I found the mousiest Arts student in existent to stay in my flat whilst I’m away. When she arrived, breathlessly stuttering her apologies for being late, she had all her possessions clutched in her arms. Her frayed, stressed hair had clearly been dyed several times, yet the rich chestnut of the roots growing through was the most prominent colour. She was forever pushing her large rimmed spectacles up her nose, like a film star overacting at being nervous. Most of all she seemed in awe of the flat. Speechless, in fact.
I’d had to list the property and accept a tenant on pretty short notice. I had no worries about finding someone, it was just the right person I was looking for. Someone who would appreciate how lovely I’d made it and want to selfishly guard its protection, like myself, instead of sharing it with others. This student was paying an absolute steal for the place, and it looked like she could barely believe it. I left her dumbfounded in the living room with the keys in her hand and a faint smile on her face.
Leaving my building with a rucksack on my back, I finally felt like I could start letting go of my city troubles. But first, one last ride on London’s infamous tube system. Now, after 10 years, I like to think that I’m a seasoned pro when it comes to conducting a smooth journey on the Underground. However, all of that changes once you’ve got a rucksack on your shoulders that’s as big as you are. I felt guilty for all the times I’d glared at tourists fumbling with their bags, whilst I was trying to get past. Never again.
The train up to Edinburgh takes just over four hours, I’d booked first class for the sake of ease. Don’t guilt me now – I thought if I had to endure a long train journey on the UK’s famously poor train network, I might as well make it as comfortable as possible. Sipping a beer and nibbling a ridiculously small sandwich, I slipped by headphones and felt the worries and stress of the city slowly start to melt away.
As I started to drift off, I thought about the little London bubble that I was leaving behind for the next 6 months. I thought about the mousy Art student, nervously exploring my flat before jumping on the bed with glee. I thought about Jeff, who cleans the floors, finding another younger woman to swap newspapers and surreptitiously flirt. Then I thought about Michaelangelo, looking in vain for me whilst subconsciously forgetting my name and drink order.
Then I remembered how little I knew any of those people. How little any of them mattered to me then and how little they would matter to me in 6 months time. I fell asleep, looking forward to waking up in a new country.