Clerkenwell.

“This is one moment, /

But know that another/

Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.”

– T.S. Eliot

I’m not sure why I took the long way down to Farringdon Road, rather than the shortcut off of Clerkenwell and over Herbal Hill – a narrow street barely bigger than an alley – to get to my old flat on Crawford Passage. I told myself it was because I wanted to see everything, see the whole of the neighborhood, see how much it had changed in the fifteen years since I’d lived there. But really, I have no idea why I did it, other than the mere fact that I felt like it. It was just one of a million tiny little decisions, the kind we make all day long.

I had already been walking for quite a while. I’d turned around an embarrassing number of times trying to find my way to the British Museum from the Holborn tube station. I’d even gone the wrong way down Great Russell Street – a street I used to know so well – before finally finding that familiar buttercream façade, with its elegantly ornamented sign displaying the number 99. All the late nights I’d spent there, in that study center where I took my classes, holed up in the basement computer lab checking emails (before the invention of the iPhone), writing papers, and booking tickets for my next weekend getaway. Because back then, as a twenty-one-year old college student living in London, there always seemed to be – every weekend – somewhere to go.

But by the time I found my way to Theobald’s Road and walked down it until it became Clerkenwell – the same walk I used to take, years ago, at least four times per week – I had recovered my bearings. There was new construction along the route, and many of the shops and businesses had changed, but it was still the same road, still familiar, still felt like home.

And suddenly there it was: the old shortcut over Herbal Hill down to my flat at Crawford House. But this time, I didn’t want to take it. I wanted to keep walking.

I came to the intersection of Clerkenwell Road and Farringdon, and turned left to round the corner. And that’s when I saw them. Bouquets of flowers – faded roses and Stargazer lilies – duct taped to a light post. As I drew closer, I saw that there were also cards; handwritten notes filled with words of love and loss and grief, all made out to one person: “Claire.” A memorial.

Held in place by my own morbid curiosity, I read what was written there. Words that you’d expect, about a loved one who would always be missed and who was gone too soon. But then, taped to a bouquet of wilted pink tulips, there it was. A carefully written note, that, as I read, I am quite certain, I forgot to breathe:

To family and friends,

Take comfort that she did not suffer in pain. Nothing will make this accident less senseless, but I want you to know that she did not die alone or abandoned. Many people did everything they could to save her. It was tragic and happened so quickly but she was surrounded by people who tried and who stayed.

From,

One of those people.

As I continued my walk down Farringdon Road, past St. Paul’s Cathedral, down toward the Thames, the same path I used to take when I went for my morning runs along the river, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. But I wasn’t crying for Claire. I didn’t even know her, didn’t know what had happened to her. I was crying because life can seem so senseless. Because it can shift so suddenly. Because in an instant, everything can change.

I often think of the months that I spent in London as some of the happiest of my life. I was young and carefree. I could do and be anything that I wanted. Life was exhilarating then, full of hope and possibility. I had never known real tragedy, never known real fear.

So maybe that’s why, last week, I decided to take the long way down Farringdon Road. Maybe there is no such thing as chance, no tiny decisions we make that mean nothing. Because afraid as I am of all the things I can’t yet know, it was the tragic death of a stranger, and the strangers who didn’t know her but who cared for her all the same, that reminded me that life’s uncertainty is not a thing to be feared. That it is the knowledge of how fleeting and fragile life is, that is what makes it so beautiful.

If you live long enough, life will break your heart. Mine has been broken again and again since those carefree days in London. I am no longer the girl who lived there, in fact, I barely even recognize her. But even if I could, I wouldn’t go back and rewrite my history. I wouldn’t change what’s past. I wouldn’t remove any of the scars. Because the scars are what make me. And as it turns out, I like who I’ve become. Broken heart and all.

As I carried on, over Blackfriars Bridge, over the Thames, I thought about how lucky I am. I thought about what a thing it is, just to be alive. And I thought about the fact that for as long as I could keep going – through all the fear and uncertainty – there was only one direction left to travel.

Onward.

Until next time, friends.

Extra Dry Martini.

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My name is Sarah, and this is my blog. I’ve been quite a few things in my life – an actress, a producer, a director, a publicist, a sports fanatic (go Hawks), a photo stylist, an amateur vocalist, a lover of fine wine and strong coffee, a world traveler with a serious case of wanderlust – but through it all, I’ve always, always been a writer.

Coming of age in the 1990s, I grew up watching the Today Show, and my greatest ambition was to be the next Katie Couric. After writing articles for my school paper and a brief stint anchoring my high school news show (if that footage is lurking out there somewhere, someone for the love of god, burn it), I entered USC as a Broadcast Journalism major. But getting cast in student plays and a semester in London immersing myself in the world of West End theatre ignited the spark of my performance bug, and I set off on a different path.

Yet through it all, writing has remained a vital part of my life. Whether for artistic purposes – penning plays, solo performance monologues, sketches, short screenplays – or to make money – copywriting, branded social media content, press releases – the pen, the notepad and the keyboard and I have never spent very much time apart.

When I began this blog in early 2012, I didn’t have a clear direction of where I wanted to go with it. I only knew that I’d lived through some incredible moments and I wanted to share my stories in a way that was funny, entertaining, and (hopefully), moving. I started with the name, Extra Dry Martini, and its tagline, Straight Up With a Twist: a cheeky take on my favorite cocktail, a tip of the hat to my blunt Sagittarian nature and my edgy, sarcastic sense of humor, and a thinly-veiled attempt to position myself as a female 007.

But life, as it’s wont to do, had other plans. Shortly after launching this blog, life took me on an unexpected and – frequently – painful journey. I now have more material than I know what to do with, but in a case of be careful what you wish for, I’ve discovered that my best writing has been born from my greatest challenges and the most crushing heartbreak I’ve ever known.

This blog has been my platform as I’ve struggled through grief and loss. It has been my attempt to make sense of the senseless, to shine a light in the darkness, and to refine and reclaim my voice. Through it all, I’ve realized that my only safety net is found on the page, my only sanctuary the warm blanket of the written word. If a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor, then consider this blog my attempt to navigate my own perfect storm, compass in hand, ever aiming for my true north.

I don’t know where this road will lead, but I thank you for joining me on it. Thank you for venturing with me into the great unknown. Welcome into my world, my life, my heart. This is, has been, and will be, incredibly personal. This is the thing itself.

Until next time, friends.

Love,

Sarah

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