It’s the brisk walk through Regents Park to make it across the road along Baker Street, walking quietly, quickly between the tourists on their phones taking photos of 221B. It was the Baskin Robins where the guy was aggravated that I came in right before close. It was Tesco Express on the corner where I ran in to grab Poptarts, ice cream, and popcorn, a classic meal that I hid under my bed. It was the bakery in the tube station and M+S and the entrance into Boots that warned you of the step that I tripped over every time. It was the blue Oyster card and standing on the right side, the silhouette of Sherlock Holmes on the tiles of the station as you jumped on the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, or Circle lines. Gray, brown, yellow, and red arteries spilling out to new destinations.
It was the Boots on Baker Street, my Boots, where I ran in to grab extra toothpaste, cotton buds, face wash, discovered new make-up I’d never had back home and Batiste dry shampoo, the one that I never wanted to live without, the new tights, cheap tights, because mine got snagged on the spike at the top of the fence. It was hating the birds because they were always around and shit everywhere on the ground. It was the Nandos that I couldn’t ever get enough of, the Peri Peri sauce or the Pizza Express that we waited forever to get and Emma wanted her money back but never asked. It was leaving school through the main entrance and walking past the white flats, the churchyard, and along Marylebone High Street where I spent the majority of my time walking at night, wondering how I got here, the place that most felt like home.
It was the Cath Kidston, the Aesop with the lotion outside the store, filling my hands with an orange scent, the coffee shop on the corner and the bar with the chalkboard outside that exclaimed “FREE wifi, cold BEER,” and Daunt Books that I walked into and bought more books that I’ve bought in the past four years in four months. It was wondering who was doing a book signing, and thinking out loud that the book looked boring, it was running into the author of the book who overhead my exclamation and him telling me that it was rather boring, it was Jeremy Paxton. It was that Waitrose that Emma and I grabbed wine and sweets and “Half Baked” Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, waiting in line and hearing the number of the cashier that you need to go to. It was the Nordic Bakery, the place with the best cinnamon rolls, on the street across from Starbucks and The Kooples that is too expensive, the Cancer Research UK where there were never any clothes and keep walking, keep walking until I reach Bond Street which turns into Oxford Circus and my whole body is pushed from side to side by all the people milling the sidewalks. It is the three level Topshop, H&M, Zara, Boots, Urban Outfitters, J. Crew and the people on the street where I got so much inspiration from and wanting their clothes and finding their clothes and collars and chelsea boots and petticoats, those pretty, pretty petticoats. It’s Tinseltown on the street past Miss Selfridges, where they make the best milkshakes and hot dogs bigger than your face. It’s Regents Street with the Apple Store I saw Karen Gillan with Alex and bought two new phone chargers at an outrageous price, and further down it is Liberty London where Caitlin and I met Alexa Chung, Daisy Lowe, and Henry Holland. It’s where my love for LUSH went out of control because of how much cheaper it is.
It’s talking to Emma for the first time, complimenting her eyebrows and ignoring Catherine’s class again and wanting to watch the Breaking Bad finale and meeting up later to take two buses to Shoreditch without a working phone to go to the Translate bar that had a Breaking Bad themed drink called “Hey Yo, Mr. White.” It’s getting drunk on two drinks because I forget that there is a higher alcohol content. It’s watching Kris hold the singer’s iPhone since she forgot her own lyrics and meeting Nathan from South Africa and linking arms with a girl I’ve known for hours as if we’d known each other for years and seeing a Banksy and almost falling down the steps as the bus flies down the street. It was Saturday mornings at The Breakfast Club with Emma and the yellow building so bright against d’Arblay Street. The french toast and banana and bacon and tea and coffee and the competition on Pancake Day.
It was going to Walkabout on Thursday nights so Maria could sing karaoke while the girls tried to get laid. The purple dress, the black Frye boots, the thigh high socks, and his hand on the small of my back. Going home early and wondering what happened to him. It was the student boat ride on the Thames with Caitlin and seeing London at night. Seeing all the buildings with the name “Wharf” and making up a background story of a Wharf family. It was the chilly night and the firework show and the bad beer and the even worse dancing. Sitting in Trafalgar square and eating sandwiches from Pret and having some guy sit and walk and talk with us for hours about his kickstarter. It was those mornings walking through the park when I had nothing to do and seeing a Guy Pearce film being shot and all the roses that I picked and my fingers got pricked with thorns and watching the boys play soccer, sorry, football in the park and it was being jealous of that girl’s story and her writing ability and eating chocolate pops every morning and Propercorn every night. It was waking up early to explore and head to Primrose Bakery where a black cat always greeted me that I named Luna before heading to Primrose Hill to read High Fidelity.
