Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019 - 3:30 pm.
It's been two days since we moved out of our beloved Crookes, but our home for four years already feels like a distant memory. It's too soon to feel nostalgia, and right now I'm just soaking in that calm feeling of "ah, well, you are where you are ¯_(ツ)_/¯". We're spending our last week in the UK staying at a friend's house, who gave us the keys while he and his wife are on holiday.
This week has been exhausting, but everything's turned out almost perfectly. At the moment, Andrew and I are lounging in our friend's living room, which has a picture window looking into the garden and lets all the sunlight in. We'll stay inside all weekend, first, because we're tired. Second, because this is an industrial area and everything's far away. And third, because it'll be too hot to be outside (see second: the bus/tram stop for the company with which we have a travel card is 10-15 minutes away on foot. We did find a smaller bus company that has stops around the corner and goes into and from the city center).
On Monday night, Andrew and I met with a Mexican friend I'm very fond of (he's the ex of the Mexican PhD student and friend I had a crush on). On Tuesday morning, we went for breakfast with Stan, one of our best friends here, and in the afternoon, we met with our supervisor, Peter, at a café in our neighborhood.
It's funny to think that Andrew and I only met with Peter face to face for a few hours throughout these four years; sometimes the two of us at the same time, but mostly separately. Yet it was him accepting us as his PhD students what changed our lives and allowed us to come to the UK, and he was very good at communicating with us by email. He retired recently, and right as we're on our way out of the PhD.
This was the first time that we met in an informal setting. We anticipated feeling a bit awkward, but actually we had a nice conversation. He even walked with us to our house afterwards, because it was on the way to his, and he hugged us goodbye. He's been the greatest supervisor any student could hope for.
Wednesday rolled around, with one of the engagements I was looking forward to the most this week... until I wasn't. I was meeting with V., a woman who works in IT in my uni and with whom we connected through my friend Eric. I said I stopped being excited about meeting her, and my whole idea of "going on a date" with her (it was NOT a date), because I was nervous. "Why did I agree to this? What if I suck? What if we have nothing to talk about?".
Soon I discovered there was no need to worry. V was friendly, warm, and lovely. Conversation just flowed between us, and we were quickly talking about lives as bi (me) and trans (her) women. She briefly mentioned being bullied, assaulted and raped for being trans; I know this is all too common, but it's all the more overwhelming hearing it first-hand. Yet, she said, she's one of the "lucky ones": she transitioned years ago so she "passes" (terrible term, I know), she's working in uni where she can be out and is taking an advocating role, and she and her partner have been together for 14 years.
V's been working in uni for five months, so while she knows the city and has friends here, she's still finding her way around. She commutes daily from another city, hours away by train, but the social environment makes it worthy. I'm almost about to kick Eric for not introducing us sooner (he said he does regret this delay). We had to cut short our conversation because she had a class, but we mentioned seeing each other again before I leave the UK.
I emailed her last night, asking if she'd like to go out. After meeting her, my romantic fantasy turned into a warm feeling of friendship, but then I kept thinking about her for the rest of the week. I couldn't write her sooner because we were moving out of our house, but I added her on Facebook. I'm afraid our relationship will end up as a Friendship That Could Have Been. We could've been lovers, too! In my head (she's straight, anyway). Oh, well. I'll take this unfulfilled potential over not meeting her at all any day.
Thursday was our last day at our house in Crookes. We've had two people, a man and his wife, doing renovations at the house for a few weeks now. I think they took pity on us because the house could've been in better conditions while we lived there. Our letting contract ended today, actually, but the letting agency is closed on weekends, so they asked us to leave on Friday. Then Andrew and I decided to leave on Thursday because the renovations were taking place (and luckily we had our friend's house to go to).
Hence Thursday morning was dedicated to finishing packing, and wait for people to come pick up pieces of furniture, some as donations, some as rubbish. Andrew and I got pretty stressed, putting all our belongings together (suitcases, but also stuff we'll give away or use in our remaining days here) as the two contractors destroyed the bathroom with painful bangs. We actually left on Thursday so they could have this extra day to dismantle the bathroom, which was hideous.
Everything came together at the last minute thanks to Andrew, who arranged all the collections. It seemed we'd have to split, him moving everything into our friend's house, and me staying at our house waiting for the donations to be collected. However, as we were loading our stuff into a van, people from the charity shop came to collect the furniture. So we both were able to go with our stuff, and have part of the afternoon to chill. The morning had been so hectic that it felt like a whole day.
