This Recording, May 2015. Original article.
In which we don’t believe in perfect
There’s only a strip of canal visible across the courtyard, but that bit of canal is everything. I’m sitting at my new kitchen table with my laptop, looking up occasionally at the water: you can see the canal boats docked down there, and the ducks swimming by. Grown-up life is working out pretty well so far, I think, even though this flat that we bought is the tiniest thing. There’s no room for anything in here, meaning my husband and I are now committed to minimalism by default. But when we were looking for a place to live it soon became obvious: there’s no place like home. I wanted to go back to East London more than I wanted space, and when we found this tiny place in the perfect spot there was no turning back. Because who needs space when you’re living in the city? Everything you need is right there, outside.
I’ve been living in my new place for two weeks now, and I have to say it: I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy. Maybe when I got married, on a whim to a man I barely knew – I felt ecstatic then, the closest thing I’ve felt to a sober high. Maybe that time I went to San Francisco for a month by myself, when my jetlag would wake me early and I’d walk the streets for hours with a delirious craving for silence and forward motion I’ve never experienced before nor since. These thing stand out as the happiest I’ve been, and now this: living in my new place.
I didn’t expect to feel like this. I don’t really understand why it’s happening either – although I do know it’s not about nesting, and it’s not about ownership. I have no strong feelings about permanence. It may not even be about moving back to East London, I’m surprise to find. While the weeks dragged on as we waited to move, time slowing down until four whole months had gone by, then all I could think about was moving back across town. East London is where this city started making sense to me, it’s where my life started making sense, I guess. I left East London for good reasons, thinking it would become part of the past, like most things do once you leave. But not this time – I missed my old patch like a lost limb.
So I thought the excitement of moving would be all about coming back to my old neighbourhood, but it seems I was wrong. Because now that I’m in my new house, all I can think about is being alone. I love living with my husband, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that after staying with family for nearly four months while waiting to move into this place, being alone feels like a drug. My husband leaves for work and I sit down to work at the kitchen table, and hours go by when all I can do is revel in the aloneness. I’m drinking it in with a desperate thirst only an introvert can understand. I’m just sitting here, quietly, and it’s a physical thrill.
Being truly, gloriously alone doesn’t mean closing the door for a while – it means having no one else in the house with you. It means, at least for me, having no music playing, just the window open and the hum of the city in the distance. A plant needs watering. I get up from my chair and wander into the bedroom, over to the kitchen, over to the sofa, and back to the computer again. I work for a while. The afternoon sun crawls across the floor, filling up the room. A text message buzzes. My husband will be back soon, and we’ll have some dinner together. In the meantime it’s just me here, by myself, surrounded by the city. I don’t believe in perfect, but if I did, this would be it.