I'm on the train, having just left Birmingham Moor Street, heading for London Marlebone. After several days of balmy Indian summer, I pass through a rain soaked Birmingham, drizzle sketching out its streets, a familiar greyness suspended in the ether.
I can feel my mood shifting as I edge nearer to Brighton; a heavy feeling in my arms and legs, a sinking inside my stomach. I look in my rucksack for the armour I need to face my life back home. I find hoodies and a hard-backed book about a complicated love affair.
I left my sisters on the tiny village platform, and watched them shrinking as the train drew away, their plump arms raised, faces smiling and sad. My lungs surged with feeling as I sped past houses, yellow coloured fields, more houses. This is territory I have known so well. I have chartered this journey for the last twenty years.
I'm uneasy. As I made the journey back home to Wales last week, my speech was still blurry, my experience filtered through a tin can. The preceding weeks had taken their toll. But having seen Mum for myself, stable and much as she was before this latest emergency stay in hospital, and having been home with my family, a little bit of myself has returned. There is a little bit of Clare back in place.
So uneasiness lurches up through my throat, determined as I am to not go back to where I was when I left Brighton last week - sucked in, spat out.
So I sip my tea, plan my strategies; write here. I even have biscuits in my bag. Life isn't so bad. Mum is still alive, I have sisters who are loving and brave, who fight their demons and cut my hair, make me cheese sandwiches. Who always tell me the truth about myself.
They sit chatting in the fading evening light out on our back yard, staring at the apple tree and the flowerbeds, flicking ash from their cigarettes into the cooling autumn breeze. They never sit for very long. In a flash, one of them will be up, dragging something around the garden, pulling out a hose, raising some clippers, re-arranging the shed. They like to keep busy.
It’s then that I feel most like the baby of the family that I am, with my writing, my hula hoop, my desperate need for a new haircut. Watching and feeling and thinking and turning it over, all of it, again and again.
I got my haircut. I watched the dark pieces fall to the ground and with every snip felt a little bit of myself coming back to life. I am still arriving, in whatever this new place is. I watch dead wood fall, hear the doors closing.
So I want to get my head down, start my course, let those who really care, come to me, and the rest, I'll watch them take off like birds into a cloudy sunset. Throw a stick and see what comes back to me.
Despite the Twinings label, the tea is disgusting. No amount of sugar can mask it. Drizzle hits the windowpane and I'm returning to Brighton stronger, but more wary than ever, to a town cursed by too much sunlight, by too many options.
I might feel alone, but I'm not alone; I feel scared, but I'm not weak. I have lost, but then... life culls what it needs to; it does some of our dirty work for us.
I watch crows taking off over cow fields, and feel the love of my family, the ones still there. I feel the greenness of the passing fields, my hair against my neck, a brightness still behind my eyes, and for now, that's more than enough.