My return to Los Angles felt like I had never been there before. It felt strange, hot and way too bright. I mean I had been in the UK in the dead of winter so it was a bit of a shock to see the sun. Everything seemed so big. Everything felt so fast. Nobody knew about my grief.
The following year was a bit of a blur though it was an extremely important year as it was during this time I made a life changing decision. I wanted a divorce.
My love affair with America had run its course. Now don’t misunderstand me I had been lucky enough to live in some amazing places and travel the country meeting inspirational people, but I knew it was time to move on. I had often toyed with the idea of moving to Boston or back to New York. However, I had never been clearer that the place I needed to move was home.
I would say twelve years is a long time to be somewhere or with someone when your heart is not in it anymore. I felt like a tourist or even worse an imposter. This wasn’t my town and it wasn’t my life. I began to stare at the ‘ladies who lunch’ with their faces stretched so far back it looked like they were stuck in a wind tunnel. Why had I not noticed this before. Well I had sort of, but the worrying thing was I had become accustomed to it. I didn’t want to live in a world of make-believe anymore.
I began to think what I wanted from the divorce settlement. I mean twelve years is a long time as I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t going quietly without compensation. I had lost my voice in this country. It owed me. Or so I thought.
So, what do I do?
I know, work until you drop, save every penny, don’t have a social life and cut yourself off from everybody. Oh, and become an American Citizen.
That is exactly what I did. I set myself a target and got to work. My voice will work at home; this was a message being sent to me from above. Oh wait, I don’t believe in messages anymore I’ve been down that road, I still couldn’t speak properly, my mum was dead and my family had all fallen out. Why bother being all spiritual and airy fairy about things, it won’t fix it. So, I emptied out all my cupboards. I took every angel card, tarot card, fairy card, aromatherapy, and self-help, past life regression book and threw them into the skip. It was time to get angry. I felt lighter. I was going to live in the real world from now on. I felt quite smug. I had lots of thoughts but not many words. I was pleased with myself. I’m brave, I’m in control, and I can do this myself. I don’t need fairies or angels. Then I got a very strong message ‘Go back to that skip and get the Japanese book’ Oh no not again I thought, I want to leave that behind. Curiosity got the better of me so back to the skip I went to get the Japanese book as instructed. I opened it and there they where……photos of my mother and I when she had visited Los Angeles years before. I stared at them for a long time. Am I really mental? Or is my mother speaking to me? If so how come she can speak and I can’t.
My voice was in and out but I somehow managed to work. Then someone noticed. ‘What’s wrong with your voice?’ she asked. It was a point blank on the spot; I want an answer sort of a question. Oh God, what do I say. Panic set in very quickly, I need a valium I thought, I still have them. The strange thing was when I was asked about my voice it immediately became worse. My words were choppy and interrupted. It felt like I was being strangled again. I was horrified. To this day I have no idea how I answered that question. My memory shut down.
My world became very small in that I only saw a couple of very close friends for the rest of the year. I had no interest in going anywhere or seeing anyone. I would wake in the middle of the night and feel like someone was lying on top of me, heaviness I had never felt before. I wanted my voice back, I wanted my mum back and I wanted my family to stop tearing each other apart.
The rest of the year I worked hard. I worked on my days off and I saved and saved.
Then it was off to the lawyers to begin divorce proceedings. My citizenship settlement! I mean I had paid a lot of tax and contributed to the economy. I had imported my skills and had never been a burden, so why should I leave and be classed as a visitor who needed a visa on my return. No, no that won’t do. Always keep your options open. My lawyer teased me; he had processed my green card and often asked why I didn’t want to be a citizen. I would tell him I was British and proud. Things had now changed; you could have dual citizenship so It felt like the time was right. I liked my lawyer I had known him a long time. When I spoke to him my voice was normal. It felt so good to be normal. I can do this I told myself, I can get my voice back somehow.
I submitted my paper work and took my American test. It consisted of twenty questions about their constitution and history. History? That will take about five minutes! (Only teasing, my American friends, you know I don’t mean it).
The day I was sworn in as an American Citizen my voice was quite bad. How the hell do I pledge my allegiance to the flag and the president if I can’t flippen well speak. It was fine though, I mean there were literally thousands of people there it wasn’t a one on one situation. I was still always hiding in the background always dreading having to speak. Not for much longer though as I’m going home soon and my voice will come back.
My passport was processed very quickly. It arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later. There it was, my divorce settlement. Free to come and go as I please. I can vote now, I can claim an old aged pension. That’s if I live that long or I’m not in the loony bin.
Things were coming together. I reflected a great deal during this time. My thoughts always went back to the three months I was at home with my mother. Friends who I had not seen for twenty years all came out of the woodwork. Word travelled that my mum was sick. People from my youth rang me and came knocking on my door. I realised when I was home that this is what I had missed so badly. A shared history as well as a shared culture.
My friends went out of their way to make a bad situation better for me. I reconnected with people from my past; it felt like I had seen them yesterday. They were kind, understanding and listened to me (you know who you are).
Now, I am not suggesting that my American friends and colleagues were unkind; I am just saying that it felt different at home. People had known me for much longer, we had grown up together, been to school together, been on holiday, done crazy things, laughed, fallen out, made up, all the normal things that you go through with real friends.
I was craving home. Los Angeles is a very fleeting place, people come and go. It was hard to make friends and form bonds as people moved on quite quickly. I had met many people and had good times, but it seemed like every year was different, new people, who would stay and who would go. I needed to go home. I wanted stability. Nothing wrong with that.
The day finally arrived it was 3rd May 2007. It had taken a year to shut down my life in America. I was so excited, I had plans in place and everything was working out. My two friends took me to LAX airport and there she was. Annie Lennox my hero. She was on my flight. This is a sign I thought, all will be well. Oh for God sake stop with the signs, I’d told myself so many times no more signs. I stalked Annie at the airport thinking she wouldn’t notice but she did! She walked away. Oh come back Annie I love you!
I landed in London. There she was again. I stalked her once more to the baggage arrivals. I pretended to lean in to grab my bag, I touched her back and said ‘Excuse me I just need to get my bag’ she looked at me and half smiled. She had clocked me in LA. Oh, but I had touched the great Annie Lennox and that was good enough for me. I heard her speak to her assistant in her soft Scottish accent. What a lovely voice. Mine will be like that soon. I’m home. Well not Scottish but you know what I mean.
But guess what? My voice got worse.