Too much fear around the edges, too much waiting, too much creases in the paper. Barely eating, barely thinking, barely being. The fear finally easing. I ask to go alone. I took the tube back home only I didn’t go home. The first time alone, that welcome relief, that terrible burden. Always the two.
I stopped at stops I didn’t know and I walked in any direction, running that card until it was empty. At sunset, I got off at the last minute on a whim because it looked good and started walking east, a square with people, too many people and I don’t want so many people with cameras and phones and voices and noises. I feel invisible and I thought it would feel right, but it feels wrong. I walk across the street, up narrow roads, it’s quieter now. Small shops with bright lights. Too expensive. Upmarket. The buzz of red lights. I go in, not numb enough to not know where I am. I buy something for the thrill of it. Stockings. They’re rubbish. Still I inspect, I ponder, I ask prices. Numb enough to continue walking. The lights, the sounds a haze around me. Dodgy shops, a market, there’s twilight on the horizon. So many people, always people. I have my headphones on; the cliche; outsider in the city, hands in pockets. Not quite the lady I expected to be. Still, I have stockings. The floor is cobbled, it’s quaint, the little lights, on low buildings, I understand the allure of this.
There’s the night sounds beginning, women in tottering heels, drinks are being opened, food is being cooked, lights are being switched on and all those people. Laughing, singing, drinking, talking and all those heels; bad heels, but what do I know, I don’t have that kind of high fashion. I’m too small, too bare, my bones too empty, those photos from then, have you seen my eyes? What did I weigh then?
How have I ended up in such a busy part? Where am I? What time did I say I would be back? Where was I on the map? I open the map, the one my friend sent to me with a little book on London, marked with all the best places to eat and the best places to see and a card to ride through the city as much as I liked and he’s gone away now, you know, but I still have the map. I trace my finger and I am somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I refuse to ask anyone. I refuse to talk. I walk and it’s getting dark.
Then downhill and the road look familiar now, there’s that Chinese shop, the square with the people, all that noise and still the city sits, on the brink of evening as if waiting for me to join. And always I am on the edge, waiting, waiting, wanting, but not really. Not really, you know.
I take the tube back, my earphones in. The cliche on the tube. I’m too tired of watching to watch, to take in all the details as I do, my head in my hands as we speed through the tunnel.
That last night in London, as the fear receded. But not really, you know.