Happy Endings and Sweet Pretending Part 1: The Final Week in Hattiesburg

Week beginning May 25th 2015.

There’s a consistency in the grief and pain in “goodbye” in that it never gets any easier the older you get or the more times that you do it. Distance is irrelevant, as Rihanna states in “California King Bed.” It turns out I’m more well-known than I thought in this town, being dubbed “Hattiesburg elite” in my final week in the USA. I also apparently effected more lives/ left more footprints on hearts than I thought humanly possible. And that makes every happy and sad tear worthwhile, to feel so needed, loved and significant by so many. Maybe that’s the sweet pretending in that me leaving suddenly brought a lot of people’s emotions to the forefront. The apologies, dinner dates and farewell gifts made my suitcase for England overweight and my heart heavy with it as well. My anchor tattoo represents stability and being grounded but hearing all these kind words in the form of regret parcels made me feel like people were dropping the anchor from their shoulders on to my heart to relieve themselves of any guilt. Not all my friends were like that of course, but it hurt nonetheless.

Day One, May 26th- New Experiences in NOLA.

Madison recently made the comment that the tattoos of Lisa Berrie are a “map of the people she’s loved.” After thinking about it, she’s right. I got the anchor with Hannah (although Katie and I originally planned to get it together); “Lace” because my close friends called me that; a moon for Taylor; “every cloud has silver lining” for someone who helped me through a particularly trying time; and an infinity symbol in front of said quote for Jana after she wrote me the loveliest letter exclaiming that she was “eternally grateful” for my friendship.

Anyway the day I got Jana and Taylor’s tattoos, I really hit it off with my tattoo artist Anthony and he wanted to take me out. I was my super sarcastic self that day, partly due to being with Taylor so the banter was on top form. When I got in the car, he presented me with a bag of sentimental gifts which was very sweet and unexpected. He rented a car because his truck was playing up, plus NOLA is over 100 miles away! We then drive to the aquarium in New Orleans which was fun and we got to feed and stroke stingrays; something I’d never done before. We had a lot of common interests and similarities so conversation never dulled. We then went to Bubba Gump for lunch. I’d been to the one in New York two years ago and really liked it. He’s also older than me but I always see that as a good thing. I went home and addressed my packing situation after we returned. I definitely have some sort of attachment issue with people and possessions; in that I acquire too many and don’t know how/ want to let go. I’ve spent some serious cash sending myself things because I would rather ditch things back home than leave it in Mississippi and then realise I want it back in Leicestershire.

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Day Two, May 27th- Wilson on Wednesday.

On a wet Wednesday, I went to lunch with Wilson at Crescent City Grill in Hattiesburg. I’ve been there a few times with various people and it’s become one my favourite restaurants in town. The cuisine is largely Southern food such as crawfish and desserts like pecan pie (one of my favourites) and bread pudding. Wilson owns a huge truck (a “big” thing in the South) and he is a gent the whole time, opening the door for me etc. The world could do with a few more Wilsons! We had a class together in first semester, History 201: US History to 1877 and we’ve remained friends since then. We have a great meal together, he gets me to try oysters, to be eaten with crackers as a starter. We pick our own mains and then share two kinds of bread pudding for dessert (the last one he insisted I take home for Elizabeth. Such a sweetheart).

We talk a lot about culture differences which is something that made us friends in the first place. I like to make Wilson laugh, he has the cutest smile and really nice eyes. 😉 My friends later noted his attractive qualities and I just grin like “I’ve known him for a long time of course I’ve noticed these things!” Anyway, after lunch it begins to pour with rain so we hang out in my apartment. Wilson is coming to England to study abroad in June when I’ve returned home so I’m excited at the prospect about sharing my culture with him on my home soil. We didn’t really get to hang out during my time here in the USA but I’ve no doubt that I’ll remain friends with this gentle soul.

