Saturday, July 18

Domino’s & Prosecco

FOR THE THIRD time in less than two years I have moved flat. I stood on the steps of my new building with the landlord, he hulking over me, a tall Indian man with dark rings around his eyes and an intimidating gut. I had enquired as to the lengths of the previous tenancies. He replied—‘The last girl was eighteen months, but the fella before her was three years… How long do you reckon you’ll be here?’ I told him—
‘I dunno… I can’t imagine wanting to leave any time soon… The last two places I moved out of for a reason, yknow? First it was because my girlfriend & I wanted to move in together, and now I’m movin because she left an I couldn’t afford the rent on my tod.’
He shook his head sympathetically and looked out at the road, which was quiet itself but only the traffic humming in the road over. ‘You not goin’ to get back together?’
‘Nah, man, that shit is dead… Dead. It ain’t comin’ back.’
It had been a rush, down to the last minute, but, somehow, in the mugginess of July, it all came together, and I was relieved, although not without the assistance of my parents – so lucky am I to have them on this rock! On Tuesday evening my mother & I were packing, clearing and cleaning. ‘Let’s break,’ she said—‘Go down the shop and get us some prosecco, and some disposable wine glasses, if they have any.’ It was only the pair of us in the flat, without any furniture, the smell of bleach in the air, the sound of planes flying overhead and the rainy rush of the water fountain. The bottle, via our disposable wine glasses, went in no time, as I let something off my chest that had angered me deeply; she listened and was the only person in the world I would tell such things, not even worth putting the bottle back in the fridge. Then I told her of the feelings I have for my niece, both of us gushed over her and I saw her in my mind (she has so recently learned how to blow raspberries), feeling happy and wanting to hold her again.
I went out for a cigarette after my mother left. The neighbourhood cat, an affectionless loner, seemed to sense the pathos, and approached me, uncalled, only to stand next to me, keeping me company. Together we looked out at the buildings and all of the still water, silent. That last night: I got into the bed we had shared together, faced the way to which I had recently become accustomed, and fell asleep, ready as ever to move on.
So the next day my father and I carried all of my belongings into my new flat. It was a close day in London and all of my clothes stuck to me, sweat ran down my face and into my eyes. The first person of the building I became used to was a Japanese lady who often took her infant out for walks, as he sat in the pram looking out with big eyes at the city. She was pretty although she had trouble carrying her pram up & down the steps; once my father helped, twice did I help; always she thanked us in the cute English she had practiced. I have seen her every day since, the Japanese lady always out walking and struggling with her grand, expensive pram.
The building is an old school, repurposed, nestled between the City and East London. I can walk to work, which has been a dream of mine since I longed nostalgically for the days when I could walk from my childhood home to primary school. As soon as I visited with the estate agent, who lazily sat on his phone, I was certain that I had found the place I wanted to live. Looking out of the window, I told him I would make an offer in the morning. Outside my window is another housing block inhabited almost exclusively by Muslim immigrants. On my first night I could smell food unlike my own, so I arose from the sofa, exhausted and sticky, to find, at my window, that the entire night smelled of curry as the ending of day welcomed the Ramadan feasts. The streets around here do not quieten fully, but bubble up against the side of the City throughout the nightly hours. It is summer and I am three floors up, so my windows remain open at all times, and through them I hear the calls of young men, the speeding of cars, the lonely footsteps bouncing off walls. I smoke at the sill and watch the scene, this new opportunity, granted a godlike view, and unobserved myself.
So begins a new chapter, I think to myself; others echo it toward me, and I listen. They tell me that new starts are a good thing, and I believe them, and it is so that I forget quickly all of the things that have recently torn me in two, so I can just let them go and not bother. How wonderful not to care about the love that was, and is now detached from the moment it occurred. Indeed she now is not she then. I had her for a moment in time, moments strung out, yes, but now I let the bad times go and I remember the good, but all that is recent I discard like the rubbish it is. Now I no longer care, feeling, perhaps, a little weightless at the freedom I find in my newfound carelessness.
The route to work is divine. I walk the whole way, feeling childishly good, as I did in my youth, when the walk to school was an absolute pleasure: I was there with my mother and my younger brother and then my infant brother in the pram (Japanese lady struggling it up some stairs). Only, now I am in London, a town for which I have yet to fall out of love, and with each walk I fall deeper still, even though the same streets I tread.
In the old flat the feeling of being alone was intrinsically different to that which I feel now. Before it had been forced upon me, L— walking out of the door. Every night I felt robbed. She was off living her life and I was stuck there, paying more rent than I could afford and missing her terribly. Now, I have found myself unshackled. These walls have no memory for me. Before, the abandonment I felt hindered me every day and even lying in bed afforded me no respite. I was always witness to her ghost moving about. That is what she became: a ghost; haunting me at all times of the day, in our home or not. Now I am mine again, and am rejoicing in the luxury of being alone. The two alones are different from each other.
After we had completed the move, my parents & I sat down tiredly and opened a bottle of champagne. My dad—‘I know a good Turkish restaurant round the corner that Ramsay took me to. It’s lovely. Up for it?’
I had to rush off from the meal to check-out of my old flat. Our old flat. I gave the gentlemen our keys. L— was not present, of course, but I gave him her keys too. He thanked me. He was a very kind man, so I gave him tips on how to sort out his bathroom, and afterwards he thanked me.
‘Is that all you need?’
‘You want to go?’
‘Mate, I’m just shattered. Moved into my other place today, so I wanna go back n relax.’
‘Ah, okay. Just sign this.’
I signed it for him and for everyone and for her.
At the last moment I looked back at the empty flat.
At the last moment, I looked back at the flat I had emptied. It had been August when L— and I moved in, and that first view was similar to which I had thrown my gaze one last time: emptiness and freshness, ready for occupants, clean, eager with potential. Time had ruined it away from the first time we had, as a couple, walked it with our own set of keys each. We were in tremendous love, she was not yet ill, everything about life was ripe, full of flavour and as good as it could be. Then, how everything changes.
He said good-by to me as I began to cry. I could not help but cry. It was all I could do: cry.
Now I can move on, I thought.

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