After you leave the first time, you are always leaving somewhere, someone, something. At the moment I truly don’t know what is more painful for me, seeing London slipping, day by day, friend by friend, out of my fingers or the anticipation of beloved faces as I return home to family and friends.
Last night I was watching the trailer to Ice Age 2 and I was suddenly cold with the excitement of seeing Louise again. We had gone to see Ice Age together at the Astor and the thought that very soon I will be once again holding that beautiful girl with her race-horse legs and expansive ways made my breath stop.
Today, at my going away party, the only time I was close to crying was seeing off Fi and Kris. These two women I hold in very high esteem, and I met because we are all members of the Broken Drummers, a group of Terry Pratchett fans. Tim is the real Terry Pratchett fan in our family, and each time I spent an evening laughing with the Broken Drummers, I knew I was there because Tim loved the books so much and I would imagine how Tim’s enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge of the books would fire the rest of the group up. Tim is a sight to behold when he gets going, and I am going to be there to see him soon.
And then two of Jerome’s good mates turned up to join the party and it was almost as good as seeing Jerome himself. These were two of a group of boys who had week-long parties at our house in the holidays (Beer can wall? Street sign stealing spree? Calling my current squeeze "Jaws" because we needed to get a room), were the life and soul of my parties out of home (ALL of them mooning for a photo), and terrorized an entire household of leavers one year (Raw sausages and lots of tomato sauce are scary in the dark!). As friends of my brother they are practically family, and seeing Michael and Ben just made the memories of Jerome’s drawl and endless practicality married with a slightly off-the-wall unpredictability almost painful in their recall. I may be the oldest, but Jerome is head of the family, and I haven’t had the pleasure of his presence for far too long.
On the other hand, I can barely breathe on the Tube since July 7th because London, England and indeed this whole green island was where I discovered my potential and my true desires, and spilling its blood was like letting my own run unchecked down my wrists.
I stood in the Globe today, watching the best Shakespeare you can get in London, and I knew that the culture of this country, the literary tradition that is life and breath for me, was going to be all too cold and distant soon.
I sat outside a pub on the Strand, the first street I ever walked down in London and I knew that the only city that I really understood in my flesh and bones was soon to be just a painful hole in my heart and mind.
I watched old and new friends, Australian and British alike, stand for a group photo of the people I would not see for many more years and it hurt, it bloody well hurt.
Once you leave the first time you are always leaving something you love behind, and it just never stops hurting.