I trip-toed my index finger across the globe; middle finger stumbling and gliding in its shadow. I let my eyes fizz out of focus and my vision succumb to a blur of turquoise blues and golden jigsaw pieces. Tiny ships hurtled and dipped in and out of sight, and dotted and dashed lines that I never understood followed every tiny spin. Smooth under my touch, fragile and delicate, this little planet which whizzed slowly beneath my feet. Unlike Alice, my wonderland was not contained to the confines of my imagination but within the earth which my fingers scrabbled to control. Europe was outside my backdoor and the rest of the world was merely down the street. The moon isn’t that far away if you are a shooting star.
In the beginning it was hard. I was restless. My fingers and toes twitched; my entire body ached, driven by an uncontrollable force I couldn’t speak to and couldn’t ask to stop. Entire January afternoons were lost to bouts of looking out the window at the street below. The Turkish man fed uneaten cake to the pigeons like a pack of middle aged women in a tearoom. The buses trundled past: their commuters in a robot-like trance, plugged into their devices lost to a virtual world. Across the road, the bald man leaned outside his window puffing on his twentieth cigarette of the morning which dangled precariously from his lips.
At first I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts leapt from place to place. A vast and endless Norwegian landscape; swimming in Sognsvann Lake, drifting aimlessly like a lost mermaid. Suddenly I’m in the narrow streets of Budapest. Streams of light creep and protrude from gaps in the walls or flood through open shutters. In Sweden I am gliding on November ice on the canals. The blackbirds teeter and slide with me and a layer of frost coats everything in glittering silver. Before I fall asleep I’m in a tiny French village, I collect hydrangea and press them neatly into the pages of my copy of Une Certaine Sourire. The sun is setting and the golden light casts shadows on the tiled floors. The rooms smells of sweet hydrangea in pink and lilac and white. I am sleepy. I am sleeping.
I concentrated on books on papers, deadlines and saving every little penny. I’d remind myself; Amsterdam is waiting for you in the spring, the promise of cycles in fields of fresh grass and windmills galore. In autumn Vienna beckons, bright days, cold fingers and neoclassical buildings sit quietly, waiting to hear the tread of your feet on the marble floors. When winter comes around again there is Zurich beneath a blanket of snow and comfort in her pastel coloured streets and the feeling it gives you: the giddiness, the adrenaline, the completeness - adventure.
I think back to the first days when I wore my black denim dungarees, strolling up to Jon P. Erliens Vei, taking it all in. In the afternoons my new room would fill with a golden sunlight that made my heart want to burst. At night I struggled to get comfortable in my little single bed. I rearranged the furniture and blu-takked photographs to the custard coloured walls. Soon I was having afternoon tea on the terrace with new faces, going to classes up a path lined with marigolds as bright as the sun, following a map into the unknown. Taking the T-Bane became an everyday thing; I knew the names of all the stations. Ullevål stadion, Forskningsparken, Blindern and Majorstuen. If I needed to go to the market I’d go to Grønland, for a walk in the botanic garden I’d sit and read a book on the murky brown seats until I got to Tøyen. When we ran out of money we had hot dogs from Narvesen for 250 krone. To brighten up our dorms we would go for long walks and collect wildflowers, and at the weekends we explored the flea markets of Grünerløkka and couldn’t afford more than one beer in Blå. The months went by quickly, seasons changed from summer to autumn and to a cold, cold winter. I missed home, but my home was here.
At first I could not sleep. But then I came to appreciate the 2am squeal of a bus and the late afternoon rumble of a train against the backdrop of a purple sunset. In the beginning I was lost on streets previously familiar to me. Now I take the route I never knew in the first place. The streets are a map and my heart is a compass. At night I sleep contentedly, dreaming of places close to me and places far away. My memories flicker and whizz like an old film projector. I smile serenely, cat like. I will explore again soon.
M-L Patton begins her final year of her undergraduate degree in English, Creative Writing and Journalism in September at the University of Strathclyde. Following her time spent living in Norway during her third year of her undergrad, she is keen to pursue her dream of travelling and working in Japan following her graduation. In M-L's spare time she keeps a blog of her musings; mlinmypocket.tumblr.com and can be caught frequently posting on Instagram @marielouisespp.