Monday, 10 May 2010

Sitting in Limbo

I’m holed up at the Hyatt Regency Incheon airport, Seoul. The flight to London is not direct so Korean Air put their passengers up in a hotel overnight. It’s a terrific way to do the arduous Sydney to London trip: two daytime flights with a good kip in between to ease the fatigue. The last time I made this journey they took us to a hotel right in the centre of Seoul. It’s a mad town, full of noises, smells, flashing lights and people, people, people. But this time they’ve plonked us at an airport hotel. There’s not much to do. My cases have been checked all the way through to London so it’s hand luggage only. I didn’t think to stuff my bikini into my handbag so I can’t relax in the pool like the brochure guests. My room has a great view of the runway. Watching planes taking off and landing can be rather therapeutic.

The last twenty-four hours have been strange. I called Nick to say goodbye. You might think that was a love addict thing to do. You may be right. I didn’t want to depart from Australia leaving behind only a memory of bitter emptiness. Imagine how surprised I was when Nick suggested that he take me out to dinner. It took me a moment to comprehend what he was saying.

So on Sunday night, full of nerves, I wrapped my new hair in a pink skull headscarf and headed off into a balmy Sydney night in Samantha’s 1976 Alfa Spyder, with the top down. I stopped for two young women at a zebra crossing. As they passed in front of the car one of them shouted: “You look fabulous.” That gave my self-esteem a boost. 

I met Nick at Fish Face in Darlinghurst, one of my favourite Sydney restaurants, apart from Tetsuya’s, of course. As the name suggests, Fish Face serves fish: fresh and imaginatively prepared.

Nick was nervous too. Our conversation was bumpy. I cried. At one point it seemed that Nick was going to get up and leave. But we both managed to drag ourselves back from the brink of anger or emotional disintegration and navigate back into calmer water. Then another surprise: Nick offered to take me to the airport. I gratefully accepted.

Back at Watson’s Bay, Lyla was still up, packing. Tomorrow is a big day for her too. She’s off to camp. “Camp is just unhygienic,” declared Lyla. We all had a chamomile tea and turned in.

A few fitful hours later I creaked out of bed to do my final bit of packing in the dark. At 5.15 a.m. the doorbell rang. Nick was as good as his word. As Nick loaded my suitcases into his car Samantha and her eleven-year old daughter Lily arose and made cups of tea. Lyla managed a brief appearance at her bedroom door, “Goodbye Lily. Love you,” before tumbling back into her sleepy nest. She is thirteen after all. Lily handed me a homemade card. Inside it was a touching poem that she had composed herself. With welling eyes we all hugged. I will miss Samantha and her family a great deal. They have been unwaveringly kind and generous to me in one of the most difficult periods of my life.

In the car I read Lily’s poem aloud to Nick. Tears streamed down my face.

Checking in was the usual bustle. Nick and I had a final coffee. I smoked a last cigarette outside and then it was time. Unexpectedly, Nick grabbed my hand and held it. And I felt relaxed, walking across the concourse hand-in-hand with Nick, the man I have hated. At the security gate I turned, “Well goodbye...” I started, then stopped. Nick was crying. In that moment all my pain, anger and hurt of the last months evaporated. Standing before me I saw the real Nick, who I have loved so much. I held him in my arms and he wept.


I landed in Australia four months ago full of joy at the prospect of camping, swimming and languid days of love. I ended up broken in a rehab. Yet I feel like the lucky one. I’m still here and I still have dreams for my life. First I must get the cancer tests out of the way. Then I’ve got work to do, writing Chemo Chic – the book. I still plan to move back to Sydney, my childhood home. And I hope that one day I will meet a man to love and be loved by, to share the beauty, the terror and the wonderful adventure of being alive.


Lily’s Poem

Dear Lily,
We don’t want you to go,
You make our household glow
We’ll miss your smile and laugh.

We love you so much,
You have a very special touch
Felix and Lola will miss you too,
Goodness Lily we’ll miss you.

We hope you have a good time in London,
Being with you has been lots of fun,
We really enjoyed the swimming,
Good luck with your fabulous writing.

So thank you again for staying with us,
And thank you for your kindness,
We’ll miss you and hope you have a good time,
We’ll see you again soon but to us it will feel like a longtime.

All the love in the world from Lily, Samantha, Lyla, Felix and Lola xoxoxoxox
We love you and miss you!


Anonymous said...

Grammer alert: "Standing before me I saw the real Nick, whom I loved so much. I held him in my arms and he wept." Should read as "...who I loved so much. ..." not whom.

Unknown said...

Spelling alert: 'Grammar' is not spelled 'grammer'.

Anonymous said...

I thought is was beautiful!
Love Lily
I miss you

Anonymous said...

Doh 'er', yes, unfortunately I couldn't change it to 'ar' once the mistake was published. Thank you Shotgun. Wish you a safe and swift journey back Jessica, and hope you'll be able to leave the sadness behind.

DomesticBliss said...

Welcome home. London is sunny and waiting for you with open arms. I've read your entire blog from beginning to now in the week since I saw it in The Times and am completely amazed and in awe of your strength, compassion and humour in the face of so much life-changing shit. I don't want to be twee but you just bloody well are an inspiration. So there.

canalily said...

Thank you to those who make encouraging remarks and thank you also to those who offer suggestions and corrections. I am most grateful for ALL of your comments.
Lily x
p.s. I'm changing 'whom' to 'who' right now!