As the sun rose on our second day in Lisbon, I lay in bed dreaming a strange dream. It felt like an astral projection: I could see myself asleep in my bed, see Annie asleep across the room, but I was able to get up and walk around – and Annie too. I talked to the dream Annie as the real one slept.
“Let her sleep dude,” said the dream Annie. “Let’s go explore until she wakes up.”
It meant a lot to me, that little hotel room halfway between Bristol and the airport. Nothing particularly interesting happened: we just dropped our shit, showered in turn, and lay in our beds vaping and watching Peep Show until we fell asleep past midnight. But it was important to me because it felt like an adventure – and not like the adventures I’d known recently. Over the years, I’d come to associate adventure with being alone, and by extension with the fear that comes when you’re on your lonesome, far from loved ones, and you find yourself huffing up a dirty great mountain or darting through some alien humid cityscape and you realise that if you fuck up, there’s not a soul within ten thousand miles who gives a rat’s knob about you. I got such a kick from that crappy little four-hour bungalow nap because, for the first time in years, that adventurous feeling was there without all the bad stuff. I’d begun to believe they were welded together.
Annie and I arrived at my mum’s house in the same state we did in September of 2021: poorly, dishevelled and underslept. My mum likes Annie; she finds her funny and interesting and refreshing. I think Annie was a bit nervous to meet my mum again – as they stood chatting in the kitchen I noticed she was babbling a little, talking faster and louder than she had been with me on the bus. It makes me smile when Annie is nervous, worrying about being liked. Ironically enough it’s what made me like her so much in the first place.
It’s hard not to view Manchester’s EasyHotel as a sign of the times. Only a few years ago – what, ten? Five? – fifty pounds a night would have gotten you a large room with breakfast included. You’d have probably been given a trouser press, a television, and a mini fridge with one of those choded Pringle tubes and two tiny little bottles of wine you daredn’t drink for fear of the check-out bill. You might even have gotten a little bit of patio, and almost certainly a complimentary breakfast.
Well – not anymore, because in the United Kingdom we love to watch ourselves spiral ever inward and downward, grumbling and grunting but not actually doing anything to prevent it, nation of wet lettuces that we are. It’s almost schadenfreude, except instead of taking joy in the downfall of others, we bask in the tragedy of our own downfall – we get our kicks from it, we get our rocks off, like the people in that film who crash cars and then knob in the debris.
Annie sleeps like a walrus. That’s not to say she’s an inelegant sleeper — she isn’t, she sleeps in this weirdly prim manner like Dracula, on her back, face up, mouth closed. It’s just that she sleeps forever. Whenever we hang out we always go to bed at the same time, of course, but my body clock simply refuses to allow me through the morning. Annie, if undisturbed, will sleep for 16 hours. It was for this reason that, on our second day in Manchester, I spent around four hours lying awake in my bed, looking at memes on my phone, awaiting the moment my friend would rise from her crypt.
First thing she did was ruffle my hair, that incorrigible Yankee dickhead. I’d been extra careful that morning to get it just right. Now I was a mop-end scarecrow once again, angel-pube loofa head. God damn. I’d been thinking about how cool my entrance would be all the way there: I’d sweep up beside her, unseen, and I’d mutter some obscure literary reference, some fantastic quippy masterclass in British understatement – but no. She ruffled my hair, and after a year apart the first thing that escaped my mouth was something like:
You wouldn’t know it – I mean, how could you know it – but I write these diaries all the time. I just never publish them. What usually happens is that I begin doing some other thing, like working or reading a book, and at that instant I am struck by inspiration, and I throw everything aside and sit down and hammer out 2000 words in an insane blur that I barely even remember. Then I sit back and crack my knuckles and read what I’ve written, and while I read my jaw gently slackens, until finally I think ‘nobody must ever discover how shit a writer I am, how inane, how poundingly mediocre my thoughts are’ and I delete them all in an orgasm of self-loathing.