiful she is. Her eyes are deep brown and her hair sticks to her cheek. She laughs in between sobbing, like she finds it ridiculous that she is crying. I see myself in the way she loves. Wholly, recklessly, selflessly. I see all the heartache I’ve ever suffered, but all the bliss too. My cousins and I dance in street, because we can, because we aren’t afraid to. We sit together on the grass and share all of our ideas for changing the world. There is a flat rock jutting out from the sea so we dive into the cool, salty waves and swim to it. Our skin is cold and the rock is hot and we lay bare skinned under the sun. When the sun disappears the wind draws goose-pimples all over us but we are glowing, like the sunshine has gotten under our skin. We are all wildly, stupidly, overwhelmingly happy.
We walk to the theme-park in the middle of the day and arrive just to discover we don't have the right tickets. We resolve to return prepared the following day, and perhaps in October for Halloween. I keep finding beauty in the strangest things. The little bites on my legs, the way my aunt’s forehead creases when someone says something deliberately inappropriate, the smell of the clean sheets and the taste of salt in my hair. I let myself feel everything. The caress of the sun, the hug of the wind, the whispers of the trees. The warmth, the longing, the heartache, the uncertainty, the familiarity, the love, the gratitude, the boundless potential of everything like some swelling bursting star. Once, not so long ago, I feared I was condemned to numbness. Afraid I’d already felt too much and could never feel so much again. But now, alone, I am learning how to feel again. We sit in stillness while I play with my cousins hair, we wander across the beach at dusk and I beat them in a round of switch. I look through the hundreds of photos my friends left for me on my phone. They've been an almost daily part of my life for many months now, yet sometimes I look at them and feel like I’ve never met them before. It is like we are both best friends and complete strangers. I know them so well and yet, I still have so much to learn.
Before I know it, as it always goes, I am leaving again. I am heavy but I refuse to be sad today It’s the start of summer and I have a flight to catch back home. I invite everyone to my last breakfast before I fly out. That very early morning is the clearest of them all. It is the morning I realise how much my family mean to me, and how much I mean to them. My connections to others are more precious than anything else I could ever have. All else pales in the face of love. My journal is stolen on the plane ride home. It’s on my seat when I go to the bathroom and when I get back it’s gone. It is my little companion that helps me collect my thoughts, my little garden where my ideas begin to grow. It is a piece of my heart but instead of being devastated I just accept that it’s gone. I’m surprised by how easy it is to let go. I wonder who took it and what they’ll take away from my thoughts.
Everything is always so peaceful here, just like I remember. In the evenings my cousins and I play cards or go to the movies, while my aunt and uncle are busy making dinner, music is playing and my new, old friends are talking together with glasses of wine. Being around them reminds me that I am only seventeen, that the yearning for experience and connection is still unsettled in my chest. I am the youngest here.I hug my family for a long time when I leave. I can’t find the right words for how grateful I am to her so I try to put it all into my embrace. I don’t want to say goodbye so I tell everyone I will see them again soon. Which I will, next weekend in fact, just in a different place.
I fly back home, sunkissed and happy-hearted, with more adventure to come. I had a funny feeling flying over Glasgow before we landed, looking down on the rivers like trickles of water and cars like beetles, humans only grains of sand and their little box homes. I had a sense of just how small we really are. Then I was home again and everything breathed peace.Today isn’t an ending, it’s a birth. It’s in the air, like the whole world knows it.