Chapter 4 – Settle for Half
Without knowing it, since finishing school at the age of sixteen I have always had a two-to-four year plan in place. I knew I would spend the two extra years at college, and that I would consequently move onto University. At the end of my first year of College, I knew I was going to take a year out before I started University to visit an estranged, yet successful, cousin in Australia whose Melbourne-based advertising agency would provide work experience and a chance to see what all the steak, salad and hot weather was about. At the end of my first year of University, I knew I would need to work at least a year when I finished my Bachelors Degree in order to organise my finances to pursue my Master of Arts. At the end of my final year at University, I knew I sure as hell wasn’t going to go back to education without first seeing some more of the world bearing the cliché of vagrant backpacker.
It just so happened as I was half-way through my one year term as a customer relations manager for British Telecom that Luke was one-and-a-half years through what would be two years as a betting-shop checkout operator. We have been friends since nursery school, quite possibly due to the face that we were two of only three brown children in our school in Cornwall. The third, Justin, grew up with me like a brother as ultimately because our mum’s would take it in turns to pick us up after school. Their own friendship grew likely out of the fact that they were the only two brown parents at the school gates. Racial segregation isn’t imposed – it’s chosen.
Luke had always lived at home and is as family orientated as you can get without taking blueprints of the Fritzel household’s basement to an architect. His mum is Mauritian. His dad is from London. And the only thing that comes close to Luke’s love for his family is his love for football, and Fulham Football Club. It somewhat surprised me, then, that Luke was so keen to take up the backpack away from his family and Match of the Day. But Luke couldn’t ignore the suffocation any more than Aaron could ignore the brown marks in pair of soiled shorts; he was a city lad born in a rural retreat.
Josh was a mutual friend who also had plans to leave, but without an outlet. However whilst Luke, Aaron and I had attended Humphry Davy School of Penzance, a school named after ‘Humphry Davy’ who invented the lantern for Cornish miners and had strictly no ‘e’s’ in his name, Josh had “studied” Mount’s Bay School, also of Penzance. Popularly known as Mount’s Gay to their rival Humphry Davy students, namely Luke, Aaron and myself, the legend of its etymology refers to the Mount atop which man first entered his penis into another man’s rectum and thought it absolute magnificent. The school was also built on marshland and sank one inch every ten years. True story.
In the interest mutual disaffection, I will note that a teacher at Josh’s school had once left his wife for a sixteen year-old schoolgirl, revealing their relationship only days after her sixteenth birthday. He proudly assured the dumfounded local news that they were in love, and, most poignantly, they had never had sex before she was sixteen. He was old and grey-haired and couldn’t believe his luck. She was young and fat and would never know that a penis didn’t always look like a dying shrew. Meanwhile, in the other fist of comprehensive public schooling, was a Physical Education teacher who took his title beyond the magnitude of any Shakespearean pun. He didn’t wait until the girl was sixteen, oh no. He fucked that little fourteen-year-old girl not just in the PE cupboard, but also in his marital bed. He confessed. He did the time. I would high-five both purely in the interest to see how they attempt to judge my moral standing.
Josh was a personal trainer, as (technically) was I, but the only difference was that he had actually managed to find a gym to practice and earn money. I, on the other hand, had found only a job in a call centre. There were quite literally not enough gyms in the County to go around. After numerous nights out, Dubstep stomping sessions, and hungover mornings together, a text arrived one morning on my phone; ‘can I come travelling with you bro?’ Of course you can Josh my dear, of course you can.
Eli is my younger brother through his sister, Vash. To make that sound less incestual, but much more cliché, his sister was my girlfriend for six years and he was the younger brother I never had. I’m quite sure I scored him his first bag of weed and am pretty confident I rolled him his first joint, just as my older brother, James, had done for me. I had a good model of a big brother to pass on. Vash and I have always loved each other more than we really knew what to do with it, and young relationships – edit: any relationship – can be a volatile thing. But the general stagnation of two young and ambitious people working their same jobs, living in the same place, in the ultimately suffocating setting of Cornwall becomes stressful when the last of those ambitions for both parties is to unanimously settle.
We lay in bed one evening and talked through everything as maturely as two people possibly could when dealing with something as ephemeral as love. It became clear to us that, however innocently, we held reigns on each other that would always hold us back from the experiences we both wanted at the juncture of our lives which we currently found ourselves. To hold on could possibly destroy everything irreparably, to let go we had to believe that the other person loved us just as much as we did, and always would. We had to believe in love; choose to love. If the end of our relationship was truly circumstantial, then we could wait as long as it took to continue a life with each other. To have both at this point in time was impossibly selfish. Sometimes it’s better to settle for half.
As Vash started her plans for a year living and working in London, so I moved my bags out of her room and began sleeping on floors to save money for the five month stint in South East Asia. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, in a mango farm surrounded by Asian immigrants, Aaron was earning his second-year Australian visa as we filled out the forms and coughed up the $250 for our first.