03 September 2006

London For The Last Time?

I've been back in the UK for a total of about 28 hours now, and it's brought up a conflicting welter of feelings, some comforting and comfortable like an old pair of slippers, and others melancholy and almost wrenching, the sort that come with endings and goodbyes.
I don't yet know with absolute certainty that I'll be leaving London, but everything seems to be tending that way. It feels much the way it did two summers ago, when I spent a month in my old house in the mountains, cleaning and clearing it, and preparing it to be sold. The more work I did on it, the nicer it felt to be there, and I could hardly look out one of its many windows without seeing an incredibly beautiful view that I could barely imagine not being able ever to see again.
And on my last day there, I walked up and down the road, looking at the mountains in the distance, at the trees and flowers I'd planted, at the personal history that lurked in ever corner of the land, and tried desperately to engrave the images so vividly on my mind that something of them would linger forever. I've caught myself doing that around London yesterday and today. Not around my apartment so much- as a box-shaped council flat, it's never been exactly a thing of exemplary beauty, but even in its plainness and drabness, there's a certain at-homeness that somehow I seldom noticed before - but definitely out in the streets. All my old complaints about London come flooding back quickly enough when the trains don't run or run badly, or when the drunks come screaming down Charing Cross Road smashing bottles and sluggish pedestrians as they stumble, but they're minor irritants, really, like mosquitoes in the forest or sand flies at the beach.
And of course I'm only selling my apartment; it's not as though I'm giving up the right ever to return to London. But it won't be the same, and if I go, my chances of ever living here on a fulltime basis again are slim. I'm sure I've said it here many times before, but I have a very hard time with changes and goodbyes. It makes me wonder: if I have such difficulty leaving a city, how will I cope with it when it's time to leave this life altogether? The answer, I think, is to treat all these little goodbyes as dress rehearsals for the big one. Hopefully I'll have enough time and practice to get better at it before that comes around.

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