sub·or·di·nate clause (noun, grammar)
a clause in a complex sentence that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence
a clause that modifies the principal clause or some part of it
the main clause always functions without the subordinate clause
I wait two weeks, and then my new camera arrives. (She is identical.) I have no film diary over my birthday. People say you can't miss something that you've never had, but they're wrong. My friends came to visit me in Canterbury for the first time and we went to the beach on the train, and I can describe each of the thirty-seven exposures I lost that weekend. One survives, in digital. I realise just how much of my photographic life exists in analogue now.
I go home for the holidays, and my sister turns seventeen. The light is so beautiful one evening that I pack my things onto my bike and cycle up through the village, and take a second shot at an expansion I tried last year. When I think I have it, I sit in the dry grass awhile and watch the sun set. I'm starting to recognise these small snapshots of summer now. I can't wait for exams to be over in six weeks.
Jonny and I go to the Lake District. (film diary starts here.) When we come home I expect it to feel like a return to reality. Instead, it feels more like finding the door to my house locked, and an arrow pointing down to the cellar imploring me, this way. I begin the long diversion that skirts around my real life. It is exam season, and I must spend five weeks inside this subordinate clause.
I start a punishing revision schedule and work mostly in the staffroom at Mum's school, where teachers look disapprovingly when I take Facebook breaks. (This is good for my productivity.) The government spends several million pounds on a funeral for Margaret Thatcher. My father spends £20 on a good bottle of champagne to celebrate her demise.
Revision is exhausting me already. Jonny and I talk three times a day but we can't afford to see each other before the end of his exams in a month. I'm glad for something to break the pre-exam purgatory: I spend a day judging a music talent show at my old high school. It is very strange to go back to a place which was once special to you, and find it changed-but-not-changed.
In the evening, when I get home, I am inexplicably sad, so I go for a walk to my favourite spot. On the way there the sunny clouds shower me with a burst of rain, and a rainbow appears in the distance - too faint for photographs. I feel a bit like the weather, I realise. I'm not sure why I'm so volatile, so I sit at the end of my jetty for a long time and work it out.
Jonny calls. Teary. I say, I used to think it was because I was at my happiest there. It's not about wanting to be there again; it's about wanting that feeling back. But that can't be true, because I have been thinking a lot recently about how, these last few months, I have never felt so content. Everything is good, now. I have you. I have my family. I have a small group of wonderful friends. I have good grades and I love studying and I got into California and I am confident about what is coming next, and I am sure in myself, and I am happy with who I am turning out to be. I have never been so content, not ever. So that can't be the reason I am sad.
We are interrupted by a fisherman who lets me know I am on private land. (I pretend this is news to me, and apologise. How can sitting on a jetty in the late afternoon be a crime?) When I can return to our conversation, the answer has formed. It's not to do with music or happiness, but it is to do with trust, and confidence, and security. I feel a lot better for understanding myself. There are lambs in the field next to our lane as I walk home, and the sky has cleared.
Up at six, to the city with Mum, a ten-hour revision day at her school, home, dinner, sleep. Repeat. Jonny starts sending me post - real post, sent with a stamp, sealed with a star, and folded on a single piece of card like those we saw in the Wordsworth museum. There's a love letter waiting for me most nights when I come home.
My first exam is Early American Literature. I can talk about Emily Dickinson and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman, but Moby-Dick is giving me grief. Dad points out that I'm missing all the humour, that Ishmael's been messing with me, and I've never been more frustrated with a narrator of a novel. (My copy ends up being flung across the room.) I start again. My annotations are mostly expletives. Jonny lets me use him as a sounding board in the evenings while I work towards understanding what makes Melville's the most important American novel. It's my own whale hunt. By the end I feel like I've netted a beast.
I move back to Canterbury and sit the first of my four 3-hour exams. I have a week to finish prepping for Elizabethan Drama and Modern American Literature. Second-hand books panic-bought from Amazon come through my letterbox every day. My housemates start calling me Third Floor Rosa, because I so rarely emerge from my attic.
A relentless seven days. My entire life has been put on hold for a month now; I have emails about California and client shoots and weddings filling my inbox, and all I want to do is shoot photographs and write my film diary and read Steinbeck and Atwood and my new book on North Korea and watch the Don McCullin documentary and edit the handful of expansions still waiting on my hard drive from our holiday in the Lakes, all that time ago. Thursday comes, and I write on the famous St Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, and then Friday brings a paper of panic and a spewed-up essay on Frank O'Hara and capitalism.
It doesn't matter. I run to the station in time to see Jonny's train pull in.
I am laughably unprepared for my final exam on Jacobean Drama, but Jonny makes me dinner each night and watches The Tempest with me, and doesn't complain when I stop it every five minutes to sound ideas out for myself and squark about how it's my favourite. The plays by Jonson and Middleton and Webster and Rowley are mostly sex and murder. On the eve of the exam it's clear how underprepared I am; the paper is set out so that I will be forced to write on the only three texts I know well, but there's no guarantee that there will be questions on any of them. I joke to Laura on the bus to campus the next day, "The only way I can pass this is if Part A is a close reading on The Tempest, and Part B is a question on women, or if Part A is a close reading on The Alchemist, and Part B is a question on the city. What are the chances?"
The chances are smaller than slim. The invigilator announces that it's two o'clock, and I open the paper to find a close reading on The Alchemist, and a question on the city. When we're told to put down our pens three hours later I jot my final full stop: it is the start of the summer.