Calum McSwiggan

Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Boys Will Be Boys

In Eat, Gay, Love on January 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Hot Gay Guys

‘Boys will be boys, and even that wouldn’t matter if we could prevent girls from being girls.’

– Anne Frank

It’s that time of year when the excitement of a fresh start begins to wane and the big love day is almost on top of us, and for the majority of the single population, we start to panic about the fact that we don’t have a partner. I’m no exception, and over the past few days I’ve noticed an emptiness that just can’t seem to be filled, and while searching for something to fill that void, I stumbled upon some tweets from last summer that pinpoint exactly what it is I’m looking for.

Calum McSwiggan Twitter

The family I was staying with had gone to the beach and neglected to leave me a key, and after thoroughly searching for an open window or an unlocked door, my attention was caught by a faint roar catching on the wind. My ears pricked up, and as I wound through the olive gardens, following the sound across the Italian countryside, I found myself standing before the local football stadium.

I pushed my way through the crowd and leaned up against the railings with a group of twenty-something Italian men. What’s the score? I asked in the most dishevelled Italian anyone has ever spoken, and they interrupted their flurry of cheers and profanity to tell me. I spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to join in with their foreign football chants, and when the match was over and the stands began to empty, I realised that despite years of fulfilling the gay stereotype and openly proclaiming my hatred for soccer, this was actually quite enjoyable. It was just the beginning of a new-found obsession.

Calum McSwiggan TwitterI found myself suddenly spending my evenings watching the football at home with my host family or out at a bar with the local teenagers, and this surprising new love of football even started bleeding into my work. Twice a week I told my students to put away their books and brought them outside for a ninety minute match under the warmth of the Tuscan sun. I just couldn’t get enough. And yet despite all this, alongside my daily intake of pasta, when I finally left Italy behind for the summer, I left my passion for soccer behind too, and it’s only now whilst reading back through my own words that I realise how much I miss it.

Calum McSwiggan Twitter

 But it’s not the football I miss, not really. It’s the feeling of being part of something masculine, and being accepted as one of the lads. Since the end of my last relationship, male companionship is something I’ve been lacking, and that’s what I really miss. It isn’t that I’m lonely, I have plenty of friends to keep me company, nor is it a craving for sex, I could quite easily toss aside my celibacy vow and pick up a guy if that’s really what I wanted- the thing that I’m really missing is somebody I can be a boy with.

I think somewhere in the process of coming out and redefining my new identity, I embraced all of those repressed feminine parts of my personality, but in doing so I lost sight of the masculine. Suddenly it was okay to dance to Britney and admit I liked One Direction but I forgot that once upon a time I liked football, skateboards and video games.

With very few straight friends I have nobody to embrace these parts of my personality with. I love going out to gossip at fancy French restaurants but sometimes it’d be nice to have a boy over to eat greasy take-out with while nuking the shit out of zombies in our underwear. Instead of being the gay best friend and asserting my much needed opinion over dresses in boutiques on the high street, it’d be nice to dip into Foot Locker and have somebody help me choose a new pair of high tops. Instead of going ice skating and holding hands while we skate in slow romantic circles, it’d be nice to drop the pretence and race them across the rink.

I’m looking for somebody who would wrestle me to the floor when I try to change the channel, somebody who thinks yes, it would be a good idea to roll down that sand dune, somebody who can educate me about the offside rule, teach me to burp the alphabet, and call me a girl when I cry at the Titanic. Maybe that’s why I’m so often attracted to the straight acting guy, I’m more interested in bromance than romance, and that’s why in the lead up to Valentine’s this year, I’m not looking for a boyfriend, I’m just looking for a boy to be my friend.

New Year, New York

In Eat, Love on January 10, 2013 at 11:59 am

New York City Fireworks

‘And because no matter who you are, if you believe in yourself and your dream, New York will always be the place for you.’

– Michael Bloomberg 

I shut down my laptop and carefully placed it into my bag as the lights went down, the stacks emptied, and the University library began to close. I slung my bag over my shoulder and picked up the letter from New York University that was sat waiting for me at the end of my desk. I’d completely put off opening it since I found it by the front door that morning, the crux of everything I had worked for up until that moment was sitting in that envelope, and now was the time to open it.

I’ve always been a firm believer that you will always conquer your dreams as long as you fully commit yourself to them, and so it was devastating to say the very least when I peeled open that seal and let that big fat fancily worded no fall out into my hands. It was the beginning of a series of rejections that would come to me over the next couple of years, a series of rejections that would eventually end in me bidding farewell to my New York dreams.

Living in New York seemed to be an impossibility, with the high competition for graduate schools and the complications of immigration control, I seemed to be met with failure from whatever angle I attacked it from. Even visiting seemed implausible when my carefully planned trip to The Big Apple was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.