It was Caitlin introducing me to Nat and Alex and Hope and Mary. It was instant connection. It was pure friendship. Fast friendship. Natalie sitting across from me at breakfast, inviting herself on my trip to Columbia Flower Market. It’s the joy I felt that she did. It’s Halloween night and freaking out all day about my PR presentation and getting an A. It’s meeting Leanne at Baker Street tube station and introducing her to my other new friends. It was a night of firsts. It was waiting in line for two hours to get inside and getting annoyed people were trying to shove forward. It was guys thinking they are charming but actually are dickheads. It’s pre-judging people before I end up really liking them. It was graffiti and peeing between two cars and finally getting inside The Book Club and getting a phone stolen and waiting 45 minutes for a bus that doesn’t want to seem to come and friend’s puking and people yelling and everyone dressed up in different costumes. It was American accents and Leanne, the polite Canadian, sleeping on the floor. It was meeting Ashley in the morning with Nat and wishing I had more tattoos and that I was an experienced traveler whilst listening to their stories and wishing that I had my own cool stories to tell too.
It was watching Doctor Who and getting annoyed people were talking through the Christmas episode and nights out in Camden and the 80’s night we went to once where they played the good music and old movies on the screens and visiting the Camden Markets on the weekends where I would get overwhelmed by all the people and not know where to look and it was Emma introducing me to a new bookstore and seeing the “before I die” chalk wall I always saw in pictures and buying a tapestry for a wall and eating vegan food and bringing Natalie back some sweets that she could eat too. It was the Christmas lights and decorations and endless nights of make-up and sharing Barry M nail polish and hearing people Skype in the halls and wondering why my connections never went through and MAC Russian Red and eyebrows.
It was Southbank and going to the Globe Theatre with George and eating at the outdoor markets where they always had the best Chinese food. It was heading to Brick Lane in the heavy rain, getting lost and finding back alley goods and vintage shops and trying to find Doc Martens that wouldn’t cost a fortune. It was Hyde Park at Christmas time and the fake snow falling from the sky and Pimms and sneaking cake away from the refectory and making friends with Hugo or some other H name and he’d save the best food for me. It was the Doctor Who convention and seeing Matt Smith and the best night with Leanne walking around on Strand to see the Christmas lights and eat Nandos and watch the ice skaters and wishing I knew how to ice skate and the sign proclaiming Sheffield Road and wishing there was enough time to go. It was Emma and I trying to find our way to the Feminist Film Festival and walking in a giant circle and drinking and watching videos about a woman giving birth and laughing the whole way home, trying not to fall asleep on the tube and bundling up against the cold.
It was going to the National Gallery for the first time and seeing Van Gogh’s flowers in person and thinking that I was in that scene in Doctor Who, Vincent and the Doctor, and having a moment of self-reflection because I was here and seeing them in person and how cool is life sometimes? It was walking along the Southbank and having days to myself to explore this massive city. It was going to the Tate Modern and seeing Rothko and crying and having a spiritual experience in front of strangers who thought what a weird girl crying in the presence of squares and it was seeing more work by Gerhard Richter and sobbing and my make-up smudged and the guard just looking at me and smiling like he knew. He knew. It was seeing Bill Burr live in Camden by myself and calling Brandon on my way home and feeling the closest that I’ve felt to him and meeting a girl outside of Brixton for tickets to see Jake Bugg and waiting 11 hours playing cards with three 16 years olds to be front row for Arctic Monkeys at Earls Court. It was surviving the day on crisps and Oreos because that’s what they thought Americans ate.
It was Covet Garden and Piccadilly Circus and the Comedy Store and Trafalgar Square and our last day where we went to the Odeon in Leicester Square where Emma and I saw Philomena and ugly cried the whole way through and Haagen-dazs where we saw a girl and her dad and Emma cried because she missed her own and I smiled because that was so nice and everything was so nice and I just felt full. I felt whole. I felt complete.