Is it worse to leave or be left?
Consolata was fastening her hearing aids and fussing with her hair in the vanity mirror.
“For heaven’s sake, I am a monster, can you believe it? Thank god I am such a flirt or we wouldn’t have any fun at all tonight.”
She was wearing a long black dress to match mine. Just a pair of girls going out for a night on the town.
“Nonna, I have some bad news I need to tell you.”
She turned from the mirror to face me.
“Tell me dear…. It’s not your family?”
I shook my head.
“You are not leaving England?”
My eyes dropped.
I am choosing to leave. I’m choosing to leave Consolata and haggling for tomatoes at East Street Market. I’m choosing to leave cheeky flatmates. No more banter on Saturday morning over beans on toast or banter on Sunday night over failed homemade tacos. I’m leaving the sacred Wednesday ritual of late night Lebanese on Edgware Road. I wonder if the bald man with the wink and the complimentary baklava will miss me.
I’m leaving a people who don’t dress up for Halloween but wear Christmas jumpers every day in the month of December. And a general population who can name the architectural period of any building and name any cheese just by it’s smell.
I’m leaving the abundance of smelly cheese. And halloumi. And Rich Tea biscuits, digestive biscuits, Shreddies and Weetabix, savoury pies and Yorkshire puddings, calling desserts puddings, Christmas pudding (good riddance). Goodbye to brown eggs, egg and cress sandwiches, Scotch eggs and fried eggs (don’t ask over how). Tea (don’t ask what kind). Lager or Ale (don’t ask which brand). The Pub (doesn’t matter which one).
I’m leaving The cross country. And jelly babies on the race course. And Hampstead Heath. And Tuesday Track. And Thursday Threshold. And Saturday Hills. And ParkRun. And parks, everywhere. Little hidden ones with community gardens tucked behind skinny alleyways that you never would have noticed without getting lost and massive ones with ponds big enough to swim in. No more early morning swims in the Serpentine, filled with swan poo and slime and swimmers who don’t give a damn and show up and do their laps without wetsuits, every day of the year, rain or cloud.
I’m leaving moans about the weather and moans about the trains. I’m leaving trains. And weather. I’m leaving Pimms Cups and talking about how the weather isn’t quite nice enough for Pimms Cups yet. I’m leaving washers that also dry. And proper kettles. And the word proper. And the words faff, niggle, cracking, ta, knackered, poorly and beetroot (pronounced “beach route”). I will no longer have to pretend to know what someone is talking about when they tell me how much a thing weighs in stone or what someone scored on their A Levels.
I’m not leaving my bike (I’m not crazy). But I’m leaving cycle paths and Boris Bikers and riding through double decker busses and black cabs around roundabouts and across bridges and through these never-straight streets with their chips shops and news agents and Italian delis and Tescos and Pret A Mangers and temples and mosques and cathedrals and theaters and skyscrapers and Edwardian flats and fruit stands and bankers and commuter joggers with backpacks and Middle Eastern royalty and smokers and fashion models and Chinese tourists and builders and every beautiful sort of human and a little bit of every little thing you could want in this world.
It’s not easy to leave.
The thing is, there is someone in California with my heartstrings — and that’s a trump card. Would that this person could be geographically closer to this old foggy town… Would that I could have my Victoria sponge cake and eat it too, please and thank you. But, alas, the world is not wont to let us eat the cake we have, is it? And what is life, if not a mitosis of options, ever splitting themselves into more decisions to be made?
I will miss London. But I am leaving a trail of breadcrumbs so I can find my way back someday.
“If anyone knows of any rooms opening up in San Francisco in December…” — Said Everyone
(but seriously… let me know)