Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cheddar & the Black Dog

I won't beat around the bush. When I arrived in London in October 2000 to work at Neal's Yard Dairy for their busy Christmas season, I was coming out of a dark depression. By the time I had left New York--and my boyfriend and my job as a high school Latin teacher--the black dog was mercifully back in its dog house after attacking me ferociously for at least half a year. But I could still hear it barking. It's never far away.

Most of that previous year, I had grown so despondent that I wished I could make myself small enough to disappear, like a dust bunny under the sofa. In more dramatically hopeless moments, I begged my boyfriend at the time to kill me off. We were like Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, but without the bleached hair, heroin, grungy room at the Chelsea Hotel (though we did have a rather grotty apartment in Hells' Kitchen), punk rock, fame, cool clothes, Malcolm McLaren, and youth. Other than those things, we were exactly the same.

Travelling for a year to London, India, and Rome was just the ticket to make a decisive break from a life that had gotten me down and become almost unbearable. It forced me into new situations. But, as one is slow to learn, you don't leave yourself behind when you go off somewhere new. To quote the cult move The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Wherever you go, there you are. If the black dog was by your side in New York, it will find its way to you in London, even in a stinky cheese shop.

And it did. Most of the time, I was so unsure of myself at the Dairy that one day, close to Christmas, I ended up crying in the bathroom of the Dairy--the cleanest in London, mind you--because I had almost charged someone for a quarter of Stilton instead of half of one, or vice versa. My manager caught me in time and stared at me incredulously. I felt utterly useless and couldn't contain my wretched despondency.

On this current trip, I think I've managed to outwit the black dog and leave it on the other side of the pond. Most days, I am cheerful in the cheese shop, rubbing and flipping Cheddars, giving customer the cheeses they want, making my managers and coworkers laugh, and eating delicious and variable farmstead cheese all day long. Outside the dairy, I am reliably upbeat, so much so that Inkeri told me that her friend John likes hanging out with me because I am always cheerful. It's a dramatic and welcome change to be thought of in this way.

But I know that this might not last. The black dog is a wily one. At this particular moment, it might be quarantined in a kennel in the U.S., but it will eventually find a way to loose itself and track me down in London or somewhere else in my travels, where it will sic itself upon me. Once the black dog has come into your life, it's hard to shake its scent.

For now, however, you can find me smiling in the cheese shop among two tonnes of Cheddar wheels, keeping my fingers crossed that this won't be the day that I see the black dog slinking around in the long afternoon shadows of winter.

1 comment:

msdeemc said...

if you see that thing, just sing zeppelin's "black dog" at him and scare him away!