I cannot help but wonder if I love this city because, right now, it is not mine. I am a traveler and a wanderer, a stranger in a foreign land with no responsibilities or cares, because this is not my home. I would love it to be. I would love to be here, living in this ancient beating heart. The romance would fade and it would no longer be a love affair so much as a…what? Just a way of life? The extraordinary becoming the mundane?
This is not lost on me, and yet that is more beautiful than any facade that I could dream up in my own effervescent fantasies. Because not all of the wonder would fade — it truly wouldn’t. I love this city in a such a way that I know no other words. Perhaps if I loved it any less, I could speak of it more, but such are my feelings for this meeting place of the old and the new. Such is home.
When I first arrived, I briefly feared that I had put London into a kind of rose-tinted memory bubble. That all too quickly the glass would be shattered and fall to pieces at my feet. But within a few moments, I knew that such fears were unfounded. I fell back into the rhythm of the city, back into the habits I had acquired three years ago, and felt myself relax into a kind of comfort I can only call familiarity. Even when I travelled to parts of the city I didn’t know, or thought I did, and got turned around, I never felt particularly worried. It was always still just London. (Okay, small fib: I did get a little worried when I got turned around in a station trying to see one of the coolest people I know before I left.)
Rain is currently pouring down from the sky, shedding down the constant stream of tears I am holding back even now. Perhaps it sounds silly, but to know I am leaving tomorrow is so painful — it clutches at my chest and squeezes so that the beating life organ escapes its ribbed-cage into my throat. I bite my tongue to return to reality, but the ache remains. What is the saying? “The ones we love never really leave us” — and this place has imprinted itself upon my heart so that, were they to cut me open and crack open the bone of my sternum, there, upon the muscle would be etched the words of this city. There, they would see LONDON. Because gods of Olympos I love this city, and I know if I start to cry now, I won’t be able to stop. I suppose you could say I’m a bit of an emotional softie.
Ah, nope, never mind — yes, there are the tears. I wish I could blame them upon the rain because the sky has been crying for me the entirety of this day thus far — why not now? But, no, it is not (just) rain that streaks my cheeks and forces me to look away from the window of my Airbnb flat; every second I spend looking out at the grey London sky makes me cry all the more. Tomorrow I will return to the USA and its southern sunshine, yet I would take a lifetime of rain if it meant I could but call this place my home. Even if it meant being thousands of miles and ocean apart from the world and people whom I love — yes, even then.
This feels so much harder than it did three years ago, and it was hard even then. Perhaps I have to travel alone, wander as I did this past week, to make a place my own and to feel such an intense attachment to it. Huh, I almost wrote ownership — and yet this city is not mine, and how arrogant a human am I to even think something close to it?
I hope the city does not mind that I write it upon my heart, connecting the thinnest and most insignificant of threads between myself and it. Because I will come and go and live and die. And this place will beat on, not caring about a single little human who this very moment dares to dream it could and will be her own.
Goodbye, London. I will be back…and hopefully next time it will be for good.