After failing to make it so many times it was difficult to be anything but defeatist. Every time I tried to make this dream a reality something jumped in the way and stopped me. It was as if I was being tested, as if somebody was telling me that you can’t just stroll into New York City, if you want to live in the city of dreams, you have to prove that you’re willing to sweat.

I weighed up my options for the longest of time, that constant of New York always burning in the back of my mind as I hopped from country to country, and every time I tried to talk myself out of it, my body kicked and screamed in resistance. I’ve had this craving for home for so long, and after everything that happened in Derby, nowhere really seems like home anymore, nowhere but that place on the other side of the Atlantic, that place I’ve never even set foot.

And so in the lead up to the New Year, I made myself a promise to save $10,000 and move to Manhattan with nothing but a suitcase and a smile. I wouldn’t try to secure a job, or a place at a University, I would just turn up, treat it as an extended holiday and just see what happened. I told myself that within five years I would be living in New York City, and while I let the cogs whir in the back of my mind, scheming up all the details of my plan, a stack of life changing letters were on their way in the post.  

I didn’t know it at the time but these letters were everything I needed to concrete my plan, they weren’t graduate school acceptance letters, or job offers, or exciting opportunities, they were something far more important- letters from my friends. When you sever all ties and up and move to Spain, you’d think that it would be impossible to maintain those old friendships, and yet when these letters came from all over the globe, they proved to me that these friendships were just as strong as ever.

Each envelope or parcel came filled with inspirational photographs, quotes, poems, and gifts that directly corresponded to all the things I wanted to achieve in the fast approaching New Year. Each one lovingly reminisced over fond memories, each one made motivational reference to my vision of moving to New York, and each one came with the same underlying message: I believe in you.

For the first time I really realised that I’m surrounded by people who don’t only listen to my aspirations but they have full faith in my ability to achieve them, too. I so often talk about travelling solo but really I’m never on my own, I’ve got a whole wack-shack of like-minded friends constantly cheering me on. Each and every one of those letters encouraged me to go out and achieve everything I’ve ever wanted, each one was an acceptance letter, and each one was a ticket to New York. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the means to attend a University, I had a whole load of friends who believed in me, and that was infinitely more important.

I scrambled for my wallet and pulled out the ninety-three dollars I had left over from my cancelled trip to America, and then I scrawled New York on an empty envelope and stuffed them inside. I was going to save up that ten thousand, and I was going to move half way around the world, except I wasn’t going to do it in five years, I was going to do it in ten months.

Having five digits in my bank account will be a huge accomplishment in itself, but being able to use that money to go and live amongst the dreamers will be by far the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished. There’s something poetic about arriving in New York for the first time with nothing but a suitcase and some money, almost reminiscent of the first people who landed there and called it their home. It’s as if this is what everything has been leading up to until now, and in ten months time, for the first time since my old life fell apart, just like those settlers crossing the ocean, I’ll finally be heading home.

Another Man’s Shoes

In Eat, Love on December 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Skater High Tops

‘And of course you can’t become if you only say what you would have done’

– Len

The Barcelona sunshine blazed down on us as we walked through the cobbled streets, admiring the work of the artists, listening to the rising music of the buskers, and taking in all the inspiration the city had to offer. So you’re sure I can stay with you? I asked, picking up a small hand-carved figurine and looking at the group of four Canadian artists- a pair of illustrators, a sculptor, and a painter. Of course, they said with devilish smirks, as long as you hold up your end of the bargain.  

They’d moved to Barcelona to be inspired by the city of artists, and in need of a life model, they offered up their couch in exchange for my services. It seemed like a fair trade, using our bodies to do business is the oldest profession in the book, and I had no qualms in taking off my clothes in exchange for a hot meal and a place to sleep.

But despite my lack of timidity, I never did end up posing for them. I got so caught up in marvelling at the lives of these four girls that our pact all but slipped my mind. They had wanted something and so they quite simply went out and just did it, they knew what their dreams were, and they weren’t about to let anyone get in their way, and in just spending a short time in their presence, they enriched me with something valuable- stimulation, motivation, and encouragement.  

I took the lessons they’d taught me to Ibiza, and spent a week fully immersed in the rave culture of the island, chasing a life-long dream. It may not seem like much of an achievement, but it had always been something I wanted to do, and taking the plunge and just doing it was by far the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. And when I woke up one morning wearing another man’s shoes, with absolutely no recollection to why, I knew that I’d done it. It was so pertinent that I was wearing somebody else’s shoes because I didn’t feel like myself anymore, I wasn’t the person to fly to Ibiza by myself for a week long rave, and yet there I was, covered in splatters of neon paint and wearing a stranger’s shoes to prove it. 

