London at night.
Shop displays, eerie and still, with smooth-faced mannequins and monstrous patchwork horses, watching no one. Big delivery boxes marked MADE IN TAIWAN – in a few hours managers will carefully peel off all Taiwanese stickers, so that socially-conscious consumers can turn a blind eye, pretend not to know what they buy. I walk through this gentrified landscape, there is no one in sight, except occasional McDonald’s aficionado.
One long bus ride later, it’s a different story. An hour on the bus, where two girls, taking selfies and flushed with drink, insist on window being open. One failed closing attempt later we hate them silently from the back seats. Finally they leave (I immediately snap the window shut with a satisfying crack!), and soon after the bus terminates. Night bus in 25 minutes, so I walk – again, the streets are empty, but there are 24 hour Turkish groceries every so often, which I find reassuring. They feel familiar, safe and friendly – there was one everywhere that I lived in London so far. Their shop assistants always remember your name.
That reminiscent mood is broken by an inevitable London sound of police siren, followed by ambulance. Living here is like existing inside a film, but only as a movie extra – finding your way through the crowd, the AD long lost. You see perpetual car chases and get out of the way, and you don’t want to know, this once don’t want a starring role. Passing unmarked police cars – the next point to tick off on my journey home, an unobtrusive yet hostile presence in the side alley – always creeps me out. Faceless people with unknown agenda, I don’t know if my safety registers as a value, never mind priority. Maybe I watched too many movies. Though I don’t watch that many.
Finally home. My flatmates left the light on for me, so I sit on a couch, with its soft burnt-orange blanket. I got home safely, again – streets were quiet, suspicious cars did not take me away. Birds are singing outside. Nothing else matters.
… now, for some tea.