On Thursday night, we had our farewell drinks with people from the department, all PhD students plus one admin person who's very friendly and works closely with the students. Luckily we'd had time to rest after moving in the afternoon, so we were in good spirits. We had a good turnout. It was a fun evening with friends, at the pub around the corner from the Psych Department. It used to be a church and now they serve amazing pizzas.
I got to sit next to my crush, A. I was happy she showed up, and she even invited her girlfriend. A told me she'd talked about Andrew and me with her. Andrew and me rarely talked with A, but we've chatted a bit and, as she and others imply, he and I are salient in the department. Not only because we're married, but because we went to the office all day everyday, helped around, and were friendly to everyone. It's been like that for four years, so most of those who came into the program in the last three years have seen us around.
Anyway. I was happy to sit next to A, and flattered to know she talked to her girlfriend about me, but she quickly forgot about me and turned to talk to her friend. As the night drew to a close, she and her friends made plans to go to the casino afterwards, and she invited me. She'd also said we should go to the one LGBT bar in the city before I leave. I responded enthusiastically by reflex, but then I thought things through.
The thing is, as I've said before, A must be 8 to 12 years younger than me. To be fair, though, I was already old at her age and I would've responded to her partying ways in the same way I'm responding now. "I can't keep up with you. I'm out of place among you and your friends. Let's just hide somewhere and make out". Anyway, I'm not holding my breath on her following up on her invitation.
I did plant the seed, in her and her friends, to go to the one strip club in the city (yes, there is one LGBT bar, and one strip club). Gotta support your sex worker sisters.
Oh, and A bought me a drink!!!1!! She even poked me in the arm when I said I shouldn't have another one, so I accepted. Andrew and I were in different circles during our farewell drinks, so I told him about A buying me a drink on our way home (our friend's house now), and he laughed; he knows I have a crush on her and could see me cherishing the spot where she poked me. But see, my friend Stan had already bought me two drinks. My three drinks were Smirnoff Ice, which is barely alcohol, but it's still alcohol to me. I had a hungover-ish headache the next day.
A headache is never nice, let alone when you're cleaning out a house before you leave it, which is what we did on Friday. The day was very hot, and there was a lot of noise from the contractors, who kept destroying the bathroom. Andrew and I were against the clock before the agency came to do the checkout.
The checkout was conducted by the lady who found us the house. She loved our cats and I think she was fond of us; she said we were very good tenants. The lady came in and didn't even check the state of the house. I think it was a mixture of trusting us and knowing that the house was not in optimal conditions, with the renovations but also before them. No use in checking the original inventory nor the state of cleanliness. Andrew and I probably worried too much about it, but we didn't want to be half-assed in the impression we left behind.
Plus, we want our deposit back. It was more than a month's rent, too, a bit of a bribe for the agency to trust us with our cats. Stupid cats, they're like a hole in our wallets (but we love them).
We returned our house keys. I have to say, as much as that means closing the most fantastic chapter of my life so far, it didn't pain me nearly as half as returning to Joseph my spare key to his house when he dumped me. You learn from everything, eh. So we returned our keys, made one last quick trip to the Co-op (our supermarket, all hail the Co-op), and took a taxi to our new quarters.
And here we are now. The house is in the industrial area of Sheffield, a far cry from our house on top of the hill in a vibrant, white middle-class neighborhood peppered with students. This area is more working class, with African and Asian immigrant populations, and there are no shops within walking distance. It's an interesting contrast to where we used to live just two days ago. I miss my little bubble on top of the hill, but I'm digging my new surroundings.
The house feels like living in Chile already. Our friends went into exile when the dictatorship started, but they've hung on to their culture, and it helps that they keep the Chilean community going here. The degree of hoarding is alarming, though. We knew they keep stuff to help new students and families that come into the city, but that's beyond it. There's all sorts of crap and bags of crap everywhere, the furniture bends with their weight, and there are barely any usable surfaces. We're lucky to have corridors among all this stuff, but there isn't even room to rest our suitcases (we left them in the kitchen). Lots of things seem to be collecting dust for at least a couple of decades.
Still, it reminds Andrew and me of his grandparents' house. His grandfather passed away this year, and who knows what savage family feud will happen over that house (which rightfully belonged to Andrew's brother, but he passed away before his grandfather, and the will was never updated). Us staying here feels like a compensation from life, because Andrew's plan, before his granddad died, was that we'd stay at his house for a few days upon our return to Chile.
Staying in this house, in a neighborhood that feels somewhat non-British, is a merciful transition. Although not stress-free, everything has been on our side in this process of slowly moving out of the UK. It's almost unbelievable how well things have gone so far, and I'm massively grateful for all the help that keeps coming our way.
Also, my thesis corrections went through. I'm officially a Doctor!