Big brother was eventually spotted, as were the bags soon after. A long drive through the gloaming darkness… What? Hell, I’m not even sure what that means, and without my usual dictionary to hand and only a dodgy wifi connection available, I shall change that to… A long drive as the darkness slunk to surround us, and with only a headache privy to my mental landscape, big brother pointed out various landmarks, hiding in the rapidly dwindling light. Finally, he pulled into a narrow drive more appropriate for a British home than for the States.

Mind swirling, headache throbbing, he led us through sprawling rooms and quirky hallways; whatever sense of direction I still had fled, sobbing in dismay. I could barely tell which way was up, let alone left and right.

Thankfully, I was allowed outside with a small dish for an ashtray, banished to the front porch. There I reacquainted myself with nicotine, and began to weep for a variety of reasons: exhaustion, pain, and jealousy. Yes, jealousy. While I love my little semi-detached with all its dustbunnies, this house was so much… better, bigger, quirkier, unusual, more interesting. And the uncertainty of being unemployed, of claiming to be “a writer” (complete with scare quotes, because I haven’t been published or paid… yet), the looming sense of complete and utter failure could no longer be contained. It leaked out.

Thankfully, no one looked out to see how I was doing, for I had become entirely unhinged. Like one of those string toys on a pedestal: depress the bottom and watch the entire animal collapse on itself, no tension in its joints to hold it up. That was me, on big brother’s front porch.

Eventually, I pulled myself together, released the depression from the bottom of my pedestal, and returned to the curried warmth of the kitchen. I watched as the others ate; I couldn’t even attempt thinking about food without an answering lurch from my gorge. Sleep was a welcome escape from the travails of the day’s travels, and I looked forward to the illumination that dawn would bring.

Because everything is worse at night.