A few days ago, I came across some old photos on Facebook, and I was instantly transported back to nights in England. I closed my eyes and fell down the rabbit hole that was memory lane…
It’s mid April, six years ago, in London. Myself and a few friends had gone out on a weekday, heading into the city on the last tube as most people are going in the opposite direction. With no drinks in hand, no place we particularly needed to be, our only thought were of wandering the normally crowded streets. Climbing on metal lions, sneaking into fancy hotels, looking at Big Ben and the Eye all lit up from Westminster Bridge, and eventually finding the night bus that would take us back to our beds to warm up.
A different day that has stretched into the darkness of night. He grabs my hand to stop me, to put some distance between us and our friends. I turn towards him and smile, giggling as I sense what’s about to happen. As he turns and kisses me under a streetlight, I shiver, from both the cold and the excitement, before he takes my hand and we go back to following the others.
Sitting at a bus stop, covered in foam and losing feeling in my toes while the wind whips through the wet clothes I’m wearing. It’s been one of those parties that you know you’ll remember for years to come, and you thank your stars that you went, even if it means sitting with chattering teeth as you wait for a bus that doesn’t seem to be coming. Looking at the faces next to you, and realizing that these people will be a part of your life forever.
Flash forward to another night, about 4 am. Sitting in a friend’s window in East London, I’m smoking a cigarette while dangling my feet over her fire escape; listening to the city foxes below me rummaging through someone’s trash. I’ve had a few drinks, and I probably shouldn’t be sitting even partially outside without a coat in the cutting early spring air, but I don’t mind, the alcohol and the cigarette is keeping me warm. I can hear the remnants of a party behind me, the last few people still hanging about, and I look out into the night with tears in my eyes. Reminded of how precious the time we have is at that moment, the way the night seems to move both quickly and slowly, and how the night sky is darkest before the dawn.
“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night” -Rupert Brooke
Years later; I’m having dinner with a boy who would later become important in my story, although I didn’t know that yet. On this night, I was simply sharing the calm night-time streets of London with him, the streets that I love, and that was enough. In this memory, nobody is around to hear us laughing together, in that nervous anticipatory way when you both know that you like the other person, but haven’t said so yet. We’ve taken the chance on each other though, by saying yes, I’ll come with you, I’ll meet you there.
Snapping backwards in time, and I’m running through streets while lost, looking for a bus station. Finally finding it, and panting from both exertion and stress. The driver pulls a prank, almost setting off tears, before telling you he’s teasing as you board the mostly empty bus. Shrugging the backpack off your shoulders, and collapsing into the seat closest to the front, happy to have made it. Falling asleep as soon you leave the city, with a smile on your face, knowing you’ll be back…