I went to Portobello Road today – fought my way through the tourists, ate bratwurst, looked in vain for some nice brooches to buy, battled with the way I was feeling.
You see I was feeling particularly bad about John again, and though I knew it would be difficult, because the Portobello Road antique markets are a place we had been many times together, I needed, well, a maximum amount of interest and diversion, to keep my mind busy, so I could get some perspective on life and the present and the future rather than dwelling on sadness.
I wanted somewhere busy and full of wonderful things to look at. I thought a museum or an antique market would do the trick. Loads and loads of beautiful items crammed into glass cabinets. All sorts of curios, not knowing what I’ll see next, a million stimuli to keep my mind occupied, to distract me.
It worked to a certain extent. The trouble is that I’m in that ‘torn in half’ stage. Everything that happens, everything I experience, has a sort of dual aspect to it now. There is the grief and the loss and the memories, and all the unfolding implications of this unexpected change in my life, on the one hand. And on the other, there is the beginning of a positive sense of looking forwards, of thinking, ‘I’m still alive’, and that ‘me and the world’ are still here, that there is a future.
So one second I’m looking at a stall and thinking, that’s where John bought those anatomical drawings he wanted, or that’s the shop John always particularly liked to look around. Or I’m trying some food I’ve never tried before (rice and curry and spinach from Ghana) and wishing that he was still here to try it with me, or I’m discovering a lovely little tapas bar with plates of food out on display, and thinking, oh what a shame I never knew about this before, that it’s too late to take John there, he would have liked it so much.
But then I’m remembering some moment that even predates my relationship with John, I’m thinking about how it used to feel to be exploring new places when I was travelling on my own in the early days. Or I’m thinking about some collectibles I’ve got at home, and planning how I might display and enjoy them when I get home, or something I see reminds me of a particular place, and I find myself daydreaming about how I could go back there and where I might stay.
So confusing – to continually find yourself still alive, when the person who was closest to you is tragically gone, and will never enjoy Portobello Road again. I’m torn in half – between the past and the future, I suppose. Between grief and recovery. Between loss and resilience. Between death and life.