This morning I got up with the intention of being very nostalgic. I spent the night sleeping next to everything I own packed up in boxes and bags, and after having some toast this morning decided that I would walk to my favourite place from my front door one last time. My sister Laura was still asleep, and I thought it was actually fitting to do this alone.
So I walked out of my front door, past the rubbish the cats had strewn all over our walkway, down the little 'short-cut' alleyway with an unkempt park on one side, past the faded orange 'Gent's Hairdressing' storefront, past the black graffiti and painted slogans on Greatorex Street and up past the first of the curry houses and Indian wedding supplies stores along Hanbury Street.
You know how some days just have that feeling of 'anticipation'? Like the last day of school in summer and everyone has their shirts untucked and water fights break out mid-afternoon and teachers just put on music or movies because they don't care and the air seems full of the wishes of everyone that the day will end quickly and the wait for the last school bus is long and friends wave out of car windows and you know when you come back everything will be a little bit different? That is how I felt. Like a change was coming and all I could do was walk around and pre-emptively reminisce.
I have a favourite coffee shop on Brick Lane that I like to write in. It has a hodge-podge of vintage lounges, colourful table-tops, condiment containers made out of lego, little plastic dolls stuck to the cash register, big windows that look out onto the street, perfect laid-back indie music, a resident black Labrador that comes and goes as he pleases and sometimes comes and looks at you with his big dark eyes while you're writing, and decent (but not mind-blowing) coffee. I planned to go here and write for a bit one last time, but when I got there I discovered that 'my café' wasn't in the mood to comply with my floating, bittersweet nostalgia. It was closed for maintenance. So instead I walked to the end of the street and back down again, noticing little things that I hadn't before: a collection of beer cans wedged between two walls near the school, a broken lamp above a doorway, a tree growing out of a building.
I was a little annoyed that I couldn't do what I wanted, and I knew everyone would think I was silly for being all 'so long, farewell' about a place I can still visit easily enough, but it just felt like the end of something this morning.
Despite the spit on the streets and the chip packets and empty bottles and half-eaten bagels and scrunched-up paper plates stained with brown sauce and oil and the heavy smell of alcohol lurking everywhere on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I have a big squidgy soft spot for Brick Lane. I will miss being able to consider it 'my neighbourhood'.
January 23, 2009.