5 days ago I returned home from a two-week stay in London. Or as I like to call it… HOME.
I have been wishing and bleating about how I have wanted to go there my entire life. Since I was probably about 5 or 6 years old I have fancied the UK. My first hero’s were the Spice Girls and Princess Diana… and you know how that ended.
On the 27th I flew from Seattle-> Las Vegas-> London. By the time I landed, I had to get myself to the flat I was renting, meet my host, and prepare myself mentally for what I was about to do next.
Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to be able to pull this off and especially not after a 15-hour journey. But, it was “For Book’s Sake”, which was a group I really resonated with so I needed to make this happen.
I scrubbed my face, brushed my teeth, changed clothes, and put on new makeup with metallic heart shaped freckles (from Mr. Kate’s Beauty Mark Collection). I jetted out the door, with a phone battery on 20%, to head off to Shoreditch… Sure that I was going to fall at some point or lose every inch of my lunch.
As I got closer to the event I found myself being overcome by the mundane life in the streets surrounding me. Forcing myself not to be overcome with emotions: I was failing miserably. I was becoming so overwhelmed and I was also worried I was about to get lost as my iPhone’s battery began to squeak out its last few percentages of dreadful red.
I looked up just in time to see the name of the street I was looking for, scrawled out on a worn placard, up above the edge of an old building just across the street. When I looked back down my phone was dead, so I crossed the street and hoped that Leonard street wasn’t too long and that if I just kept walking I would eventually end up where I needed to be.
Through gritted teeth, tired legs, and heavy eyes, I made it to ‘The Book Club” In Shoreditch. I walked down the staircase into the basement and met with the wonderful event organizer, Paul, and chatted with him about the flight to the UK from the US and the impending sense of doom that was filling up my insides like cement.
I let him know of the situation I was undergoing.
That I was supposed to be reading my poetry in about 45 minutes but all my poetry was locked away neatly on my iPhone. My dead iPhone.
He lent me his charging brick and as it began to finally come back to life I could hear the clicking of two sets of shoes coming down the same staircase I had just made my way down. I stood behind the DJ table… mostly wondering if I should move.I knew the voice I was hearing.
I knew the voice I was hearing.
I knew it because it was like mother’s milk to me. Her voice has been what has kept me reading, re-writing, and believing in extreme impossibilities for the last handful of years. Her small cheery laugh crackled through the passageway and into the performance hall. It crackled in me as well. I walked forward, trying not to leap as she walked in.
“Yes? Oh My God! You’re here! When I saw your name on the bill I wasn’t sure it was you since you lived so far away! Anna Jean, right?”
One could say I died right then and there. that it took the three bottles of cider that was free from Paul to revive me, but even that would be wrong.
We talked for a bit longer about different things before my friends Hana and Nadine showed up. They were my tethers to make sure I didn’t loose it since I hadn’t performed a lick of my poetry in 12 years. Having them there meant more than I can ever express.
When I got up to perform the two poems from my next poetry collection due out next year (This Garden – 2018) I had only planned on performing one. My cousin sat in the audience and It frightened me to think she might share the videos of this performance with my family. But, before I went on stage I had swizzled down 1 & 1/2 bottles of strawberry lime cider and decided I would let the distilled courage speak for me; by performing the 2nd piece. Despite my cousin being in the audience.
Before I had gone up I had given Laura Dockrill a gift bag full of little things. A painting I had made for her release, a few pins for her denim jacket, and a handmade Darcy Burdock doll that left her speechless. We chatted ever so briefly about how I wasn’t going to be doing the piece I had practiced because my cousin was going to be there and I feared my families critical critique and judgment. She shared with me that she never showed her work to judgmental and critical people. So when she said that it was a bummer she didn’t get to hear the poem I had worked on, especially because it was for that night, I let that sit inside me.
When I finished the 1st poem, the replacement poem, I listened to the applause, chuckled and then scrolled to the original piece on my phone. I only looked to Laura. Then opened my mouth to read what I feared most.
Is hard for people
but it’s even harder
to love it myself …”
I started in and looked up in-between bits to wide expressions, open mouths, and bums on the edges of seats.
When I finished they roared, some even stood up. I bowed slightly and ran off the stage.
My cousin engulfed me in a huge hug, wrapping her arms around me, putting her forehead against mine, and telling me how much she was inspired by me and how she hopes I never hide who I am.
But then there was Laura, who I wish one day could just be my mentor, or a friend, or even an equal in the writing world. She looked at me, gave me a huge hug, then put one hand on top of mine and said: “Was that last one the piece you weren’t going to do?” When I nodded she beamed. “I’m so glad you did. You were amazing! That was fucking fantastic!”
Later she would ask me if I was still with the person I talked about loving in my first poem. “No, but she taught me I was capable of loving again, so to me, that was more important.”
She nodded, understandingly, and set off to talk with her PR manager and her friend Buzz.
In about an hours time we had gone through a series of wonderful poets and storytellers. Each more moving than the last.
Then Laura got up and spoke about Aurabel, and read a glimmering jewel of a section from Big Bones, her next book due out in 2018. I was hooked. It was like our pieces had perfectly mimicked each other’s themes. Following the art of loving while feeling trapped by the world around you and the feeling of loving food, even though you are being told not to love yourself.
(Aurabel, for those not familiar with Laura’s book Lorali, is a sequel to her first Young Adult book following the tumultuous love between a mermaid and teenage boy. In this one, they are back, though everything is shifted and the focus lies on Aurabel and the life she lives. It starts in an underwater city named Tippi, which to me… very closely reminds me of Brixton, where I stayed in London. You can feel a lot of London in the book as well as a whole slew of other themes. Which I won’t giveaway… You’ll just have to go buy it yourself.)
That night I will never truly forget. Ever. I have two signed books to remind me that the whole thing actually DID happen. That I flew halfway around the world to perform at a “That’s What She Said!” event and fell in love with the city and the people.
I spent the next to weeks writing, crying, drawing, missing a couple concerts: yes, but also finding myself in the muddy waters of the Thames.
I cried getting on to the plane because I didn’t want to leave. It felt to much like home.. that i didn’t want to return to my actual home.
Oi Oi. Londonnnnn! You’ve been toooo good. I’m looking forward to seeing you in March!
And as a thank you… here. Have a sketch from my flat’s window.
(ooooh, PS. I sold out of all my poetry books while I was over there! Boom Shakalakka!)