Thursday, 1 December 2011

The two mes that meet briefly on the London Bridge train

Every other week I go back to London to my other life. In this other life I do different things and my friends call me Dom. Or Wooden Toys. I have different debit cards for my other life, I use different phone number, read different newspapers and have my own favorites for breakfast. In fact, it almost feels like there are two ‘me’s’ living this weird parallel life.

(I have one husband though - just to preempt all the helpful comments!)

I am really curious about this moment when the transformation from one 'me' to the other 'me' happens. Wish it was like Alice in Wonderland entering the other side ...

But yesterday, like in any other week, I woke up at 4AM which does not quite sound like a fairy - tale. It’s this time of night that makes me feel like my life is actually the most miserable of all lives I could imagine. I feel sick, like every week, and the smell of the taxi doesn't help. By 5AM I reach the airport, where I head directly to duty free to buy a carton of marlboro red for my friend Marine (I don't do lights, she would scream otherwise). The London-Luton sign on the departures screen always makes me uneasy and at that point of the day I start daydreaming about actually going somewhere nice and hot. Nevertheless  I bravely jump into the always random looking pink aircraft.  A bleak thought crosses my mind around ‘I know these set of stewardesses’, and next thing I know is touching down in London. Which I utterly hate.

Ever since I moved to London (and subsequently moved out) I really disliked landing there. There is something really cold and unpleasant about arriving to London no matter which airport it is (well, not entirely true, London City has pretty spectacular approach, but this fancy experience dates back to my past corporate life so does the outdated frequent flyer card that I still use to avoid the queues ). Arriving in London I feel stressed, in a rush and out of place. Always unfamiliar no matter how familiar this journey is. I want back home.

Usually my morning travel from the airport entails taking a train that goes down to the London Bridge Station and than, after changing, further to New Cross. At this time of the day, the train is full of sleepy commuters that are fully immersed into their own worlds, trying to read their kindles, playing with their smartphones or starring at the undefined point of the train. And I stare at them trying to figure out if I am one of them. Or if I would like to be one of them. Or how I miss not being one of them. By that time I have already drunk the skinny latte from coffee nero which I got at the airport and I might have glimpsed through headlines about new cuts announcements made by George Osborne.

When I reach Farringdon (heart of Clerkenwell where we used to live) life in Warsaw already feels like a deep past. When the train enters the Blackfriars bridge and the amazing view of the City emerges to my left and Southbank to the right I always feel ...‘woooh’ - I can’t resist wanting all this to be mine again. Finally, there there is this last bit, when the train goes along the Southwark, very close to offices and houses that have been set in the old docks and magazines. I love watching the life that goes on inside. People sipping their morning coffees, starring at their monitors, talking on the phone and laughing, smoking cigarettes at the emergency exits. Signs of the yet another morning at work. Signs that life has been happening there with or without me. Only by looking at the Shard building that rises in front of my eyes as the train approach the London Bridge Station, I feel the passage of time. It rises taller every time I come.

And this weird transformation between the two ‘mes' must have be happening on this very train. This mixture of nostalgia and smile to my life there. Because, by the time I reach London Bridge, I feel completely ‘in place’. Back in my London skin. And than the sound of my mobile (UK one) takes me away from my dream- like journey. It’s Aallaa ringing to ask me if I think that turkey for the postponed Thanksgiving dinner should be 12 or 14th kilos.  Nice to be back.

I will miss my London life. And this other ‘me’.

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