It turns out Sebastien and I didn’t get the perfect lift – Claire and Tink did. Their driver also drove them all the way onto the beach, stopped so they could do food shopping on the way and gave them some magic mushrooms he’d picked himsel!
Claire shares some with me on the night of a perfect half-moon. We walk up onto the cliffs above the beach, where the baked-mud tracks run in every direction, without a soul to be seen – other than the occasional being venturing up in the hope of finding telephone reception.
As the sun sinks and disappears from a fiery sky, I’m getting chills up there on the path. I’m putting it off as long as possible, but sooner or later I’ll need a jumper. I’m experienced enough with tripping not to bother telling Claire I’ll be right back – a million unforeseen distractions stand between me and my jumper. I bimble my way off along the path, seeking a way down, which I find eventually, carefully manoeuvring my way around stray poo – the main problem with an overcrowded “wild” beach with no facilities and a lot of drunks.
And then I see the sea – oh oh oh, the white froth of the waves is silver moonlight on deep purple waters, the water warmer than the air. I walk along, along, along the beach in direction of the camp, splashing my feet in the froth. People come towards and pass me – one, two, then groups. I don’t know how to interact with them – should I smile? say hello? ignore them completely? Nothing seems quite appropriate. I’m aware of how the presence of another affects me – I see them coming, my awareness changes – a drawing in of invisible borders – then that choice: will we acknowledge one another’s presence or walk on by? If we decide to do different things – you smile, I ignore – how does that change our interaction, our awareness? …then I see Jasper. Oh my, what is all this happening now in my body? Heart pounding, blood rushing, thoughts all knocking together in confusion… I hug him and we speak a while, but my brain is different now. It’s hard to have a political discussion and hypothesise about another place and time.
Outside our tents, Agatha is adamantly trying to get information out of me – “why have you got such a big grin on your face? What’s happened? Something has happened, hasn’t it? Won’t you at least tell me that?” I think, my head cocked to one side – “define ‘happened’?” “Oghhhh!”
Finally I have my jumper. Now I must escape from this maddening crowd… and find someplace to pee! A girl with a clipboard stops me as I’m wandering past. She’s sitting quietly with a few others and has such a nice smile that I agree to answer her questions… “Oh, great! Where are you from?” Uh oh… it’s that question – much harder to answer now than usual – “Ummm…” The people look at me, confused. I want to be helpful, but I don’t know what to say… England is the obvious one, but what about the years I spent in Scotland, the half of my family from Ireland, all of the places I’ve travelled in the past two years and the effects they had on me? I could say “mostly Britain” or “from the UK”, but aren’t these just political structures, which actually I don’t agree with? Britain is the name of the island where I spent most of my life, but the word also conjures up images of nationalists with St George flags. Because I’m having difficulty, the people try to be helpful – “where were you when you decided to come here?” “Oh! Ummm…” I really can’t remember – it must have been months ago – but when? “Where were you before this?” Oh, that’s easy – “Sofia!” The girl smiles, relieved, and writes “Sofia” next to my name – the only other question I have so far managed to answer. “Age?” Oh god. Claire and I just had a conversation about this other popular question – essentially “how many times has the sun revolved around the earth since you were born?” As though this were representative of the character before you. I peek over the shoulder of the girl with the clipboard. There are all of these questions and neat little boxes – name, nationality, age, gender, occupation, university degree… “Oh, I’m terribly sorry…”
Making my way back up the silvery path, I remember the mud track – and Claire! Could she still be here? It must be hours since I went to get my jumper. She could be anywhere by now. I clamber up onto the track and take a few steps before hearing the faint sound of singing – Claire! I walk towards her, a grin on my face, begin whirling when I see her clearly. A laugh breaks through the singing – “Jo!” We run and hug one another, excitedly retail each of our adventures. “You are so beyond that form right now!” Claire laughs when I tell her of the girl with the boxes. We lie on our backs, staring at the stars, until it gets so late and cold we both venture down the cliff to bed.