I’d managed to surpass the constraints of the person I believed I was, and transcended into something I could have only ever dreamed of becoming, and that’s how I want to spend every single day in 2013. In the past year I’ve made a few hundred friends, visited eighty different cities, published over forty blog posts, worked in five different countries, and got over one nasty break up– I have absolutely no regrets and yet still I know that there is so much more I could have accomplished if I stopped holding myself back. I was stumbling through life with a wink and a smile as my only currency, and while that provided me with an amazing adventure, I know that if I really want to conquer my dreams, that I have to start building my own opportunities instead of waiting for them to come.

I’m done messing around, I’m tired of waiting for all the things I want, it’s time to start making things happen, and so I’ve devised a list of ten ambitious yet achievable goals for 2013. I already knew that I wanted to donate blood and pose nude for a life drawing class, and all I had to do to think up the remaining eight goals was ask myself what it was I really wanted, and within minutes I’d drawn up the beginnings of something big.

Run the New York Marathon
Learn Buddhist Meditation
Drink Snake’s Blood in Thailand
Move to America
Publish a Manuscript
Donate Blood
Ride an Elephant in India
Pose Nude for a Life Drawing Class
Meet One of My Idols
Meet a Gay Man Who Gives Me Butterflies

Each item pertains to one aspect of my life that I want to improve- charity, love, culture, home, career, and inspiration. I’ve tried not to dwell on responsible goals, and put equal focus on the irresponsible- there’s no reason that the importance of my career should weigh more heavily than my pursuit of love or my desire to drink snake’s blood, all of these goals are equally as important to me, and will all receive equal attention.

It’s time to stop fantasizing and dreaming about reaching these goals, and it’s time to start doing. I know that all I need to do is take small realistic baby steps, and in a year’s time all of these baby steps will have amounted to so much more. Putting my dreams out there in a tangible list, where the whole world can see them, is my way of making a promise to myself, my way of saying game on, my way of telling the world that I’m ready.

This time next year, when I look back at the year’s events, I want to experience that feeling I had on that hungover morning in Ibiza. Except this time when I look down, I won’t see another man’s shoes, I will see the shoes of the person that I’ve strived to become, and will know that even if I don’t manage to tick off every item, I will be proud in knowing that I spent every single day doing everything in my power to make my dreams come true.

Drawing Blood

In Gay, Love on December 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

Blood Donation

‘Of all that is written, I love only what a person has written with his own blood.’

 – Friedrich Nietzsche

We’re not having sex for a year, I said to my boyfriend as I read about the changes to the law preventing gay men from donating blood. It now allowed gay men to donate providing they hadn’t had penetrative sex with another man for a full 365 days. I was clearly joking, there was no way I was going to sacrifice a full year of intimacy with my partner in exchange for the right to donate blood, no matter how passionately I felt about it.

It was the principle of it all, I’d adamantly fought against this law in my own small way since I first discovered the ban. I’d always been told that gay men weren’t allowed to donate blood but always shrugged it off as a rumour that couldn’t possibly be true. So when I was rejected as a donor in my first year of University, my blood began to boil at the mere fact that it wasn’t wanted. My best friend kindly offered to donate on my behalf but it wasn’t enough to satiate this growing desire. I wasn’t prepared to let this quietly slip by, I had to speak out.

I got into heated debates with the National Blood Service; I publicly spat angry spoken word about the injustice; and was nominated an award for an article that challenged the controversial law. And because of all of this, this victory seems somewhat bitter-sweet. It’s a step in the right direction but this new law is just as discriminatory as the last. Sex is one of the most basic vices of human nature and giving somebody the right to donate in exchange for the right to have sex is a bit like giving somebody the right to wear jeans providing they don’t eat. The outcome is simple: nobody’s going to be wearing jeans.

When the law was originally put in place, I agree that it was the right thing to do, the AIDS virus broke out into the gay community and until we learned more about it putting precautions in place was the responsible thing to do. However, a few years down the line when we began to learn more about it, the law should have been repealed and not stayed stagnant for all this time. This new law has been designed to satiate both the homosexuals and the homophobes, but that isn’t what a law should be about. A law should never be about trying to please two opposing parties, it should be about affording everybody equal rights regardless of whether that upsets closed-minded-Bob who just can’t stand it when people wear jeans.

However, it just so happens that as of December 1st, for the first time in my life, I am legally allowed to donate blood. I didn’t realise at the time but when I told my partner that we wouldn’t be having sex for a year, I was speaking fortuitously. We broke up a few weeks later leaving me involuntarily celibate for the months that followed, but amongst all of the emotional baggage that comes along with the end of a relationship, it never really occurred to me that this might be my opportunity to abstain for a year, it just sort of happened.

