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London did.

April 20, 2008

ALMOST EVERY NIGHT I DREAM ABOUT FRANCE, because I was there a year ago–I guess. I wake in early morning, covered in sweat, having spent what felt like days wandering the green grass, and sun-bleached buildings, without my words. And, always, I encounter some kind of dilemma, a handicap that marks me as other. Once, memorably, it was “trouble with gravity” –by which I mean, I couldn’t stay on the pavement. And everyone jeered and pointed because I was strange, inept.

I miss being strange. What I miss more, though, is the familiarity I had with central London. I liked the stride of city-walking. I liked the smells, the oddness of all that proximity to hundreds of people every day, and the kind of peculiar isolation that it breeds. I miss the parks, nearly as much as the galleries and museums. I miss the jerky heaves of the buses, and their wheezing brake-sounds; standing from the carpeted seat, pushing the button, stepping off to the “hut-shhh” sound of the doors opening.

There really is something so completely artificial about the experience of living somewhere temporarily, and alone. But, I miss faking the accent. I miss London…I felt like I had charted that city, could belong to her, understood her. She was like the most exciting, challenging, and sometimes frightening, companion. And I knew the streets, circuses, squares, river, tube stops, bus stops, buildings, and sounds intimately. Like an extension of my own body, the mapped and unmapped pockets of the city fell out all around me. I lay in bed at night sometimes and try to recall the names of things. When I blank, it is incredibly disheartening. I try to remember the lay-out of the bus route home from different places at night. Where would I drive through first? Next?

And I remember the words of one of my mentors shortly before I left for London– “The experience will change you. Only time will tell if it is for the better, or the worse.”
And London did.—-> 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Charles permalink
    April 21, 2008 12:56 am

    I can completely identify. London is the city I carry around with me all the time. I just loved wandering the streets and riding the tube. Never got tired of browsing the bookshops at Charing Cross. I had hoped to get back there this spring but things didn’t pan out.

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