Overcast sky squashed me to the gentle incline that was my route north out of Brighton to the Devil’s Dyke. Ripped, skinny jeans it turns out weren’t the best pants I could have worn considering how laborious the cycle would be. When I crossed the east-west A27 from Dyke Road Avenue to enter Devil’s Dyke Road, suburbia abruptly ended. Unfortunately I wasn’t, however, confronted by rock wall fences. But I was struck by the green English fields stretching like emerald encrusted carpet in all directions away from and around the road. By the time I came across a dirt carpark named Dyke, I had cycled over a crest which showed more gradual incline stretching off toward the north-west. (As I write, after Google Mapping it, it turns out I only had to ride another kilometre uphill to get to the Dyke itself.) But I was spent. I turned back. Barely without pedalling, I flew downhill back into Brighton and took a random right-hand-turn somewhere along the way to cycle past charming little old houses in Hove. Then I rode west along Kingsway (the esplanade) that I found through Grand Avenue to the beachfront near Hove Street. There, in front of colourful changing rooms I rested after my exhilarating return to civilisation and enjoyed a sunset struggling to penetrate ever-present clouds. Of course I thought about Emma. About how disappointingly things had turned out. About how I’d never again witness frigid wind framing her smiling elfin face with that restless golden hair. How all my life I’d built a deep, broad reservoir of love behind the ever-thickening dam wall of my heart. That she could have claimed all that love forever by breaching my concrete heart with a single kiss. I also realised that if that moment had been the end of a Disney film the audience would have been booing at the screen and demanding their money back. So I returned the bike to central Brighton and decided to go out drowning my sorrows during that final night in a town that reportedly had “more pubs than days of the year”. The Mesmerist was a tough joint to get into. Not because of defensive security staff. Because the first door I tried didn’t work. Then I tried another one further left, and it didn’t open either. Third time lucky, I gained entry. Kind of embarrassing considering this wasn’t my first time at that pub. Some chick within had watched my ordeal – willing me toward my eventual success the whole way. This time there was an actual band, as opposed to a DJ, within. Flash Mob Jazz were ok with their guitar, drums, saxophone and vocalist. I had two gin and tonics and enjoyed watching the locals mingle. After leaving the pub to aimlessly wander the lanes and laines for a while, I returned early to the hotel to relax and watch the Big Bang Theory and Inbetweeners on TV. Then slept “like a fucking baby, but shouldn’t have gone to bed so late”. At peace with the tranquil world; at war with my aching heart.
A frustrating turn of events confronted checking out in the morning, prior to my train return to London. The hotel’s water had been turned off by a bunch of blokes who were fixing a leak. So after angrily posting a Facebook status claiming I would simply not check out until I’d had a shower, the reception staffer gave me a key to a much nicer room whose water still functioned. Refreshed, over the jet-lag but still heartbroken – I said my goodbyes to Brighton’s beach before turning left on Queen’s road and heading for the train station. I searched for Emma’s face among the throng I passed through during my last walk within Brighton, but of course she was at work and nowhere to be seen. Severe disruptions around the Clapham Junction Station I’d used the week before to transfer to Brighton from London confused me. Somehow, anyway, I found my way to the Tube system and headed west of the city to Heathrow – to do nothing but pay for my plane ticket out of there in a little more than a couple of weeks. The guy behind the American Airlines counter looked a little surprised when I told him I’d come all the way from Brighton just to pay for a ticket that because of my lack of a US credit card I could not apparently purchase any other way. But I refrained from asking him if the chick over the phone a few days earlier had just been messing with me. Seemed irrelevant at the time. A little certainty around the medium-term future of my journey established, I subwayed it back into the heart of London. In Australia, I have a half-brother and sister, and they have a sister (and two brothers) who are not blood-related to me at all. Their sister’s name is Jimmy, her husband’s name is Tim, and this couple happened to live in London’s south-east – at Blackheath. Though I was quite happy to spend my planned week in London at a hostel, these two and their funky little apartment in The Heath were my aim. So when I arrived at South Kensington Station I tried to call Jim on a payphone, and miraculously, she answered – despite the fact she said she regularly didn’t answer phone numbers she didn’t recognise. She asked me if I’d like to stay the night with them, I said yes, and the night turned into a week. First we had to actually try and meet up after she’d finished work, at Charing Cross station. It seemed the vortex of the human tornado London is centred itself at Charing Cross, plus it was a large station so via a nearby cafe’s wifi I let her husband Tim know on Facebook – because she hardly ever uses it – exactly where I’d be. About 6 or 7pm, near the station’s bottle shop (liquor store), sitting on my backpack and reading local street press, I looked up to see the smiling face of the diminutive brunette ex-pat Aussie Londoner with whom and whose husband I would be spending the next week. While I sat with both of them and a pint by about 8pm in a Blackheath pub, I knew it would be a good week. And that I was home, again.