For about four hours last night there was a 50% chance I was going to have to fly to Bucharest for three days next week. Morning brings the news that I am not, in fact, flying to Bucharest, and I’m a little sad. Not because of Bucharest though, but because of the possibility of 3 hours in Heathrow, or, if I were really creative, a night in London.
London, and the UK in general, but mostly London, have this hold on me that’s, well, complicated. I feel a bit tortured about it, because it’s so boring and typical for someone to the US to be all, Oooo, shiny, British things even if I don’t think I’m doing that.
It’s more that London is what New York City used to be like, in the 80s, when my parents would take twelve-year-old me out to the Odeon at 2am and Madonna would be at the next time. It seethes and teems and pulsates; there is a reason why all the aliens on Doctor Who talk about how humans clamber over this world like insects. London’s a hundred neighborhoods layered on each other and grown in upon themselves like hives.
It’s also that Brick Lane feels like home.
And that huge chunks of my really weird education are only normal, or even useful, in the UK.
And that I really, really like the supermarkets.
It’s that there are women with hair as short as mine in ads for lingerie shops, that men know more than one knot for their ties, and that people aren’t revolted because my teeth don’t glow.
It’s St. Katharine’s Dock. And that I can look up and navigate by that awful bullet building, like I used to with the World Trade Center, before it came down. It’s that “the City” means something there, just like it does here, only different. And that I am somehow more acutely aware of everyone’s striving there, than I am here, which doesn’t really make any sense at all, but then, I suppose, these things rarely do.
For years, Sydney has been my long lost city, even as my time there was filled, not inappropriately, with journal entries about how far from everything it was, how exiled. But London’s, arguably, from where it was exiled.
So London’s all mythology for me, and nothing like anything I was told when I was ten and had to go on school trips each May 14 to lay daffodils at a statue of Shakespeare in Central Park, before the teachers told us about the British girls we boarded during the War and then served us pineapple cake because it was Miss Hew’s favorite.
I know I seem, very easily, pretentious and lost. A lot of the time I’m playing and people don’t get that. But a lot of the time I’m not, and people don’t get that either. I grew up in this other world that doesn’t really exist, which may be why so much of my work is about defictionalization. My mother chose the school she did for me because, “All the little girls wore white gloves, like in the 1940s movies.”
I was five. I didn’t ask for that. It’s just what happened. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. It is also one that I am supposed to regret or feel shame about or guilt, but I just can’t.
But London, at least, recognizes the lies of my childhood. And better, doesn’t care.
I bet Bucharest is just lovely this time of year too.