I remember sitting on a bench in the London Underground, sipping on a Starbucks coffee, and watching the people pass me by, almost in slow motion. The fine details in their clothes, their hands, their body language, the lack of eye contact, and the energy that trailed behind them like a rainbow of tell-tale signs.
I felt at home in amongst the buskers and the smell that swooshed by every time a train stopped. I was in love with the old graffiti, the texture of the peeling posters and the podgy faces officials that strolled about looking terribly bored.
It was like being the chief observer of some weird social experiment. Pushy people versus the intimidated tourists. Throw in a bunch of certifiably crazy and un-medicated people, and I had my own ‘Never Never Land’. And by ‘never’, I mean – nothing was ever predictable or the same.
Wearing my £5 charity store coat, and my earphones bleating ‘The Cure’ on repeat, I could sit for hours, and just watch. Just be. Just pretend that I was invisible and that I was a one person audience to a world that I didn’t have to belong to. It was healing. As odd as that sounds.
I watched the clocks that showed the next train arrival times, and would close my eyes when the train pulled in. The air pushed out of the tunnels would brush through my hair, and the vibrations could be felt through my whole body. It was a favourite. A drug. My fix of what I considered to be beauty.
Being invisible had an intoxicating appeal. On some days I would purposely walk in the opposite direction to all the commuters exiting the train. The head on collisions were never accompanied by words. Just the feeling of movement, and a certain power at being able to shove my way through a hundred people… and come out feeling alive. Strange, I know… but I did it daily.
The freedom of not having to answer to a soul. To come and go, be and no be. Think and not think. Eat kebabs at 3am while Turkish people stare at the side of my head. Go shopping for strawberry yoghurt and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups at 4am…
I miss the mutant pigeons that were all full of war wounds, and who took delight in attacking tourists that ran out of peanuts to feed them. I miss the double decker busses and the weirdo’s that scoffed friend chicken and then fell asleep all greasy and gross. NO one ever woke them up because the crazy that walks around London is quite something.
By the time I made it back to the commune that I lived in, it was just getting light and the other tenants were all on their way out. I didn’t know any of them for the longest time. I preferred it that way. I had an old piano in my room, and a giant desk where I stacked all the books, action figures (I am a marvel comic fan) and my music. I would open a bottle of WKD Blue Vodka and drink it as fast as my throat would manage, and then sleep…
I miss it. The anonymity. The freedom. The bright red post boxes. The phone boxes that smelled like pee, and the transient cosmopolitan fast paced nature of a city that I will forever call home. They say home is where the heart is… and that is where my heart is. I left it behind in 2005.
I will return some day. Even if I is just to sit and watch the people pass me by and to push through the coats and stilettos that all swim in the same direction.
Even if just to have a kebab, and strawberry yoghurt for pudding.