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At 3:30pm once Wilson has left, I skype with Jana. She’s excited about coming to visit me and we have a good chat. It makes me feel a lot better to see and speak to her, despite the screen between us representing the physical distance. An hour later I go to the gym with Blake as his guest for a “cheeky workout;” running a lot longer than usual because people handing me regret parcels infuriated me so much. I felt trapped in the guilt of others and it was too much for me. I ran for so long that Blake insisted on walking me to my apartment in case I fell on the way up! I shower as soon as I get in and go out with the Jason’s to Waffle House and then bowling. I haven’t seen Jason Smith in a while, it’s a lot less frequent now he is working full time as a nurse, so anytime with him I consider to be golden. I don’t eat at Waffle House and I’m in a foul mood which he eventually gets me out of after we rally a few remarks across the table. I get on really well with his friend Jason Jones. We’re left to talk and get to know each other for a while whilst Jason Smith buys food for a homeless man. We go bowling and have a good time in each other’s company. I capture the silliness of our friendship in videos. My foul mood is nowhere to be seen so you could say that Jason won that rally game, set and match. After bowling its another infamous night at Jason Smith’s house of drinks and DMC’s (deep, meaningful conversations); joined by a few other faces before wrapping it up at 3am.

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Day 3, May 28th- Thrilling Thursday

Hungry with Hannah

After weeks on end, I finally get to see my coordinator Hannah for lunch. She’s another one my friends commented on the beauty of, which again I’ve always been aware of having known her from day one of my American Adventure! Hannah had recently been in France and has had a busy semester so I didn’t get to see her much. Despite that, we do get on really well, she loves nothing more than to imitate my accent so sometimes I teach her English slang. I often find it hard to believe that she is over three years older than me. She takes me to McAlister’s for lunch which is a sandwich chain (American is littered in food chains) and we catch up on the recent adventures and stories of each other’s lives. As we talk about personal appearances she says “the next time you see me…” which makes me happy because its unintentional but it makes me believe that she genuinely means it about there one day being some form of sequel to me “American Adventure.” I help her do some work related shopping and then head to the international office with her to make sure I won’t have any problems travelling back to the UK after the “Canadian Crisis” during my time in Detroit. “That awkward moment when” I didn’t have my J-1 visa form when crossing the border and back again.

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10665904_751255008266014_4098252978624803408_nIf you’ve read my works before/ know me personally you’ll know that sentimentality is my thing. I really like the idea of fun photo booths over phone selfies, which I ask Anna to do with me. We do eyebrow threading first, quite literally a first time for Anna and then nails too since I haven’t had mine done since just before I left the UK. My day started being complimented on my choice of football (as in soccer) shirt to silver “about the hit the school disco” nails. The Chinese lady that does my nails tells me how beautiful my eyes are and says “why yo no have boyfwend? They headache huh? My boyfwend is a big baby.” I don’t feel like walking down memory lane so I just tell her I’ve dated during my time here but it’s not practical with me leaving. After this I go back to my apartment to meet Jose where I quite literally hop from Anna’s car to his.

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I haven’t seen Jose in weeks so I’m really excited to finally hang out with him again. I’m really bubbly and chatty as we drive to the restaurant. The last time we drove there it was closed so it was nice to finally share the experience of eating at one of his favourite places. We get steak for dinner and we’re stuffed by the time we’re done. Portion distortion is definitely a prominent thing in the USA!

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We decide to go to the Endzone bar and play pool after dinner. As luck would have it, I see the one and only “Hattiesburg Elite” Erin Curley sitting outside the bar as we pull up. Since I didn’t think I would see her again, I definitely feel like the stars are somehow aligned after spotting her. I think some would fall it fate. More so due to the fact I had quite literally just been talking about her when I saw her; which made me laugh a lot. I stated to Jose “she’s over there!” He didn’t seem to believe me at first until I said “no she’s quite literally over there with a drink in her hand on that bench” and we both laughed at the coincidence. I speak briefly to Erin and give her a hug before heading on inside to beat Jose at pool. The regular occurrence of me winning happens. Queen B, as always. 😉

Jose drops me off at Taylor’s and we all go bowling yet again. I win the first game, on a clear winning streak tonight it would seem! Taylor is back in classes and I don’t get to see her a lot because she always has this crazy schedule of work and university. It’s very admirable, I don’t know if I could do quite as much as she does! It’s always good to see her. She always makes me feel good about myself, she always has my best interests at heart which makes her protective of me, she makes me laugh and we ALWAYS have a good time which is why she is now my favourite person here in Hattiesburg (her and Jana are practically the same in their words to me so I figure Taylor can be my favourite American. 😉 ) I’ve said it to Taylor before but I’d wish I’d known her during my first semester like I do now. She is the definition of a true friend and I’ll miss her so much when I go back to England. 😦

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