A strong believer of the three date rule, I fooled around with Americans, Germans and Irishmen, but never staying in one place long enough to go on three dates, I didn’t do anything that would result in resetting my one year ban. And so I’ve wound up here, one year down the line, legally allowed to donate blood. It’s like I’ve suddenly been released from prison on probation, one slip up and it’s right back to square one. Suddenly temptation is overwhelming, I always want what I can’t have, and it would be so easy to pick up the proverbial baseball bat and steal the proverbial Mercedes.

If this law doesn’t take another step forward this could be the only opportunity I ever have to legally donate blood and that isn’t something I should discard just because Claus invites me for a game of swing ball. It would be a waste to throw away this opportunity and so I’m actively abstaining from sex until I have donated that pint of blood I’ve so badly wanted to give.

Donating could be tricky, though, although my sexuality won’t affect my chances to donate blood, my nationality will. Due to the risk of mad cow disease, UK nationals aren’t allowed to donate here in Spain, and so it will be a costly flight back to England to afford myself this luxury.

So why go to all this effort? Why abstain from sex, why spend money, why kick up all this fuss? The answer is simple. I know that when that blood finally leaves my veins that it’s going to be the most incredible high of my life, and knowing that I’ve finally been afforded the right to give life will be better than any sexual encounter could ever be.

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin

In Eat, Love on November 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin

And you said be still my love, open up your heart, and let the light shine in.’

– Colin Hay

The room hushed and the candles flickered in the dim evening light, my closest friends eagerly leaned forwards as they listened to my boyfriend deliver my birthday speech- and then everybody fell silent as he got down on one knee, clicked open a ring box, and asked me to marry him.

The hardest experience of my life came a few months later when it all came toppling down on top of us, six years of building a life together were shattered in one instant. I had to give up the job I adored, the home I cherished, and the man I loved all in one heartbeat. And so not knowing what else to do, I wrapped myself up inside a tiny silk cocoon, told myself it was okay to let my heart decide how to fill my days, and I left.

I travelled and searched for a new home– rediscovering love, exploring my inner landscape, undergoing my own personal metamorphosis. Everything went so smoothly, each day falling effortlessly into the next, mending my broken heart, and giving me a new vitality for life. Each new story was another protective layer in my shell, and each new experience helped me transform that little bit more.

But although I was living some of the best experiences of my life, I knew that this lifestyle had no permanence, never staying in one place for more than two weeks wasn’t practical, and I couldn’t keep perpetuating it forever. Like all good things, it would eventually come to an end.

And it needed to. I was developing a new curiosity for love, desperate to explore romance that doesn’t end in me disappearing on a train; anxious to jump back on the coat-tails of my career and start the climb to the top; and eager to find myself that home that I craved- but I couldn’t do any of that unless I resolved to stay in one place.

It was something I fought hard against, I didn’t want this country-hopping adventure to end, and so when that hurricane hit New York and abruptly forced my trip into a halt, I knew that it was a sign. I was left without money, without plans, and without a place to stay. A huge part of me felt like I was at the beginning, like it had all been a waste of time, but there was a confident voice rising up inside of me, telling me that this was it- now was the time to start rebuilding my life.

So for the first time in six months I finally stopped running. I booked a flight to Spain and set up shop in my parents’ guest bedroom, I took in my surroundings, and asked myself what was the next step. The answer came hard and fast, it was time to hatch a dream I’d been harbouring for as long as I could remember, but this dream required something in abundance, something that I didn’t have, that thing they say makes the world go round. Money, money, money. My savings were obliterated, my bank account emptied, I didn’t have a penny to my name.

I’d already signed a contract for a not-very-well-paid job in an Austrian ski-resort, but I no longer wanted to take it. I knew I couldn’t keep accepting less-than-minimum-wage-jobs just because they give me the opportunity to travel- it was conflicting with everything I really wanted. Love, a home, and a career.

And so I took my best friend’s advice and I stopped kicking and screaming, I kept the Austrian job in reserve, and let everything just happen. And then like magic everything fell into place on the evening of Thanksgiving. It was exactly a year since my heart had been broken, and that dull-ache that had always lived inside of me was everything but gone; I’d found home in breaking bread with my family; and new creative projects began piling up faster than I could realise them. And then like clockwork, as I finished my slice of pumpkin pie, I was offered a new job. A job that would fund my dreams, the ticket to my next adventure, the start of something big.

This was all just a stepping stone to realising my dreams, but I could already feel myself breaking free of that protective cocoon I once built for myself. It took me a year, but I was finally not only healed, but transformed. When I woke the following morning I was free, and when I climbed out into the warm morning sun I could feel my wings fluttering gratefully.

I had speculated that there was a reason for that hurricane, a reason for cancelling my trip, a reason for my being here, but I never thought I’d find the answer so fast. They say that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a hurricane halfway around the world, but it’s obvious to me now, my truth is just the opposite.

