Not a single drop of rain while I was there meant walking. Lots and lots of walking. Everything between Marylebone, Islington, Soho itself, Liverpool Street Station, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Chelsea, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, and Piccadilly Circus was my area. In other words, I covered an enormous piece of ground. There’s a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a fast food eatery on almost every corner. Also, pubs. Pubs everywhere. In London, I realized how much I love gin again and I enjoy it in a completely different way now. Because I mean, Hendrick’s with cucumber on ice? How much closer to heaven can I possibly get?
After walking, the second best way to see London is to get on a bus and just ride around. Oyster card became my best friend only minutes after I landed. I also took a taxi, just for the sake of it. They’re cute and the driver was a nice guy full of stories and laughs.
Yeah, I know. See the Big Ben, right? Obviously. But seriously, once I got to the South Bank and looked at it from the other side (hello), I was impressed by its majestic beauty. Sitting there with a flat white, just watching people walk past; there was nothing else I wanted to do.
London is classic. Vibrant, colorful, busy, and majestic. It’s a city I can get lost in and feel at home. It’s a city I will love returning to and perhaps, calling a home one day. Who knows.
Chasing colors in London, because London is, oh, so colorful. A bottle of rosé (or two) with a friend from high school over stories from the past. Sunny mornings at the end of February. The feeling of Canary Wharf because that’s what I will always remember. A certain flare of grandiose something. From there, I left a different person. Tasting the first lick of freedom and endless possibilities because they are very much real. A coffee in Hamburg on a gloomy Sunday afternoon with a friend from back home. Vienna, beautiful Vienna on the evening of the Paris attacks. Returning to Prague every few weeks, either on a train or a plane, and letting the feeling settle in my chest once again. Because despite how much I want to deny it – Prague is also home. I grew up here. Silence between days. Being awake at two in the morning, after sharing two bottles of wine with my mother’s best friend from childhood, not able to stop the train of thoughts in my brain. The feeling of change in the air that always comes before spring. Hope. Adele on speakers for days. The feeling of rush, the throbbing heart, when you press send. Even if the reply doesn’t come at all, it doesn’t matter. What matters is being in this moment, and this moment only.
Something about the underground (the Tube or the MTR depending on where we are), the leap years, and us. There seems to be no apparent connection but it is everything. Then the bustling business center of London. The never ending battle of the big brother and its Chinese half-sibling. The winner is quite clear by now. It took me three years to take a leap and free myself from everything that was holding me back. Not only I won’t step into the same river twice, but I am not even on the side of it that I used to be. That big a leap. I finally did what I was most scared of. I faced my fears and looked straight at them. Oi, bitch, I am here! It was only an added symbolic that it happened to be February 29th. The extra day. The second chance.
I booked a flight, boarded a plane, and found myself in a city that caused more heartache than any other. For a moment, it looked like I would fail in what I came to do but the voice inside my head would not shut the fuck up. My gut saved my life in summer and I trusted it to do it again. I listened to it once more and went straight for it. There was no confusion about what I wanted, even though I had no monologue or dialogue prepared. But then, I never do.
I was not counting on him to grant my request. That’s the thing. I’d settled on the worst-case scenario, which was: no, no fucking way. You’re on your own, again. The fact that the opposite happened made everything easier. Liverpool Street Station. In retrospect, it isn’t such a bad place despite the fact that we missed each other. Some cosmic force prevented me from meeting my fate on that Sunday; not like the Sunday three years ago when it just happened. I went through an ordeal, a terrible evening that was concluded with a half bottle of Bombay. For the old time’s sake or something.
But tomorrow is another day, and there is a reason they keep saying that. Glorious Monday morning of blue skies and sun. I felt luckier than I had before. I gave in to the voice inside my head. Try again. Just fucking try. You came here for a reason.
The next thing I knew I was stepping out from the tube station that would lead me to him. The whole business center area that reminded me much of Madison Avenue and Wall Street and less of Central Hong Kong. It made my stomach turn upside down to think these guys control the world. He’s in the middle of it and I do the marketing for them. What a fucking tragedy, really.
They searched my bags as they already knew that I’d be arriving. It made me feel incredibly important but not for the usual motives. You came here for a reason. I was so nervous, I had to collect all my strength not to vomit right in the middle of the headquarters. The minutes seemed endless.
And then there he was. Just like that. As if we do this every day.
He descended from the highs with a certain ease and lasciviousness. We took a walk. Had the talk. I found myself unable to stick with what I wanted to say. What I came there to say in the first place. It suddenly seemed all unimportant and irrelevant. I traveled back in time to when it was just easy being around him. Natural and myself. After three years of absolute nothing, it came as no surprise that everything was different. But not entirely everything. We were still who we used to be, at least for that short span of time when I got to look at his face without restraints. Although I had plenty of those because I couldn’t bear the look he wore when he looked back. It was all too much. And then.
I had to hold onto whatever was near me when he finally said what I’ve been wanting to hear all this time. Except. Too little, too late. Maybe that’s just how it’s supposed to be. Maybe. One thing is for sure, I no longer wonder when I am going to stop wondering. And for that, London, I am thankful to you alone. Whatever expectations your half-sibling could not live up to in a decade, you definitely did in a single day.