I have re-entered the depths of an area I will refer to only as the Compton of South London (no, not Peckham). I am walking down the street. A fourteen year old boy is coming towards me pushing a pram (I don’t think the progeny therein is his own – possibly it belongs to the woman behind him – his mother?) and he’s weaving it straight at me, going kamikaze. He thinks it’s funny. I however don’t. I dodge out his way and give him a look. A look I had forgotten I could do but that has nonetheless lost none of its power. Alas it never had the power to turn people to stone or smite them to ash.
He swears at me. I of course call him something unprintable. His mother says nothing. I cannot believe two things. One that kids these days are such little shits in this part of the world and two, that within minutes of re-entry I’m as aggressive and mean as everyone else who lives here. It’s a Darwinian response I tell myself. Kill or be killed.
I go into Boots with my mum and we get elbowed out the way by two nine year olds in school uniform who proceed to plaster themselves with green eyeshadow and pink lip gloss and then steal the testers completely ignoring the fact there are several adults trying to actually choose products for which they will exchange, like, money.
I get in the car and start driving and immediately realize that I shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Especially not having gone back to a stick shift, especially not with jet lag, especially not in South East London. With the moves I’m making – reminiscent of Bali driving – I might get seriously injured in a road rage incident. Half way through overtaking a bus on a residential road I have a moment of clarity and brake hard, pulling in behind it my cheeks burning. I’m driving like a south Londoner again but one that’s been hybridized with a Balinese driver. It’s lethal.
I suddenly long for Bali, for the green and the blues, for a place where the kids smile and wave at strangers and where there’s no such thing as make up (for kids at any rate – there’s sure as hell no Boots but I’m happy to forgo that so as to also avoid having to watch six year olds pout and slather on blusher). I want to live in a country where no one loses their temper or shouts (it’s a hugely uncool and largely unthinkable thing for a Balinese person to do).
I long for the me that smiles and waves at strangers and gives way at stop signs and never swears (well not hardly). Honestly she does exist over there. London Sarah is not half as nice as Bali Sarah. London Sarah is a hard arse bitch. How can you not be here?
God, I say to my mum, why would we move back here? And the thing is she agrees. It’s grim down south.