Lily held her bag closer, it was something familiar to cushion the regret. In the morning, the sky hung low and grey over London, but by the time the coach reached Nottingham, the sun and Lily’s hopes had risen above the clouds. However, as the landscape alternated now between towering cities and furrowed fields, as she drew nearer to York, the clouds drifted back.
A new start in London became another dead-end. A whirlwind of work problems and a series of bad relationships left her overworked and unfulfilled until everything became oppressive and tasteless. But what else could she do? It’s what she has always done. Whenever life became emotionally distressing and happiness unachievable, she discarded everything, burned bridges, cut ties, and started again. But, wherever she ran to, sadness always found its way back.
Talking about her depression made people uncomfortable so she hid and denied it. She became a ‘weirdo’ whose diminishing social skills plunged her further into her dark world of sadness, her anxieties ended conversations and made her an ‘oddball’. Her illness had opened floodgates to a silent, starless world she could neither escape nor reach out from. Nobody will ever understand me, she thought, especially when she couldn’t understand herself.
She checked into a hotel in the centre of York. And that night, tearful and jobless in a new city, Lily was alone with her heart torn between regret and desire, and her mind full of distress and memories, thinking of all the things she should have changed but didn’t, of all the people that had passed in her life, wondering, what have I done? After a few drinks, she fell asleep to the sounds of dogs and sirens that ebbed and flowed like distant tides on the streets.
In her dream she was on a boat, thrown by rough waves. She fell in. Water filled her lungs. She tried to scream. She panicked, sinking lower and lower into darkness. Then calmness came. She swam into a shaft of light breaking through the silent water. She lay on the boat, staring at the sky, surrendering herself to the motion of the sea as it found tranquility, to the sound of gulls, aware of the shifting of clouds as the sun faded and then reflected the clear, blue waters.
Lily woke to a gold and orange sunrise. The wind had died, the streets were silent. She lay in bed listening to the city wake, remembering where she was, expecting regret but finding only the calmness and clarity of her dream.
She watched the York skyline, becoming aware of the streams of cars that flowed on and on through lights of green; and the River Ouse, which shimmered olive and umber, and was lined by blossoming trees of white and pink — at everything moving and changing below.
Realising that it didn’t matter how things were or will be, but how they are now — transmutable and impermanent. The world will always turn, and all things will pass, like the clouds and sea of her dream that faded and calmed when she stopped fighting.
Without fear she looked above it all, at the grandeur of York Minister rising from undulating fields of tile and slate; and with hope at York St. Mary’s stone spire rising to meet the bright, cloudless sky as it stretched endlessly like a clear, blue slate, waiting for everything to be written on it.