One Six Eight

28 Feb 2009

You don't have to die for your life to flash before your eyes. At the end of every trip it runs backwards in my memory, my mind returning home at the same time as my body. But now I'm skipping forwards instead, the steady acceleration of time towards our March 28 deadline having taken me to such a breakneck speed that I'm experiencing the world in jumps.

I'm sitting on the top deck of the 168 bus, for the last time before we leave London. I've heard that you should see everything as if it is either the first or last time; grim advice, but I'm trying. Next to me is a French couple who don't have to try. As we roll through Camden they point out a sculpture at eye-level over a surf shop. I hadn't seen it, and I've been riding this route for two years. The bus corners hard and the skewed perspective makes them laugh nervously, thinking that we're going to hit the traffic light. It used to do that to me, too.

I'm nibbling a scone while I watch a flame-haired girl make jazz singing look as easy as slipping out of a dress. It's risque enough to be interesting without being too crude for an afternoon; ultimately it's about the performer's skills, not her body, although both are exceptional. With 54 hours to go, I'm thinking 'someone should bring this to Adelaide', but someone tried. It was called the Weimar Room, on the south side of Hindley St, and it closed quickly.

I'm a hurricane in the bedroom: each item in turn is examined against The Manifest, and stuffed into the backpack or hurled into the 'discard' pile. The room is thirty thousand litres; the backpack holds thirty. As always, the heaviest items are the ones I don't have to carry.

I'm sitting across from a good friend in a basement bar, a half pint all that's between us and goodbye now that the lights are on and last drinks have been called. We're talking about the summer that we both believe will happen, but it's a long way to June, and some of the people who don't make it to our going-away drinks on Sunday will be long gone by the time we smack back into the tarmac at Heathrow. Others will be different; changes that are too gradual to see add up to a lot after a few months of absence.

I'm checking my pack edgily as I prepare for the drop into Adelaide airport; it should be easy, but after two and a half years, I don't know how much of what I remember is still there. Perhaps I'm now irrelevant; perhaps it's now irrelevant to me. People, opportunities, skills, things: each time we do this, half of what I leave behind I won't get back.

At least, with the things, I get to choose which half.