These Scars of Mine

In Gay, Love on November 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Gay Teenage Love

‘Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.’

– Cormac McCarthy

Beneath the darkness of some slasher flick I found his hand in the darkness, and as the blood of some helpless teen spattered against the cinema screen, I entwined it with mine. I’d pursued him for almost a year, sending him valentines, sketches, and piano recordings of his favourite songs, and finally, when we both found ourselves on British soil, we endeavoured to go on our first date.

The moon hung gingerly in the sky as I stood on the open platform waiting to catch the last train home; we were both out of breath from running through the underground, and as the train noisily pulled up behind me, I stared at his perfect lips, and dreamed about kissing them. I didn’t want to get on the train without first sharing a goodnight kiss, I’d made that mistake before, but as I stood there staring into his innocent brown eyes, I let my scars remind me that I couldn’t.

I wear every one of my scars with pride, each one tells its own story, each teaches its own lesson. The cigarette burns on my arm remind me not to trust Italian teenagers, the scar on my eyelid reminds me not to stand behind golfers before they take a swing, and the scar on my forearm reminds me that my best friend’s mother was probably right- he really shouldn’t play with knives. All of these scars remind me of the mistakes I’ve made and the pain I’ve witnessed, but it is the scar on my bottom lip that truly reminds me of the frightening reality of the world we live in.

I was sixteen and hadn’t long come out of the closet when it happened. My friend and I were laughing so hard that we hadn’t realised we were being followed as we walked home, and it wasn’t until after I hugged him goodbye that I found the three boys stood in my path. I recognised them, they were the boys who malevolently assaulted my friends in school, the ones who had always backed down when someone stood up to them, the ones who I thought were in my past.

My body recoiled as they spouted off a colourful array of insults about my newly realised sexuality; I tried to ignore them and push past, but when I heard the word faggot caught on a whisper of the wind, I couldn’t help myself. The word grabbed me, asked me if I was going to take that, spun me around, and marched me back towards them.

I don’t know where such stupidity came from but before I knew it I was standing inches away from the ringleader’s face, grinding my teeth and attempting to stare him down- it’d always made him stand down in the past but this time there was no fear in his eyes, only hatred. Somehow the realisation that I was gay had diminished any ideas of my being a threat. He wasn’t scared of me anymore.

The other boys seized an arm each and held them behind my back, and as he raised his fist, the black stud in his ring glistened in the sunlight, temporarily blinding me, before it lodged itself beneath my eye, in the side of my head, in the crook of my nose, and finally in my bottom lip. It buried itself in the flesh, shattering three of my teeth, and when he yanked it free, he took a small chunk of my face, my heart, and my strength, with it.

Managing to wrestle my arms free and seize both of his fists, I spat blood and shards of broken tooth into his face before turning on my heel and making a swift get away. Blood poured freely from my face, and when I tried to stop the flow with my hands, the blood only seeped through my fingers and dripped down onto my clothes. The look on my mother’s face when she answered the front door is lodged within my memory, it truly resonates, and I can only imagine the pain in the eyes of the families who answer the door to find that their children aren’t coming home at all.

For we all bear these scars of mine, they don’t just tell my story, they tell the story of every gay and lesbian individual out there- just a few weeks ago a friend of mine returned from a nightclub bruised and bloodied from a routine gay-bashing, but both he and I were lucky, some don’t return with just scars, some don’t return at all.

It’s for this reason that I’m proud of every gay couple I see sharing their affection out in the open, because that takes real courage. I’d love to one day be like the beautiful boys I saw kissing in Budapest, but until we live in a more tolerant world, with every public kiss we’re risking abuse, and where I’m willing to accept that risk unto myself, I’m not willing to subject any one of my partners to that torment.

I can only remain hopeful that one day we can openly share a kiss on that platform without harbouring even a spark of fear of persecution- but until then, I’ll continue to let those beautiful brown eyes slip away from me, and will never feel those soft delicate lips pressed tenderly against mine.

The Broken City of Dreams

In Eat, Love on November 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm

New York City
 ‘That’s the thing about a human life- there’s no control group, no way to ever know how any of us would have turned out if any variables had been changed.’

– Elizabeth Gilbert

The violent images of Hurricane Sandy tearing through New York flashed up on the television screen behind me as I sat on the floor reading through my insurance policy. I kept telling myself that everything happens for a reason, and tried not to feel too sorry for myself, I may have been facing losing all of the savings I’d poured into a trip around America, but people on the other side of the world were being evacuated, losing their homes, and in some extreme cases, even losing their lives.

