“Did you know that Nelson's column is facing towards Southampton?”It’s 10pm on Wednesday, June 22nd, and we are in Trafalgar Square, just because we happened to be there. We’ve just been to our farewell dinner with the last friends we had to say goodbye to, and my eyes are blurry with tears. Today is my last day in London.
I’ve been thinking about this infamous last time for months now, and now that THE LAST TIME is finally here it doesn’t feel like I was expecting it. It reminds me of when I was in school and I had a test and I would walk to school and every person I would walk past would look so relaxed and indifferent to my distress because they’d have no idea what I had to face that morning, and I would be so angry at them for not having to do what I had to do. Now it’s exactly the same except the people I walk past have no clue this is my last time on the tube, my last time walking through the Stratford centre, my last time here.
I already had a last day in London about six years ago, when I went back to Italy after my masters, and I spent weeks telling myself that this time will be no different. Well guess what - I couldn’t have been more wrong. Six years ago I was flying back home for good (or so I thought), being in the middle of a post-graduation existential crisis. I didn’t want to leave London but I also didn’t know what to do with my life, and I believed going back to the safety of my hometown would have helped me figure it out. Today, I can’t wait to leave London. I’m not happy to leave my friends of course, but I know I got to a point where it’s simply time to move on. What I didn’t know six years ago is that London could give me so much, I just needed to know where to look. So here we are: Thursday, June 23rd, is the day we fly to New York, the first stop of our trip that will eventually bring us all the way to New Zealand.
I was expecting my last day to be much more symbolic but let me tell you, it’s very hard to decide how to spend your last 24 hours in a city that means so much to you. It was impossible to pick the one place that represents the London essence, so I decided not to decide at all and just see what happens. Eventually I spent my last Wednesday in places that didn’t really mean anything to me, up until the end of the day when we found ourselves walking up Regent Street and taking the tube in Oxford Circus, which is my least favourite place in the whole of London.
The night is nice and warm until it starts raining, which I take it as the city’s own way to say goodbye. It’s just the usual British drizzle at first, but as the drops get heavier we seek refuge in a doorway, and from there we watch as the lightenings strike and we count down until the thunder roars.
Once we get on the tube I take out my phone to make a note of this whirlpool of emotions so I can write about them with a clearer mind later on, and when I open the app the first thing I see is a note that says “Change is ok.” I can’t even remember in which occasion I wrote that note but at the time it seems like the most appropriate thing to see and I’m glad it reminds me that this was my own decision, and as much as some bits of it hurt, I am so excited to start a whole new chapter of my life.
We walk home from the station in the rain and surprisingly I manage to sleep quite well that night, in spite of the thunderstorm and, well, everything else. I'm reassured by the idea that I've taken in everything I could from this beautiful city, and that London will always be there if I ever decide to come back. When I get ready to leave the flat the day after, my shoes are still wet.
(Originally written on June 23rd, 2016)