All quiet in Barnes. I sit on a bench near the pond. The swans sleep on the island, and the moon falls over the water, shimmering for my eyes only. I breathe in heavily, deeply. The lampposts light the street and the mist settles into the sky and I feel sorry that this is my last night in London. I’ve been here for almost two months but that isn’t enough.
I think of the blues pub we went to tonight. The music rang well into this Wednesday night. We drank to the vibrations and took photos and smoked cigarettes in the alleyway outside. We talked of life, I thought of love, and the night bus took me home, past Knightsbridge and Chelsea and Putney. I slipped off at Barnes Pond, and struggled to light my last cigarette with the somber night throwing me into recollection.
Two months ago the plane let me loose into this town. I was a different man, then. It was my first glimpse of the world, and, like the first taste of alcohol, I sipped it all in without fear of a dreadful hangover. I walked the streets with a tourist eye, and photographed the places my feet took me. I drank in pubs and danced at concerts and marveled at the architecture. I met women and kissed some of them, the lucky ones who were able to hold my attention for hours under the London moon or in the rainfall with the world watching. I slept in my own flat, and woke in my own flat, and traveled on tubes and over London bridges and bought tickets for tours and plays. I faltered now and then, thinking about the lost girl in my life whose face became blurrier as the days drifted into night as I smoked cigarettes on a lonely window sill with the night air clasping me in a sympathetic embrace. I thought of her and cursed her for lingering so long in my mind, like that song memory plays too clearly, like the punch loveloss delivers too often. I spent money and spent it well, a life investment I will never regret. I read books and wrote stories and grew more delicately into a new man, with broader heartbeats and a broader horizon. I cut my hair twice and packed my suitcase too tightly and looked at my reflection in the mirror and was finally pleased with the face looking back at me. I touched the London rain with my tongue. I kept the London clamor in my ear. I inhaled once, twice, a hundred times under the cover of loneliness and breathed out a better togetherness. I bought new shoes and inherited a more coherent demeanor. I listened to my American accent and played with my intellect like it was a puzzle I could mix and match until the entire photo of a London life well lived came together in colors and flashes and drunken nights California could only hope to recreate. I watched the tree top nights and the cold mornings and glorified sunshine slip me into contemplation while everything raced around me like a tick with no minutes or hours to speed towards. I remembered what it felt like to wake to a day of possibility, like I was all I needed. And I sang my lament, my own pleasurable tune in echoes and memorable days lost in the clouds of my happiness.
So it all comes to an end. Everything ends. You think I would understand this. But I don’t. I really don’t. I don’t understand why money limits me to two months in London, or why the friends I made here must stay here while I move on with my life, wishing I could take them with me to make the future a more sold-out place, where people wait in lines to catch a piece of me, where I play out on a big screen with an audience clapping for an encore, like my life is worthy of a second act. And I sleep under this London moon, with my life dripping into my unconsciousness and providing me the dreams I always want to dream. And I’ll wake tomorrow morning to play with France, and drink with Paris, and let the rest of my life unfold in languages I have yet to understand…