Back in Brighton, one of my more bitter memories amid mostly positive ones was when I returned to St Christopher’s Hostel early one morning. It was still dark, and I’d been out wandering the streets for several hours after probably waking up late the previous night. And the sleep deprivation had me in a weird state. I still blame that state for my romantic failure with Emma – the British girl for whose heart I’d flown across the Atlantic from New York to unsuccessfully capture. My hollow, anxious demeanour this particular morning caused complications when I approached the side door to the hostel’s closed downstairs bar area. I needed access to my upstairs room through the bar, but had nothing to identify myself as a hostel patron other than a featureless key card. So I just stood there. At the door. In the rain and freezing cold. Like a newly re-animated zombie, hungry for warmth but minus cognitive abilities and tools needed to get it. And kind of stared vacantly at the tall neanderthalic-looking bloke and short pretty chick inside who were chatting while holding a mop each. They probably thought with my several days’ facial growth, dirty leather jacket and blood-shot-and-bags-under-them-eyes that I was just another homeless junkie looking for a free feed or couch to sleep on. Eventually, the guy opened the door. Then he said something insulting. I can’t remember exactly what. Something like (kind of to the girl and me at the same time): “I couldn’t figure this guy out. I was wondering ‘Is he staying here? Is he a moron?’” Something to that egotistical effect. I’ve since pegged him as the type who enjoys torturing cute little puppy dogs.
She giggled at his snide remark, while looking at me instead of the actual moron of the situation. I took this as a consolation and decided not to utter a witty retort – both because I didn’t have one and wasn’t in any condition in which to deliver any I otherwise might have had. Then I limped dejectedly upstairs. That hostel wasn’t all bad, though. It had featured Bob the paranoid-delusion-inducing fake weed smoker. And, during my first few days there, there was Cassie the Australian chick working at reception. I can remember no specifics from our conversations, but man was she gorgeous in every way (unless she had a little tail or an aggressive streak I hadn’t noticed). In fact, if not for Emma, I might have asked her out for a drink.
I still miss her. Emma. But only while writing this journal. I’m not actually a moron, I don’t think. My reason for this reflection from Brighton, you may be wondering considering the fact that this series of blog posts last left off at Blackheath, south-east London, is that for the first time almost two months into my trip I was not going to be sleeping at a hostel, or a hotel, or the back of a campervan. Or a bus depot. Or, a Yosemite National Park jail cell. Nope. I was going to be sleeping in a nice, quiet and warm private house, or more accurately a townhouse, with people I at least vaguely knew. Without realising it at the time, I had almost desperately come to need such comforts. My first morning – well really my second but to be particular the first of a series of consecutive mornings – in London, I woke up in a comfortable bed on the floor of the spare room of a domicile that I wasn’t even paying for. Unless you count the pork chops and Christmas card I left in the young married couple’s fridge as both a payment and present, upon departing for Dublin a week later. But I was only there to sleep, use their wifi and have a couple of beers with my hosts, so I wasn’t much maintenance at all. Yep, pretty much the best blow-in housemate, ever.