I had to remind myself that every single part of my journey so far has been seamless; everything has fallen into place so neatly that it’s as if everything has been pre-destined. I feel like I’ve spent the last six months falling through the days and the months, following breadcrumbs that have lead me to each destination, never second-guessing myself and just going with each opportunity that has presented itself. It was the roll of a dice that determined my trip to Ibiza, pointing blindly at a map that decided my journey to Frankfurt, and a job that I don’t remember applying for that landed me in Switzerland.

And during this decision-less lifestyle, there have been many times when I’ve questioned whether or not I was on the right path, I kicked and screamed when my ­ex-fiancé decided to kick me out of his life and shack up with a ginger, I threw all of my toys out of the pram when my scholarship to study abroad was retracted, and I slammed all the doors in a flying rage when I didn’t get a job that I had so sorely wanted- but in hindsight I can see why all of these things happened, and how all of these things lead to where I am today.

If I had stayed with my ex I would have never chased a boy to Berlin, if I had been granted a scholarship to study abroad I would have never fallen in love with the locals in Frascati, and if I’d gotten the job I’d originally wanted, I would have never danced on the tables at Oktoberfest.

I realise now that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, and exactly where I was always going to be- I was never going to be flying over the Grand Canyon today, I was always going to be watching Spanish children argue in the street whilst writing this very blog post, everything is exactly as it should be.

And so instead of mourning all of the wonderful adventures I had planned, instead I choose to reflect on them with fondness, be content in the fact that these dreams were very nearly part of my reality, and think of them as warm memories rather than shattered dreams.

I remember the time that my friends and I celebrated Halloween in New York, crawling the streets of the city, doused in fake blood and sparkling with glitter, frightening children, and howling at the moon; I remember the time I marvelled at the majesty of Niagara Falls, feeling the cool spray across my face, and reflecting on everything that was good and true in my life; I remember the time I fell in love with the Nevada Desert, tasting the soft lips of a stranger and awe-gazing at the glittery sea of Vegas lights; and I remember devouring a divine Thanksgiving dinner, and then heading out on the open road, our bellies filled and our hearts soaring with happiness as we took a road trip down to Miami.

Perhaps if I had lived these dreams they wouldn’t have been as perfectly shaped as they are in my imagination, perhaps I would have got too drunk to remember Halloween in New York, perhaps Niagara Falls would have been so unbearably over-crowded that I would have left in frustration, perhaps there would have been no mysterious stranger to lock lips with in Las Vegas, and perhaps we’d have to cancel our road trip to Miami because of the food poisoning we got from the turkey.

But the most important thing to remember is that although I may have missed out on one adventure, it leaves a hole in my life, an empty void, a door to the uncharted- and who knows, maybe one day I will turn to one of my close friends and say, Hey, remember that time that Hurricane ruined my trip to America? That was the best thing that ever happened to me.

A Stranger in My Own Home

In Gay, Love on October 27, 2012 at 11:16 am


‘Clinging to me, like the last breath you would breathe, you were like home to me, I don’t recognise this street.’

– Ellie Goulding

I stepped off the train and breathed in my hometown, I was glad to be back, excited to walk old walks, and high on the thought of seeing old friends, but from the very first moment, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. I could feel a pair of eyes watching me, stalking me through the station, and following me as I wound back through the streets I’d once escaped from.

But every time I turned around and sought them out, there was nothing, so I carelessly shrugged them off and settled back into the warmth of the place that I once called my home. I awkwardly lingered at first, a stranger in my own home, except it wasn’t my home anymore, it hadn’t been for quite some time.

Things had changed, new pictures hung on the wall, new furniture filled the room, and new trinkets cluttered the mantle. When you disappear you kind of expect life to stand still behind you, but it doesn’t, you move on, and life moves on with you. It was obvious that like me, my ex had built a new life for himself, and the only thing left of the love we once shared were two silver rings sat next to a picture of a loving couple posing for their engagement. I once knew one of those boys as myself, but he was a stranger to me now, I didn’t recognise him anymore.

I smiled at the photo, placed one of the cold metal bands between my fingers, and let everything it stood for wash over me, a memory that once haunted my every waking dream, a memory that once corrupted me, a memory I thought I was now strong enough to face.

It was all too easy to fall back into the life I once knew, to have dinner with the boy who was once my world, to indulge in the things that once constituted my day-to-day life. I fell so hard into old habits that I very nearly forgot the new life I’d made for myself. I indulged in false luxuries, wrapped myself in the warmth of a familiar hug, and cherished the companionship of old friends, but deep down inside I could feel this inexplicable deep hollow ache that was slowly but surely consuming me.

The thing about a broken home is that no matter how far it has fallen into disrepair, it will always feel like home, and with my new found longing, I was happy to give myself over to it, I welcomed each new day with a smile, and very nearly forgot about the pain and suffering that once drove me to the brink of madness. I lay down in the comforting rubble of my former life, and turned a blind eye to the demons that crawled the streets, the phantoms that haunted my dreams, and the slow consuming agony that was building up inside me.

