MindReader moved to London, to try and get some temping work. I visited him a few times; visits within an entire romantic summer of Doing Loads and Being In Love (and wrote these two posts about it). We acted like tourists, trying food in Covent Garden, basking in the sun in Trafalgar Square. I always bought something decadent in London. Once time it was a pot of Kohl eyeliner from a bewjelled and glittering retro make-up shop; another time, a pot of honey-fragranced shower gel that provided a beautiful treat every evening all through law school.
One balmy evening, we were walking hand-in-hand from Oxford Street to Soho. We didn’t really know where we were.
We were handed a leaflet to a comedy evening by a bearded man in a parka. MindReader caught my eye and squeezed my hand.
I looked up at the pub. It looked old and dingy. But, a comedy evening in Soho, I thought. That sounds pretty cool.
“Okay,” I said, feeling his warm hand in mind – still so new.
We went inside. The comedy evening comprised twelve chairs set up in two rows of six in a classroom above the pub. The second row was full. We reluctantly sat down in the front row and MindReader handed me a glass of wine.
“Okay,” a rotund bald man said, rubbing his hands together at the front of the room. “We want you to provide the comedy this evening.”
I took a huge gulp of wine, knowing it would make me drunk, and tried to avoid all eye contact.
“We’re going to go around the room,” he said, wiping his sweaty hands on his black short-sleeved shirt, “and you’re each going to tell a lie. Make up a name and the funniest job you can think of.”
My idea of personal hell, I tanked the rest of the wine and let the room spin leisurely around me.
The man was moving down our row. “I’m Tanya,” a girl said. “And I cut the queen’s hair.”
There was an appreciative laugh from the very small crowd. I grimaced. I cannot improvise, not at all. I could not improvise at ballet and would do endless pliés during any improvisation exercise. I used to play the drums, and whenever I had to improvise I had the same fill which I always did.
I sat in my chair, blind drunk, as the man moved closer to us.
He got to MindReader first. Luckily, MindReader, the biggest introvert I know, had the perfect reason why we couldn’t participate.
“I’m Martin,” MindReader said. I smirked at the choice of the name – strange, plucked from nowhere, and the perfect fictional name. “We’re spies.”
We have been to the Olympic Park, wandering amongst the wildflowers in the glorious weather. I ate a very soft and sweet pretzel. We took my Dad. We drank beer. We watched handball. It was exciting.
Today, London is our own.
“We can go anywhere,” MindReader says to me, reaching for my hand as we walk for the tube.
“Trafalgar Square?” I catch his eye and he smiles.
We go to the City to meet BestFriend. We look at the huge law firms whose names are like celebrities to us. We lounge by pretentious fountains drinking too-strong coffee. I try on blusher in Benefit which MindReader forbids me from buying. We walk through Spitalfields Market where I coo over tea dresses and satchels. We eat at Leon; I eat falafel with nostalgia and buy too-expensive cloudy lemonade.
MindReader sighs as I approach yet another tea dress.
“Oh god so beautiful,” I say. “Everyone needs a red dress.”
“If you really want to do shopping…” he says, nodding to the tube stop. “We could go to Oxford Street.”
“Okay,” I say, emerging out opposite the Topshop flagship store ten minutes later.
I have a serious shopping attmpt, trying on five things in Mango and three in Zara. Sadly it is not to be. We wander down through Regent Street, MindReader tugging on my hand as I try to go into Molton Brown. We laugh in Saville Row (“They may be nice suits, but it still stinks of piss,” says MindReader) and I talk myself out of a preppy blazer in Abercrombie.
We go to Whole Foods for the first time, see organic “bed time” treats for cats and fresh coconuts. The streets are wide and white and the sun is still hot at 7pm and everything remains open.
Eventually, I buy my decadent London item: lemon meringue white hot chocolate (OMG).
“Train soon,” I say, yawning. It’s been great, this London thing, but it is tiring.
“Look,” MindReader says, pointing.
It’s the pub, right in front of us.
We look up, holding hands, stock-still, squinting into the sunlight.
It’s the pub from the comedy evening, and here we are, five years on.