“Alright Nugget Holder*?” Clifford shot back over his shoulder, waiting as I Pac Man bit the air, midway up the mountain that led to Luton airport from our backroad parking spot, in front of an angry scrawl, tacked onto a telephone poll; ‘if you leave your car here it WILL be towed’. We read it stationary, not confident the car would start again. “Maybe they’ll do us a favour and take it away,” Clifford reasoned, “although then we’d have to hitch hike back to Lewisham.”
We were flying from Luton to Guardamar, just South in Spain of Alicante, reluctant at first to spend the money but, as Clifford’s Mum and Dad own a flat, accommodation would be free. Also, we needed it. The only time I’d seen Clifford recently he’d been irritability exhausted due to continuously working, I’d been snappy and perpetually drained. We felt that Nugget would benefit more from a mum and dad who hadn’t already killed each other than the few extra quid. It was our two-year anniversary* so some Alicante sea and sun was just what the midwife ordered.
Two days in, a torrent of rain hurled itself against the sliding doors, the power dancing on and off like a tease. A casual tornado* gnawed away the front of a newly refurbished school at the bottom of the road, splitting the glass of the Chinese opposite. Guardamar was opening its arms to one years’ worth of rain in twenty-four hours. The powerless streets bowed and the drains, not cut out for this kind of graft, heaved and bubbled up past the tarmac tops. The seashore eroded and everyone we met told us they’d never seen anything like it in fifteen years plus of living there. Meanwhile, the sun sizzled back home in England. Clifford’s Law* was in full effect.
“Well I hope you liked Guardamar!” our Taxis driver, a friend of Clifford’s mum and dad, said as he dropped us at the luckily open airport, five days after we’d landed, the decay of a washed-out landscape spilling out behind him. “This’ll be your holiday destination for the next sixteen years!”
“Most people don’t think or really mean what they say, they just say things!” Clifford said, exasperated when I started crying, “why do you have to take everything people say so literally?”
Today was my birthday, an event I always cry on, a marker of where I am in life*, my annual sentimental inward reflection, this time with the added hormone injection. “I just don’t feel like I’m excited enough!” I wailed dramatically.
“Who says you have to be excited?” Clifford patiently grounded his feet on the airport plastic floor. “Who cares? Who says you have to feel any certain way? This is happening to you and however you feel is fine because this is your experience.”
Later, Clifford told me he had been worried about me then, but with an unwavering, confident conviction he had said what I needed to hear. He was convincing but he also had a belief in me that I didn’t have. He knew things would change, and when they did, just over one week later, when I caught up to where he was, he greeted me as if he had never doubted that I wouldn’t make the jump.
*Nugget Holder. Originally, the plan had been to get a pup, our storyline involving a little dog called “Nugget” and we’d talk about him all the time, “won’t it be lovely when Nugget is sitting here between us”, “I can’t wait to cuddle Nugget on the sofa”. When we found out I was pregnant it seemed very plausible (or pawsable, as Clifford would say) that Nugget had upgraded somehow in an extraordinary feat of evolution to four fingers and a thumb. Nugget had existed before conception; we just hadn’t realised what we were really talking about. (Our dog will now be called Beans).
I also have an irrational hatred for the term ‘baby’ without the grammatical article of ‘the’ before it. I can’t understand why it’s common place not to say ‘my baby’ or ‘the baby’ or ‘your baby’. This jars something inside my body fibres every time I hear it. As everyone, from my pregnant friends to the midwife, say things like “baby is doing fine” or “getting things ready for baby” I don’t criticise, but inwardly it drives me fucking crazy. One day Clifford independently articulated a shared revulsion by suddenly exclaiming, “has everybody forgotten how to speak properly or something?”
*Two Year Anniversary. Two years previously, to the day, I’d been bouncing around my Shepherds Bush room, getting ready for a night out in Dalston, skimming absentmindedly through Facebook between gulps of rum and coke, shuffling tunes. I almost scrolled past a status from Clifford offering out a free Bestival ticket for that weekend. I hovered, never comprehending how life-changing one tap could be, before liking it and scampered off into my night. Clifford didn’t let that go. He messaged to ask if I wanted it and I find it highly problematic to pass up opportunities like that. Bestival became our “first date”. (For our second date he took me to see Ghostface Killah with a triple A (Access All Areas) back stage pass. He knew what he was doing!)
Our imprints, however, had meandered around each other’s for many years before this. Clifford had been precisely the sort of unruly little skater boi that would have enthralled me back in the day, while I was “one of those fit girls that hung around the skate park” (his words). While I studied at Kingston, we downed snake bite and shot sambuca in the same bars and clubs, but the indie Uni girls never ventured near him, he says, due to being an angry mod. Countless dubstep nights of being in the same worn-down, condensation-drenched halls later, our paths finally crossed in Corsica Studios at a Deep Medi night. He twisted my half-shaved head because he was a DJ, I turned his DJ head because of my undercut. But I was still hooked on the open road, idealising freedom in every aspect of my life (I had commitment issues) while Clifford, the opposite, was ready (in his mind) for all the things I was running from. He always said I was the one who got away. But, two years ago at Bestival, the whole universe had shifted. It was the right time.
*Tornado. YES, you read this correctly.
*Clifford’s Law. The unluckiness that Clifford experiences in everyday life, involving something negative that is usually very unlikely to happen but will happen to Clifford. He has said that, Clifford’s Law exists because he got so lucky with the big things in life that all his lucky has already been used up. To illustrate, the sun came back out in Guardamar the day after we left.
*A marker of where I am in life. Last year for my birthday we were in Ibiza, my friend telling me how this was probably their last trip to the party island because they were thinking about having a baby. I was thinking, fuck that.