And amongst all of this, every now and then, I caught a glimpse of him- out of the corner of my eye, in the sparkle of a rogue reflection, or merged amongst the crowds in the streets. He was following me, and I let him slink closer and closer each day. He watched me from the adjacent street, stood outside my window, waited outside my door, and finally climbed into bed with me. I let him lie beside me, I let his warm fingers caress my body, soothe my pain, pull me in close, and adorn me with a false sense of hope, I let him do all of this.

But after only a few days the feeling began to go sour, as this dark creature held me in his embrace and slowly slid his fingers around my throat, the warmth I felt began to turn into a crippling loneliness. And like an eclipse on my soul, familiar nightmares began to resurface, forgotten arguments burst back into reality, and I began reliving feelings I thought I’d shut out for good. I tried to scream but his cold fingers were already suffocating me, throttling me, drowning me in dark unknown waters.

I gasped and spluttered and pleaded with him, but he already had me in his grip, and the only thing I could do was face him. I desperately stared into his empty ocean blue eyes, and for the first time, I recognised him for who he was, and realised it was me who was the stranger, not him.

It was the boy from the engagement photo, the boy I’d once seen in the mirror, the dark shadow of my former self, and all this time he’d been trying to tell me something, and all this time I’d refused to listen. I caressed his skin, examined the pain in every wrinkle, and let my eyes fall upon his blackened frozen lips. He struggled to find the words, and with all the effort of a thousand dying men, he spoke to me for the first time, and he told me to run.

And so I threw off his hands, clambered away from him, pulled myself from the comforting rubble, and once again embraced the dazzling sunlight. As I looked at the heartbroken glaze over his eyes, I reminded myself of the adventures behind me, and the adventures yet to come, told him that he wasn’t the person I wanted to be anymore, and allowed myself to draw a sharp underline to this life.

And just like that he returned to his photo, smiling sweetly and innocently, a permanent reminder of both the good memories and the bad. It may be even harder to say goodbye this time, but I know now more than ever, that although I can pass through for a few days, catch up with old friends, and appreciate the things that once made me ridiculously happy, I can never, ever, go back. 

The Lights of Berlin

In Eat, Gay, Love on October 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

Berlin City Lights

“I was in the winter of my life, and the men I met along the road were my only summer.”

– Lana Del Rey

I tipped my head back, downed the remnants of my wine and stared out of the kitchen window and down into the moonlit valley below. I had my best friend at my side, and there was a magic in the air, the kind of magic that can only be found in Italy. Atop our hidden mountaintop village we were free, nomadic adventurers from across the globe coming and going as we pleased, inspiring one another with whispered stories and laughing into the night.

It was as we all sat down at the table on the terrace outside when I first noticed him. I’m from New York but I’m moving to Berlin, he said and immediately drew my full undivided attention. Two places I’ve dreamed of visiting, two places that fascinate me, two places combined into one being, he intrigued me, and like all of the men who’d intrigued me before him, I had to know his story.

I hung on his every word, laughed at his every joke, and caught his every glance, I thought it could have been the start of a long and meaningful friendship but deep down I knew that when I disappeared on the train the following morning, like the many other amazing people I met that night, I’d probably never see him again.

But to my surprise it seemed that wherever I went people seemed to mention his name- my best friend, a work colleague, a stranger- and so when I closed my summer chapter and sought out my next adventure, I knew I wanted to make him part of it.

A distant promise of a visit quickly turned to reality and I found myself stood on his balcony in the cold autumn air, sipping wine, and looking out over Berlin. It all seemed very symmetrical, like we had been here before, and in a way we had, just in a different time and place.

The hours turned to days and what seemed like moments after my arrival I was already making my way to the train station with his jacket around my shoulders, we walked in silence and the whole time all I could think was that I wanted to kiss him, to cease him in front of all of Berlin just to say thank you for the inspiration, for the good times, and for the story, but instead I uttered a few empty words, hugged him, and left.

It didn’t hit me how saddened I was until I sat down on the midnight train and thought about the short time we’d spent together, a familiar lump caught in my throat and my eyes began to glaze over, I’d said goodbye so many times that I thought I’d become desensitised to it, but my stomach clenched as the butterflies were consumed in bile, and all I could think was why didn’t you kiss him goodbye?

Parting was inevitable but I wanted the chance to stay just one more night, to have the chance to say goodbye properly, to share a snapshot of romance before continuing on in search of something new, it wasn’t that I didn’t want it to end, I just wanted to end it right. I’m going to get off the train, I told myself.

