I'm Her Biggest Fear
The atmosphere over the past week has been strange. After seven months of travel and adventure in South Africa, surrounded by mountains and wild animals, we landed in another dimension.
Welcome to Europe.
Our base in London has always been a canal boat in a mooring near Regents Park. A beautiful place, central but also private, with a community of friendly people. This time, everything is different. We moved to another mooring in Canary Wharf. It's a central business district on the Isle of Dogs. It was bombed in World War II, and after 1987 was rebuilt, so it's modern. In other words: characterless, dull, full of skyscrapers, just the opposite of the London I know and love. Sometimes I forget I'm even in London.
But it's easy to forget where you are when you isolate. We have two days left for isolation. I am, however, starting to get back to reality. Thinking more about the future, and most of all, I'm beginning to realise that I can have anything. I can have a car to take me where I want, a big house, breathtaking views, space. And it helps, no doubt. But closeness. Someone to tell you saw an eagle over the mountain and stared at it as it circled for a half-hour - that's necessary. Happiness is only real when shared, said Christopher McCandless, and was right, the little brat. Only now am I willing to admit that I'm glad I'm not entirely alone in the world and that I have T.
I'd like to be the voice of reason and meet myself a year ago. The same Moriah who sells tickets at the Municipal Theater, spends her day inside an aquarium, surrounded by barrier glass and smiles at customers even though she feels like kicking them for interrupting her in the middle of a good book. The same Moriah I was, and who will always be a part of me. I want to slap her and shake her. Tell her, "Moriah," and force her eyes on me, "You can whine all day that you have no space, that you're tired of working with people. You can tell me that your body is here, working at minimum wage to save every shekel for your big trip, but your head is already there. I know everything about you.
"I know you hate phones, and that the reason your old Nokia flip-phone (that you refuse to upgrade to a smartphone because it's enough of a bother), remains shattered is because you hate receiving calls. But I also know how bad you feel when you want to talk to someone, and no one answers.
"I know you like to sit in a pub alone and enjoy a cold beer, and it annoys you to see a man approaching with an I'm-going-to-hit-on-you-by-asking-if-we've-met-before expression, so you immediately put on a tough face. But you also get disappointed when you go to your favourite bar with good news, and none of your friends are there to listen.
"I know you just want quiet. That your aspiration for the future is to be left alone, detached, a crazy old writer cat lady that every street grows to love. But you're also afraid of loneliness. Because loneliness means you have to deal. Loneliness means you won't be alone only when you choose to be, like when you want to write or daydream. You'll be alone, always, when you want it and when you want someone to share a bottle of wine with.
"Nowadays, more than ever before, I've learnt how isolation can also be shared. I come from a different world, kid. You don't want to know how different. Don't look away," I'll tell her firmly, "Look at me and don't argue. I also know you don't like to be told what to do, but you can't deny that I'm wiser than you. I have a year of wisdom over you, and a year is a lot, so you better listen. Stop whining and admit that you're the most fraudulent loner in the world."
And I just know because I know her. I was always in the back of her mind, even when she tried to shake me with a drink or suppress my existence. I am, for her: Moriah of the future. The Moriah that, if she didn't turn out to be smarter or in a better place in life, she'd lose the urge to live. So I know how scared she is of me. In fact, I'm her biggest fear.
After all that, Moriah from a year ago will rustle a fake laugh between her teeth, a laugh that she's sure sounds authentic. She'd turn her empty gaze away from me and step outside towards the smoking area. Not before checking that there's no one out there who'll force her into small talk.