by Angharad Sillitoe
‘She’s in transit between jobs at the minute.’ That was my dad’s polite way of saying I was unemployed.
‘She’s in transit between courses.’ That was his way of saying I’d dropped out of university.
‘She’s in transit between places at the moment.’ That was his way of saying that I was living at home.
What else was I in transit between? The life that I’d already lived and the future ahead of me? Was I, as I stood waiting for the kettle to boil, in transit between not having a cup of tea and having a cup of tea? In transit between the living room were I’d sat watching morning television and my bedroom where I would go check out social media as I drank my tea?
As I saw the list of things my mother wanted me to do that was stuck to the front of the microwave (evidently she thought that was the best place to put it so I’d notice – maybe she thought I couldn’t cook anything more complicated than reheating leftovers in the fridge) – was I in transit between not having done any of those things, and having done all of them?
I checked the list, mentally sorting the items into ‘okay, will take a few minutes and isn’t hard’ like feeding the cat, putting the towels in the washing machine, to the things that would take longer, and were more of a chore, like ironing all of Dad’s shirts or picking up my brother’s piano recital suit from the dry cleaners.
Then there were the things that I conveniently wouldn’t get to. Go hand in my CV to everywhere I could think of. Research cheap flats. Find out about suitable courses at the local college.
I kept on going down the list. ‘Pick up pre-ordered bag of organic vegetables from Green Soil for when Aunt Sarah comes over for dinner tonight.’ Was this my mother’s way of telling me that Aunt Sarah was coming – yet more opportunities for everyone to talk about how I was ‘in transit’? Were we now so middle class that it was imperative that the vegetables were organic – or was that Aunt Sarah? Would she even notice – or would she be told?
I didn’t even know where Green Soil was. As I drank my tea (milky and with more sugar than Mum liked me to use in public) I googled it. I wondered if she had chosen that store on purpose, the furthest away place that organic vegetables could be purchased without venturing into the next county. Didn’t the supermarket down the road have a stand with organic produce?
I went downstairs, still only dressed from the waist up, although I was wearing underwear, searching around all the usual places, looking for bus fair. When had they stopped giving change, and why? Was it to reduce time — because what was the point? They were still always late.
I eventually made it out the front door, not bothering to pick up the mail as I stepped over the welcome mat. I’d dressed in jeans, so I was almost certain that Mum would make me change into something more ‘appropriate’ before Aunt Sarah arrived, but at least I’d bothered to get dressed today.
Did this mean that I was in transit between my normal not-dressed state and the overdressed and uncomfortable state I would be in tonight?
The bus was late. My headphones had broken last week, and I hadn’t been able to find any that I could borrow in my brother’s room, so the rain was loud, the traffic was loud, the miserable city life was loud.
I must have walked around the right part of town for about half an hour before I found the right place, my phone choosing not to connect to the internet at the worst time. As I picked up a basket at the door I wondered, is this me being in transit between me having the promising future that everyone expected, and me becoming a domestic servant to someone else who had that future, as seemed to be the reality of this situation.
‘Hey.’ I heard him without any music to distract me, but I didn’t assume he was talking to me. That optimistic tone of voice wasn’t often used when talking to me. He tapped my shoulder, making me jump. His hair was dark, and long, and curly, and goofy. He had freckles. And dirt on his nose.
‘Hi, what is someone as gorgeous as you doing surrounded by so much dirt?’ Was he talking about himself or the stuff caking the vegetables?
‘I’m . . . in transit between having no vegetables and having vegetables.’
‘In transit,’ he repeated. ‘That’s exactly the words Dad uses to describe me working here.’