A while ago some friends of mine who are in a band went to Europe to play some shows and I went with them because I wasn’t doing anything else. First we headed to the achingly pretty seaside town of Brighton and I slept on a gooey leather couch in 35 degree heat because we couldn’t work out how to turn the heater down and consumed only 1 pound pints and pub breakfasts the entire time. After almost a week of it I decided to go back to London a day early, partly to get some sleep and partly because I was worried that everyone else would get as sick of me as I was of myself.
In London, I get the train to my friend’s house in Shoreditch. She isn’t home. I make awkward conversation with her housemate. A 20 minute nap turns into a 4 hour sleep and it’s 5pm by the time I decide a should probably ‘Go Out’. Not that it really matters that it’s 5pm, since the sun doesn’t go down until almost 10 here. I take a coat from the rack by the door, assuming it belongs to my friend, and it’s not until I’m halfway down the street infecting the air with cigarette smoke that I realise the coat could just as easily be her housemate’s. Not for the first time, I curse my loose grasp on the concept of personal property.
There’s some kind of big street market on in Brick Lane, a big main street near my friend’s house, so I hang around there for a while. I buy a cold curry and an oily dumpling, and try not to spill anything on my stolen coat. There are handsome thin boys everywhere and they remind me of my friends but are not my friends and I don’t talk to anyone. I think I see someone I know from Brisbane, and say an enthusiastic hello before realising it’s just a German guy who looks a lot like him and wants to buy me drink. I avoid main streets for the rest of the day.
I find a park surrounded by big concrete buildings that’s so quiet I can hear the crackling as the paper of my duty free cigarettes burns. I am reading American Gods, and I like it, although I know I’m probably not appreciating it on the proper level I’m supposed to. There’s a boy reading a yellowed paperback wand I can somehow tell he is French even though he never speaks. I think of my ex-boyfriend, and how he smelled of cigarettes and fresh linen and how he used to sigh when I touched the soft skin of his neck. My eyes water in the cold air but I don’t cry because I’m on an adventure and adventurers are not allowed to be lonely.
I buy a crepe filled with warm Nutella from a train station. It’s too rich and expensive and I know I will have no money tomorrow. I hope someone will buy me dinner because tomorrow is my birthday. I realise that it’s my birthday now in Australia and check Facebook on the free wifi to find that I have received messages from my mother, my best friend’s girlfriend, and a boy I see out at gigs sometimes. I look for a bin to drop my paper plate in and walk for a block without finding one. Bins have been almost completely removed from London streets after the riots because of bombs or fires or something.
I find a cinema and buy a ticket to see Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’m 25 minutes early so I chain smoke in the last of the sun. My fingers aching pleasantly in the cold, reminding me that I am Somewhere Else, after living through the hottest summer of my lifetime in Australia.
I go into the movie and cry because the heroes and the villains are handsome and sad. It’s midnight when it finishes and I walk back to my friend’s house down dark back streets feeling much tougher than I am. I hope that her housemate has gone to sleep, and won’t see me wearing her coat.