A few days ago I got some bad news from home. It’s the kind of news that everyone dreads. It’s the kind of news that eventually reaches us all. The kind of news that, with a visceral start, makes you realize how far you are from where the news is.
Everyone manages this sort of news in their own way. Some people retreat into stoicism, or solitude. Some people carry on like nothing’s happened. The British response, typically, is to drink mercilessly. When faced with something like this, a thing that makes me feel displaced, weightless, and disconnected, I need physical contact to ground me. I crave nothing right now like touch. A hug, a touch on the arm, somebody stroking my hair.
England is not a nation peopled by the naturally physically affectionate. Admittedly, my own ingrained reserve has served me well in that regard. But just now, it would be good to drop the cordial distance in favor of a literal shoulder to lean on. However, the only people that can be reliably touched in that way in England are immediate family members or a person with whom you are romantically linked. (Britain as a whole is a bit different from just England, and of course there are exceptions. But I’m not up to writing an insightful sociological treatise on it just at the moment.)
In the event that you lack immediate family members or amorous ties, you can cheat. This, as should be expected in Britain, involves drinking. What you do is, drink until you can barely walk on your own. Then it is permissable to lean on a sturdy friend. In that sense, I’m lucky. I do have a lot of sturdy friends.
I’ve been trying to think of a way to end this piece, but I keep getting interrupted by the noisy, intrusive drilling coming from my neighbors’ house, which has been going on intermittently for weeks. For some reason they always do the drilling first thing in the morning. It’s unpredictable, unwelcome, unhealthy, and a lot of other uns. It’s been going on so long that you’d think I’d be prepared, but every time it comes as a new shock. Every time I hope it’s the last time. But it isn’t.