Wandering times back in London drizzle
It is London,drizzly as always. The lads’ hair is slicked by their subtle stress, but the wind of their flight to survive has given it a subtle twist. The girls are sharp open, ready to catch a good pray when he comes along. People are struggling to survive, but they are doing alright. They let the drizzle take them away on the wings of melancholia, the sweet tones of coffeeshop music in the morning and the oblivion of punkish pubs at night. Life seems not to have changed much like that, but riots have filled the streets. Is this life that is disappearing in apocalypse or is it just our dreams that don’t serve us no more?!
I am journeying through the English lands and it is slightly disorienting. I left here 3 years ago at the eve of the economic crisis. Back then I spend my days in lush denial of what was bound to come. They were filled with solemnly wandering from the secluded grounds of my Goodenough dorms to the sacred grounds of my favorite Italian restaurant Ciao Bella and along to the prestigious university that had accepted my down payment on life. It all seemed eternal in its momentary bliss, but the air was clouding with unmet promises.
They were soothing promises as long they lasted. Promises of eternal riches and accumulating paybacks. Promises not of an apocalyptic but of a heavenly end of history. An end in which all was smoothened out in satisfaction of us all. My school, LSE, was synchronical with the burgeoning stock markets giving us the prospects of great returns. A golden pot waited beyond the horizon.
But as we feasted, an unsettling feeling of discomfort was creeping up. Although our mind was laid at rest by the comforts that were ours, bathing in supposed bliss, at least my soul started to feel there was something wrong. What was this other than just satisfaction of ours senses? What was it else then a lie to keep us quiet? A lie of comfort, but a lie nonetheless.
And that is how I am wandering now through the English lands … still the same drizzle, but it is if the distressed soul of these lands has taken the place of the empty comfort of 3 years ago. The rays of sunlight that now and then come peaking through do no longer shed the opportunistic light they used to, but throw shadows under people’s feet.
The first night in London I spend meeting my refugee friends. After I left London 3 years ago I moved to Syria. A friend with whom I spend many days in abstracted discussion on the Middle East’s politics in the London parks when we both resided in our international dorms, had invited me after my studies were done to his homeland. And as the economy collapsed I accepted his invitation and left to see him there.
I spent 1,5 years in the quiet comfort of Syria, and as the secret service protected and repressed, but left us in the lie of the solemn safety of a police state, we got stuck between a similar tension as had been building up in my year in London. It was a repressed tension of superficial arrogance of today without respect of the tomorrow that was to revenge in ravaging blows.
We sat down under the lasting comfort of a post-colonial meal, the soft red mush of tikka masala welcomed us and started talking to our tongues. My other friend who had surpassed my stay in Syria joined in on the conversation and we listened to our Syrian friend. His burgeoning laughter of years ago and his spirited self-confidence of those young days in London had faded. Sometimes when we really tried to make him laugh it came breaking through, but more often his quiet smile got lost in a bend of his head.
As we spoke in that Indian restaurant it was only a year ago we had last met in Syria. Back then the Syrians were still surfing on the last wave of the pre-crisis world. Hopes of economic development were burgeoning in the old center of Damascus and boutique hotels popped up left and right. As the continuation of the economic comforts in London had seemed self-evident, the hope of future prosperity was prominent in Syria.
But as clouds greyened the London skyline, so did the grey reality of the Syrian police state creep up from below. The days of solemn comfort of today I had felt in London days had continued in my flight to Syria in the solemn bliss of a life locked in history, but tomorrow was rising at the horizon. The reality of hard suppression of reality, now not that of the economic truth but of the social political truth, started permeating my soul and I had to escape again.
And so I found myself a year later in the company of my escapist comrads. Amjad started talking. He spoke of the torture he had gone through in the Syrian prison that had ate him up on empty pretense and spit him out 5 weeks later. His voice had been bended like a twig with little knacks here and there, but had not broken. We listened to him and as we were appalled by what he had endured our heads bended somewhat on his monotone. We realized times had changed.
As I spent my days wandering the street of the English lands and laid my head to rest at studio kitchens, the pillow of quiet abandonment of a countryside hotel, the scrapped near-movedout apartment lived through by a Pakistani refugee or the empty ease of a Hilton bedroom, the greyening of the world was to hit home to the London streets as it had done in Syria for the last months.
The refuges of business-as-usual were set ablaze by the looting few. These refuges of denial had until now been untouched. They were the remnants of a continuing world in a denial of change, real change not the ideal form, a denial of disruption that brings this change. The shops being looted were the Apple stores, the electronics merchants, the Android landings that were to accommodate our flight into a world in which the future was just an unquestioned continuation of the comforts of today and the bliss of yesterday.
As the freshly stolen sneakers did not make the looting kids run fast enough, so did change catch up on us. And so it will for days to come. There is no escaping in the dreams of blissfull riches, prosperity and opportunity as there was no escaping in the silence for the storm that had now taken over Syria. I was left once again in the drizzly rain, but I had changed … and the world around me.