BY ZHOU ZHANG

坐在家裡書房的暖氣旁,在電腦上定了新年前夜飛往日本的機票,暗示著 2018 的尾聲。而在一年前的同一時刻,我坐在倫敦東區的小小公寓裡,買下了在新年前夜去往多佛的火車票。

來倫敦已有半年,每天周旋於不同的人,卻因為不同的文化背景、不同的語言,沒有能夠交到一個真正的朋友。以前曾沒有體驗過的孤獨,一點點增強。

來英國前的美好夢想被打碎,現實中只剩下想要逃離的衝動。在 2017 年的最後一天,我決定,一個人,離開了倫敦。

走出多佛車站的那一刻,新鮮的、夾雜著鹹鹹海水味的空氣撲面而來。一路向海邊走去,海浪拍打著鵝卵石,海鷗盤旋鳴叫;灰色的天空中透漏出一點點藍;濛濛海水的遠處,聽說在天晴時,可以看到法國。在海邊的路上,煩惱一點一點從我腦中被海浪拍走,剩下的只有海、只有天、只有新鮮的空氣。

Hostel 在小鎮的盡頭,背靠著白色山壁,面前就是大海。在底樓的接待處兼酒吧,老闆領我走過窄窄的樓道到我的房間。昏暗的光透過小小的窗,勉強照亮了房間。其中一個床上坐著一個金髮的男生。他朝我笑了笑,用濃重的英國口音介紹了他自己。他叫Joe,剛從西班牙的大學畢業。他的家其實就在附近,但他不想立刻回家,決定在這裡暫住。他問我下午想不想一起去爬 White Cliff,我欣然答應。

英國的天氣永遠都是陰雨綿綿,山上的路因為雨變得非常泥濘。每一步都要很謹慎,一不小心就會滑倒。一路上,我們都沒怎麼說話,他走在前,我走在後。他時不時轉頭看看我是否還跟著。在山頂上,我往下望,霧氣讓人看不清任何遠處的景象,只有泛白的海水不停地拍打著灰白的山壁,發出隆隆的迴響。

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Joe 朝著我笑笑。
“It’s truly amazing.” 我向他笑了。這一刻我們都被大自然感動,我們共享了一份快樂。

下山的路上,沈默的氣氛被打破,我們聊了很多自己的生活。我告訴他,我在倫敦唸書,在陌生的環境中生活得不適應。他告訴我他曾經在多佛的日子。突然,他指向路遠處的一幢房子,說:“我爺爺在這裡被火化。”我看著他,一陣沈默。

回到 hostel 之前,他問我 2017 年的最後一餐想要吃什麼。我說:“我請你吃肯德基。”他睜大了眼睛, 以為我在開玩笑。但我覺得,肯德基的香味一直都讓我感到幸福。他最後陪我一起吃了肯德基,但他只點了一杯咖啡。

新年倒數的時候,我坐在房間裡,匆匆在筆記本裡寫下我對2017年的感受。窗外,煙火聲已經響起。“ 2017 年,再見,謝謝自己這一年經歷這麼多。”

新年的早晨,我悄悄離開 hostel,沒有和任何人說再見,就像《Paris, Texas》中 Travis 最後在迷霧中離去。因為我知道每一個人在旅程中,會和不同人有著聯繫,長或短。但孤獨是無解的,最終你依舊是一個人面對,不管在旅途中還是人生中。所以,感謝那些願意為我敞開心扉的人,讓我不孤單。但最後,因為每一個人都是不同的,所以要在孤獨中勇敢地獨自走下去。

Sitting next to the heater at home in the study room, I booked a flight to Japan for New Year’s Eve—which signaled the end of 2018. And exactly the same time one year ago, I was sitting in my tiny apartment on the east side of London, buying a train ticket to Dover on New Year’s Eve.

It’s been half a year since I’ve arrived in London. Everyday I mix with different people, but because of everyone’s different backgrounds and languages, I haven’t been able to make a real friend. This loneliness that I’ve never felt before was slowly building up.

The beautiful dream that I had before coming to the UK was being shattered, and in reality I was only motivated to escape. On the last day of 2017, I decided, to leave London, alone.

The moment I walked out of Dover station, a whiff of fresh, salty air blew in my face. As I walked along the seaside, I could see the waves washing against the pebbles,? and seagulls hovering above. There was a bit of blue peeking through the grey skies;? I’ve heard that on sunny days, you could see France in the distance across the misty waters. Walking by the seaside, my frustrations were slowly washed away by the waves; the only things that remained were the sea, the sky and the fresh air.

My hostel was at the end of town, with its back against the White Cliffs, facing the sea. At the reception and bar downstairs, the owner led me through a narrow walkway to my room. A dim light shone through a little window, barely lighting the room. There was a blond boy sitting on one of the beds. He smiled at me, introducing himself with his thick British accent. His name was Joe, and he had just graduated from university in Spain. His home was actually nearby, but he didn’t want to go home immediately, and so he decided to stay here temporarily. He asked me if I was interested to go climb the White Cliffs together in the afternoon, to which I happily agreed.

The weather in England is always overcast and rainy; the roads up the cliffs were very muddy because of the rain. You had to be careful with every step, one mistake and you could fall. We didn’t talk much along the way; he walked in front and I walked behind. Once in a while he would turn around to see if I was still following. When I looked down from the top of the cliff, the fog covered most of the scenery, except for the sea splashing against the grey cliff, creating a rumbling echo.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Joe smiled at me.

“It’s truly amazing.” I smiled back. We were both touched by Mother Nature at this point, sharing a moment of joy together.

On the way down, the silent atmosphere was broken, and we began chatting a lot about ourselves. I told him, I was studying in London, and that I wasn’t coping well to a foreign environment. He told me about his life back then in Dover. Suddenly, he pointed to a house in the distance, and said, “ My grandfather was cremated here.” I looked at him, silent.

Before we returned to the hostel, he asked me what I wanted to eat for my last meal of 2017. I said, “Let me treat you to KFC.” His eyes opened wide, thinking it was a joke. But I felt that the aroma of KFC always gave me a sense of comfort. In the end he accompanied me to eat at KFC, but he only ordered a cup of coffee.

During the New Year countdown, I sat in the room, writing down my feelings toward 2017. Outside the window, the fireworks were beginning to set off. “ Goodbye 2017, thank you for letting me experience so much this year.”

In the morning of New Year’s Day, I left the hostel quietly, without saying goodbye to anyone, just like the character Travis from the movie “Paris, Texas” who disappeared into the fog. Because I know when you’re travelling on the road, you come into contact with different people, be it long or short. But there is no answer to loneliness; in the end you still have to face it alone, whether it’s during travel or in your life. And so, I am grateful to the people who willingly opened their hearts to make me feel less lonely, but ultimately, because everyone is different, we must find a way to keep going by ourselves in solitude.


Zhou Zhang currently lives in Shanghai, and works as an editor at Art Market Journal. She has interned at The Guardian and The China Post, and also contributed articles to i-newspaper, Business Traveller, and City Weekend Shanghai. She is passionate about art, photography and words.

Zhou Zhang目前住在上海,是藝術市場通訊雜誌的編輯。她曾經在 The GuardianThe China Post 實習,並且在 i-newspaper, Business Traveller, City Weekend Shanghai 發表過文章。她熱愛藝術,攝影和文字。

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