I look out of the window, wondering what it would be like to live an ordinary life. As the coach leaves the town I catch tantalising glimpses of other people’s lives, hanging out the washing, hoisting up the sheets to flap like sails. A young woman pushes her baby buggy purposefully, several Sainsbury’s bags hanging from the handle. Presumably she has a home to go to and an identity, she is a mother. I’ve always felt as if I exist on the outskirts of real life, I can’t imagine myself doing the things other people take for granted; actually knowing what job I want to do, getting married or making a positive decision not to get married, having a baby.
I pop another chewy fruit in my mouth as we speed up on the motorway, definitely the last one, I’ve nearly eaten the whole bag and I’m beginning to feel sick. I only chose them to avoid chocolate. Cows are meandering across the motorway bridge, followed by a young man who does not realise how lucky he is to know what he is; a farmer bound to the fields and twice daily milking. Would my life have been different if I had been born to the rural life? I feel in my bones that is where I belong, in tune with the seasons, in harmony with the earth.
The coach is slowing down, we could be anywhere, motorway service areas all look the same. Not much chance of any exciting or meaningful experiences happening here. My imagination starts working, my other life where all sorts of events can take place. At the counter, in front of me in the queue, will be a rugged looking man with sensitive eyes. I will instantly know that he is troubled. The motorway restaurant being crowded he motions me to sit at his table. He will intuitively know that I am a woman who will understand him. Because of his work, unspecified, there have been no serious relationships, although he has a deep physical and spiritual need for a kindred spirit – me.
The coach brakes to a halt, I blink back to mundane reality and wonder if I am unique in running a parallel universe for myself. I follow the other passengers slowly off the coach, I must be the youngest on board, 22 years old last week. I step off trying to look interesting; an intriguing background, I am on a journey of some import…
I sit alone at a table reading the paper. What am I doing here? I enjoyed my week’s stay with Great Uncle Stan and Great Aunt Ellie and fell in love with the Cornish countryside. But they hadn’t seen me since I was six and indulged me as if I was twelve; it will be a relief to get to my next destination. I’m living nowhere in particular, seeing as much of the country as possible on a strict budget. Christine’s family will put me up for a few days, she is my only friend left from infant school days; we will have deep discussions about our futures, but talking won’t make a future for me.
Isn’t it terrible.
I look up, startled, to see an old lady easing herself into the chair opposite, her tray shakily descending towards the table.
Isn’t it terrible the prices in here, you don’t even get the milk in a jug. I’m exhausted, been to visit the grandchildren. I expect you’ve been gallivanting around the countryside, make the most of it while you’re young, you don’t want to settle down too soon.
No chance of that I think, but I just smile.