My eyes fixed on the clock as I watched the last two minutes slowly ticking away. I’m going to get off, I said aloud, clearing the lump from my throat and rising to my feet. I wrestled my suitcase down from the luggage rack and as the seconds rapidly slipped away from me, I ran through the carriage and leapt off the train just before the whistle blew and the doors slammed shut behind me. Somebody was yelling at me in the distance, and I could hear the train pulling out of the station behind me, but I didn’t care. I ran through Berlin as fast and as far as my legs would carry me, burst through his front door in an overly theatrical Ross-And-Rachel-I-Got-Off-The-Plane-Style-Moment, and fell helplessly into his arms.

Except that I didn’t.

I sat and watched the seconds tick away into nothingness and let the train pull me away from him and take me somewhere new. I felt like crying, I swallowed hard and stared at my own watery eyes in the reflection of the window, and just before I turned away and fell into a heartbroken sleep, I caught glimpse of an explosion on the horizon.

I pressed my face up to the glass as one explosion followed another and the whole city erupted with colour. Bursts of neon blue and sparkling greens filled the carriage as the stars fell from the sky, night became day, and the festival of lights glowed on the horizon. Whilst consumed in the city I hadn’t seen them, yet from a distance they were breathtaking, and I knew that right there and then Berlin was giving me a proper goodbye, a good old fashioned firework send off.

And so I accepted that it was okay that we didn’t have a dramatic passion filled goodbye, sometimes goodbye is just goodbye, it doesn’t have to be filled with mad dashes through the airport and kissing in the rain, because after all, a goodbye can only ever mean as little or as much as the time you spent together. 

The Closest Thing To Home

In Eat, Love on September 27, 2012 at 10:58 am

La Alcaidesa

 ‘I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.’

– Maya Angelou

The Italian family stopped eating all at once and looked at me puzzled, their jaws lolling open and their eyes popping out of their heads- I’d just told them that I didn’t live with my parents, and they were so perplexed by such a concept that they just stared at me in silence.

So where do you live? the mother finally asked me while worriedly refilling my plate, and I explained that I’d had a little flat in a town called Derby until everything collapsed and I decided to leave it all behind in search of something new. They all pursed their lips while considering this, generously stuffing large helpings of fried zucchini flower into their mouths and chewing slowly while they mulled this all over. So you’re homeless, senza casa, the father finally said, do you want to come live with us?

That’s the general reaction you get when you tell people that you’re homeless, they automatically start imagining you curled up at the side of the street with only newspaper to keep you warm, and start offering to help you. But my homelessness is different, it’s by choice, it’s liberating and freeing, without having to pay rent or be tied down by the burden of responsibility, I’ve managed to achieve a sort of middle class homelessness that involves sleeping in hotels and drinking cocktails by the pool. I can find myself an apartment in Budapest for a few days and call it my home, or lie on the beaches of Ibiza and call that my home, too- and quite frankly, nothing makes me happier.

It came as quite a surprise, then, when I engaged myself with a mental exercise where I tried to decipher the three things that I really wanted in life, and I found myself effortlessly penning home as the final point on the list. Home isn’t really something I ever realised that I missed, especially after only going four short months without it, but the more that four lettered word stared up at me from the page, the more I realised how much I was starkly beginning to crave it.

I miss the little things- going to the supermarket and preparing myself a meal; going to have lunch with friends without first having to book a flight; disappearing into my flat and knowing that everything inside belongs to me- all of these things seem so mundane and ordinary but without them I feel hollow.

And so I wonder, if these things are so important to me, then why am I witling down my savings by constantly being on the road? Why don’t I just go find myself a home? – It took me several days to find the answer, and it was only when rereading my first blog post that it struck me with the entirety of its obviousness.

As I leave, it’s obvious to me that I’ve exhausted this small city of all it has to offer, and it’s time to explore the rest of this expansive world.’

It’s not that I don’t want to go home; it’s just that I don’t know where it is.

The strangest thing of all, though, is that whilst I visit my parents in the south of Spain, I realise how at home I feel here. For the past four years home had been the central city where I was awoken nightly by the sound of regurgitated kebab meat splattering on the pavement, it’s odd to think that it’s now the smell of lightly spiced sea air and the sight of streets lined with palm trees that conjures images of home.

I may not be able to have lunch with a friend, go into the guest bedroom and find it filled with my things, or go out and prepare myself a meal, but it’s a place where I can rest my head, isolate myself, and know that, for a few days, I don’t have to worry.

And I think that’s why the Italian family were so confused- I’d left out one small yet important detail to my story. Although I am homeless, and although every worldly possession I own is packed into my little suitcase, knowing that I can visit this little safe haven, whenever I need to take a breather, is what keeps me afloat.

It isn’t home, and to my parents disdain it never will be, but while I’m looking for the perfect place to set up shop, I’ve no qualms in calling it the closest thing to home.