I didn’t want to become a cliché—another American girl in London for a few months, drinking tea, coughing over her first and last puff on a hand-rolled cigarette outside Shoreditch’s hottest club. But I’ve never really been good at avoiding the things I don’t want to do. So just like showering, or giving head, I put some music on and got it over with.
“Where’s the Lou?” I’d ask. Lou. Hehehe.
And at first, London was happy to have me. The streets of South Kensington stretched wide to hold my confident bounce each morning. I sipped my flat white. I tapped my Oyster.
But then it got warmer, and London got tired.
“Thank you,” it said graciously, as it gestured to the open door, expecting me to thank it back and go. But instead, I dug my dirty fingernails into the grass, and held tight.
“I think I’ll stay a bit longer,” I said, and London forced a smile through its stiff-upper lip.
And I did. I had no friends, no money. Essentially, no plan; No plan to leave, but no plans for how to stay, really. I pulled my pennies together; I babysat my brains out, and I walked three and a half miles to the pub because I couldn’t afford the bus and a beer.
I took trains to the south, and the north. I saw the country—I laid alone in the park for hours with books. I did jigsaw puzzles. I read more books. I fell in ‘like’ with a boy, or in ‘like’ with the way I felt about myself around him. I read another book. I spent time with my family. I made friends with my family. I learned how to count on family. I learned how to count on myself.
And when the day on the calendar matched the day on my plane ticket, I packed up my clothes, my shoes; the debt I’ve been accumulating over the past seven months. I folded up the loneliness that gnawed at me on the Tube, in the bathroom of the pub, in the waiting room of a dirty NHS clinic, and placed it delicately into my suitcase in between train tickets and playbills, memories and mistakes. I walked through the door, kicking and screaming like a spoilt child.
“Bye Bye, Now.” London smiled smugly— keen to see me out.
And with a sigh, and a tired moan, I picked my ill-mannered self off the floor, like my dad used to do when he brought me to bed after I’d fallen asleep in front of the TV. Goodbye Shrewd City. This is not over.