Only a few days left in London. Soon I’ll have to go back to eating and drinking like a normal human instead of sipping gin bubble tea in a shopping park made from stacked, converted 20ft shipping containers. More like “shipping mall”. The little strawberry bubbles at the bottom of this drink have a little give to them, so when the skin finally pops they fill your mouth with a merry little explosion of sweetened goodness. Plus soaked in gin. I’m under a heat lamp, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, soaking in the warmth. I can see the cold storage-y plastic curtain strips flapping angrily in the blustering wind, but without looking up from my phone it’d be hard to believe I was anywhere but a tropical climate. I don’t need to be anywhere for hours. With victuals on tap, I’m not wanting for anything. It’s one of the multitude of neat solitary experiences I’ve had in the past ten days.
I’ve flipped back and forth on my opinions of solo travel. It’s not my first time adventuring on my own and like every other time, the freedom is astonishing. Whatever I feel like, I pursue. With nobody else’s needs to tend to, I can become a creature of instinct, following desires unopposed. Except maybe my lifelong dream of ripping off someone’s head with my bare hand, spine trailing behind. Sub Zero style. Until I’m thrust into a Purge scenario, that one will have to stay curled up in my hind brain. One day.
The other side of that, of course, is sometimes it’s nice to take a back seat and follow someone else’s bliss. To do things that your friends or partners want to do. To take up suggestions you may never have thought of. It’s great moving at my speed, whether sloth or hare. To not be held back or hurried by anyone else. It’s also an absolute pleasure to share experiences. Everyone will have a slightly different recollection of events, filtered by their perceptions and values. Recounting things you may have forgotten in retrospect not only reminds you of the great experiences you’ve had, but helps flesh out your memories, building and adding new dimensions. I’ve seen some pretty choice things walking London, but more than once I’ve wished for someone to bounce off, to riff with. To be able to point at something incredulously in the spirit of “is that what I fucking think it is?” At times I’ve been lonely, primarily because I can imagine how much richer some of my experiences would be with a partner, whether friend or intimate.
These feelings, of course, have been mitigated by the sheer amount of communication at my fingertips. The world is a tap away on this plastic screen. While not the same as first hand experiences, within minutes of seeing a cool piece of art or ad for a bizarre cat first aid course, I can get feedback from others. Comments, dialogue. While at first, given behaviours with previous partners, I was worried about simply ignoring my girlfriend for two weeks while galavanting London, there was nothing to fear. Check-ins and comments here and there, enabled by messenger apps, have meant we’ve been able to stay present over distance. It’s like like I’m spending the holiday chatting to her, but it’s easy to hear about her day in a message or two during my travels. We’ve had a Skype chat each week, allowing us to at least be naked in front of one another in private, tempering our absence while not negating the fondness it brings.
Lastly, friends were the real reason I came and the joy that’s brought is too immeasurable to be quantified. Actually staying with friends, spending evenings here and there or an entire day in Brighton. Removing the stigma of a one off catch up has meant we’ve been able to be ourselves. Catch up has been incidental, organic. Chewing the fat, shooting the shit and talking smack like we used to, but with the renewed perspective of age. It’s been, to translate to British, “brilliant”.
I’m not longing to leave and not aching to stay for much longer. I’ve found equilibrium and it’s a certain kind of bliss.
Unless that’s the gin bubbles talking.