It's Personal, Travel

London, day 23

5:55 a.m.

I didn’t close the curtain all the way last night, so now I’ve got a blinding glow of light spilling onto my face. I crawl out of bed and yank down the string thing. Fuck you, sun. You get here too early in this country.

8:30 a.m.

Shit I overslept! Stupid phone alarm, I thought you would be there for me. Just how late am I–never mind, it’s 6:44. Fuck you, sun!

8:01 a.m.

That shower wasn’t nearly long enough and my tie’s not fitting on right and ohmygod OHMYGOD there’s a GUN on the kitchen table. Why is there a GUN on the kitchen table who are my roommates why did I come all this way to London only to get shot I didn’t think I was taking that much space in the fridge do they really have to shoot me? Also what happened to your strict gun laws, Europe? Okay what do I do with the gun it is a real gun right it looks and feels real.

As I’m pacing in the kitchen I notice a bag of little white balls. It’s a BB gun. Ugh. My panicking has set me back 5 minutes.

8:32 a.m.

We’ve been stuck at this station for ten minutes. The voice on the train keeps going This is Euston Square, super British, Youuuu-stun, like calling out to her little British child in their English countryside home. I glance up from my book on the British Empire–fuck colonialism, I say quietly like I’m some kind of rebel in a suit and striped tie–and see a guy trying to elbow past me as I cling to my bright yellow pole. But this is my pole.

Please move all the way into the car, the voice says, sensing my reluctance. It’s no use, I move down just as the train decides to get moving, and I nearly fall over and bump a woman. Sorry.

Ugh, they’ve heard my accent now, now I’m even more an idiot because I’m associated with Trump.

I wish there was a seat open. I know I’ll be sitting for the next 8 hours, but something makes me want that seat. You only want what you can’t have.

8:53 a.m.

There’s a stack of newspapers by the escalator, the headline about the fire in west London. A real shame, disgrace even. The city’s felt different since then.

I come upstairs with my coffee, say a brief morning to my colleagues just the way I feel about mornings–with a good deal of spite. After I’ve read through my e-mails and started an FT article, the office assistant asks me and the other intern what our plans are this weekend. He says the usual, something related to biking. I desperately think of something I could do. This isn’t like my last summer internship, when I had something to do every single weekend and people to do it with, and also not a clue about the real world. This feels more…adult.

I need an answer to this all-important mundane question. Well, I have places to go. I throw out the name of a random English town. I have no idea what I’ll do there.

10:38 a.m.

The coffee/tea lady has swung by, and I don’t want anything. The coffee/tea lady walks around the board offices with a cart and asks if anyone wants a cup of coffee or tea, made to your liking. It’s the most European thing, but you won’t see me complaining.

I’ve finished reading a project–based in one of the -stans, let’s say, U-beki-beki-stan-stan–and now I’m thinking of what else to do. This has happened a few too many times. Now I’m thinking about what kind of writing I should do when I get home and messaging my friend about the writing we need to do but aren’t. I’m also thinking about what I’m going to do next summer, and how I get the feeling I still have no idea what I’m doing with my life and–hey, it’s almost lunch time.

12:56 p.m. 

The Croatian guy from the other office joins us at lunch. I glare for a second; I’ve bought the £2 overcooked fish bathed in sauce that would take me 2 hours to make, not the deli sandwich on baguette I bought the first time that made the Croatian guy go, “That’s breakfast.”

1:47 p.m.

Coffee/tea lady comes back–I know, I should learn her name, but that won’t make it any less weird–and I’m definitely in the mood for tea.

With sugar, she says, excited that she’s remembered my usual. Please don’t try to remember, I plead silently. I’m here for 6 more weeks.

The other intern is out, and my full-time colleague comes over to rant about the latest nonsensical e-mail from D.C., saying it’s the most ridiculous thing, a Kafka-esque bureaucratic nightmare no one would ever believe.

I learned from a seminar in college that Kafka worked a boring day job and worked on his stories at night. You should write a novel, I tell my coworker with a hint of irony that only I get.

But I’m no Kafka. Kafka was German and worked in insurance.

2:16 p.m.

This meeting is hitting some really important points, I gotta take notes for later. Hope we can have a productive discussion by 4.

2:43 p.m.

What did the bald guy say? His accent is way too thick. My pen hovers over my notebook. Oh forget it, he probably said the same thing he said half an hour ago.

I’m staring at the other side of the conference room. The intern from the other office catches my glance. She’s just as bored. The intern next to her, the guy who’s been working on his thesis for three years and should really let it go has his eyes half closed. Which would be notable, if one of the board directors wasn’t already passed out at one end of the big boys’ table.

My hand hurts.

3:43 p.m.

Okay, I’m done taking notes. This meeting’s got to wrap up, anyway. Though now we’ve gotten to the heart of everything this organization stands for…

5:31 p.m.

Did we settle ANYTHING? I have more questions than I came in with, and I have to go write some bullets now.

On the way out, I see my full-time coworkers still glued to their seats. They’ll probably be around til 7 again, writing e-mails at 9 p.m. I almost feel bad leaving, but then I remember I’m unpaid.

6:15 p.m.

I really would like to just buy some food, but unfortunately 1) this expensive-ass city is bleeding me dry and 2) all there is is kebab. I swear to God, there’s kebab as far as the eye can see. And every time I’m here, I’m never in the mood for kebab.

7:23 p.m.

Spoiled at my ivy league university, I haven’t cooked for the last year, so I make some shitty pasta and turn on some Trevor Noah. Trevor needs to update me what’s happening in my country, although I suppose I could live in blissful ignorance and fly home to a mound of rubble.

I get a glass of water; my French roommates, who apparently are not trying to kill me, at least with a gun, are in the kitchen now, cooking away. They’ll do this for two hours, come out with steak tartare or something, eat for 10 minutes, blast indie music, shout, use all my soy sauce, play with their BB gun, and then disappear into their rooms.

The Daily Show is getting into the latest of Russia’s shenanigans–and NO the internet dropped, AGAIN. Someone should DO something about this, shouldn’t have to live with such unreliable service. But that’s not gonna be me. I don’t even live here.

8:00 p.m.

It’s about time I started writing. Or booked my train ticket for the end of the summer. Or started learning Mandarin.

I wonder what’s on Netflix right now.

12:28 a.m.

I told myself I would go to bed at 11. I also said I would do so many other things tonight, so what good is my word. My friend and I are trying to book our trip through Norway, but we’ve proven terrible at planning and will probably end up horrendously lost in the fjords. Try again tomorrow.

My classmates have messaged me asking how it’s going and I suppose I should answer before climbing under the covers. I wish I could shout one big Ehhhh into the phone–technically you can do that, but much easier to type “it’s good.”

And it is good. When I made a weekend trip out to cliffs overlooking the English Channel, after I was whipped about by intense gusts of wind, I got a chance to think and a second to breathe. That doesn’t always come easy back home.

The lights are off, the shade is drawn down, I’m ready to pass out. Then comes the nightly yelling from down on the street. I’d like to get up and say fuck you, but I know I need to save it for the morning.

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