Late afternoon arrives on Saturday and I hurriedly bid farewell to my gracious hosts, who urge me to have just one more slice of cake before I leave. I have no more space, I tell them laughing, slipping my arms into the warmth of my coat while inching my way nearer to the portal of my escape. They finally concede with goodbye kisses and I fly out the front door, skip down the narrow concrete steps, eager for a brief walk before I catch a cab home.
It’s chilly and there’s corpulent stripes of pale pink on the horizon and two young women walk in front of me on their way to the store at the petrol station. The city is quietening down as it does towards evening before it has to perk up all over again with the youthful energy of the night-life crowd, I turn up my collar against the cold, pass by the young ladies and proceed to walk down the pavement. On cold days where I have the luxury of wearing my trench coat, I like to pretend I’m actually in New York where everyone is cold and fashionable and in a hurry to get somewhere.
As I walk I think about cities and streets and the clever invention of thoroughfares of all kinds. Alleys that interpose the metropolis like sinewy veins, well-lit pavements (especially those brightened by cheerful lollipop lights) that lead to a myriad of streets that will take you anywhere and everywhere all across town, streets that intersect with avenues and roads and lanes. There are streets in some cities that run parallel to rivers that break the city into prisms of populous society where they occupy shabby studio apartments and grand old houses, plush hotel rooms and cold hard park benches.
You know all you need to know about a neighbourhood the minute you step onto its streets. Their all over of course, but so different from one another, whether paved or cobbled or brand new. Some are as elegant and neat as the houses that lie alongside them, some contain cafes on the corner and health food stores and fancy restaurants. There are those that are quiet and lush with foliage and segue into quaint little roads and cul-de-sacs. Others are old and forgotten, less cared for, worn with cracks and potholes and hardened from the endless trampling of the people who go by. I love that you can turn into a street that’s totally unlike the one you’ve just come from and experience a whole new feeling, the perfect example of different worlds coexisting around the corner from one another, never in each other’s way but always there.
I entertain another transient daydream and think if I were actually in New York City I would end my walk by popping into a diner on a busy street, I would order a coffee and find a window seat to continue pushing around whatever thoughts I have in my mind, to ruminate and people watch until the sky gets dark, surrounded by people but still gloriously alone.
But I am not in New York City, so instead I take out my cell phone and request an Uber home.