Halfway across London Bridge I decided to stop and look out over the Thames. Light drizzle fell as I reached into my pocket and pulled out the keychain she gave me.
I rubbed my thumb over the smooth surface of the silver-keychain-compass and thought back to the night she gave it to me – my last night in Australia.
She’d kissed me and cried as she said: “so you will always find your way back home”.
I had a stupid habit of pulling it out every now and then and looking South East — the way “home”.
Lost in thought, my mind would wander out across the Thames — past Tower Bridge and around the nook of the river to the Isle of Dogs, where investment bankers and traders at Canary Wharf worked late trying to flog money out of a struggling economy.
Further my thoughts would travel, out of the city limits to where the river meets the North Sea. There was an LNG tanker there, from the Middle East, berthing at the Isle of Grain and carrying liquefied gas pumped out of deposits 3,000 metres below the seabed of the Persian Gulf. Soon that gas would find its way into the national grid and eventually burn to provide heat through the boiler in my bedroom in South London.
Out into the English Channel my mind wandered still. There were a couple of Australian tourists leaning out over a barge’s railing, throwing up stomach acid, alcohol and mushrooms, nauseous from the sea, alcohol, hallucinogens, empty bank accounts and depleted serotonin from the previous night in Amsterdam and the bus journey through Belgium they’d be be surprised to hear they were on.
Down the French coast it traveled, past where my Grandfather piloted a shrapnel-shredded World War II bomber towards the white cliffs of Dover as the heart of his gunner drummed its final beats.
Straight South to the democratic national state of Spain, where administrators in police departments calculate damages in rooms next to nervous cops, while anarchists sit on mattresses on floors in slums thumbing through pages of Emma Goldman essays looking for guidance.
Taking a sharp left, my mind sweept across the Mediterranean Sea. Squeezing through the Suez Canal, I couldn’t help but feel the surge of power from young men without power (in the electrical sense) in Egypt still reeling in disbelief over the role they played in igniting a spark dubbed “the Arab Spring” which started a fire they had hoped would burn and provide warmth the world over. It wasn’t to be.
Out past Somalia my conscious drifted further, to where there is ‘food’ for thought as millions lay starving while out past the Horn of Africa, well-armed Somali pirates stalk a cargo ship which left the former Apartheid nation of South Africa, drawn in by the relentless hunger of the Indian economy — a country which knows the hunger of Somalia, the racial discrimination of South Arica, and more wealth than those London bankers will ever know.
But still my mind persisted, out across the Indian Ocean… Australia-bound.
The beaches in Western Australia looked nice, but there wasn’t much happening in Perth so I continued east across the Nullarbor Plain where dialects are dying faster than anywhere else in the world — victim to the colonisation known as ‘Australia’.
Finally, after a journey across oceans, continents and hemispheres, during which time nothing had snagged my mind, not war, not pestilence, not beauty nor destruction, my mind is held at bay in Brisbane as every inch of my soul aches to know what she was doing now…
So, back on London Bridge I pull out my smartphone, click on the Facebook app, and check her status update.
It turns out she just checked into the GPO with “the girls” and there was a guy in the line who looked “just like the guy out of Get Him to the Greek… not Russell Brand the other one. The bouncer wouldn’t let him in but he was “so funny lol”. She’d attached a picture. He didn’t look like Jonah Hill. He was just a fat 19 year old with stubble who spent too much time on his hair and at the Kangaroo Point KFC and was undoubtedly traumatised as to why these girls were pointing, laughing and taking pictures of him and why he wasn’t allowed in to the club which he which he would soon realise to be just a cesspool of pretentious arseholes.
How the hell is my mind able to slip into the human trait of always viewing the past in a better light than it actually was when modern technology continues to force feed the past through my eyes and ears, scarring my frontal lobe at broadband speeds?
Missing things just isn’t what it used to be. Hell, I had visited the UK just a few years prior, when to organise a short, sketchy phone conversation with my mother, I had to put £23 in a phone box, dial 48 numbers and try ignore all the flyers of scantily clad women dying for me to call them for sex, and focus on the voice on the line only for it to drop out mid-way through, leaving me with a need to disinfect my hand and ear.
This time round, it was a whole different story. I’d just click “video call” on Skype from the comfort of my bed and watch my parents bicker about where they put the TV warranty for 15 minutes.
Technology has killed homesickness. I don’t miss the little things. The little things are still rammed down my throat and annoying the hell out of me. What I do miss, is missing things.
By Arti Behan