buona notte

The rain pounded against the black cab; flooded the gutters.
We were not lost, but stuck. In traffic. In our wrong decision.

Then rescued. Plucked from the side of the street in Lesley's Foxtons Mini. Whisked to La Famiglia, an obscure and wonderful restaurant at the end of King's Road; Italy when you step through the door frame.

It was not the easy choice - not the restaurant, not the assemblage of people, not the night with its torrents; not easy simply because this was London and it was what I wanted.

I insisted though because it would be my last orchestrated occasion in town; a last forced bon mot, a toast to what had been my life. Good conversation. Good friends. The sort who are kindred pieces of you, who had taken a long time to find, to make mine. And London was there too - inside of Italy; the crux of everything; seated at the table, indifferent.

"Goodbye, London," I whispered to the empty space next to me after we'd 'ooh'd and aah'd' at the cheese and tarts on the desert cart and the waiter had wheeled it away.

"You're still here?" the city retorted, rolling its eyes, "Will you ever get the message you stubborn Warbling! Be gone."

"I'm going, I'm going..."

"You're sure? You're sure you'll do it once and for all - without a tear or sentimental regret? You've extinguished all romanticism? Smothered every seed of nostalgia? Every past and future sprout - withered. You're taking it all with you - your whole soul - in tact."

I laughed at the city's skepticism. It knew my general makeup too well. "You've done a good job. There will be no tears, I assure you. Not in my eyes or in my heart. Every cell of optimism, of conviction, belongs to my future; there's no latent belief in the gold I might have unearthed if only I'd stayed a little longer. And yes, it's really happening this time."

"You, living here - you were expected much later."

"I know. I arrived before I should have, forced my in, then proceeded to wear out my welcome."

"Next time, when you come back, if you come back, it will be time..."

"It would be the only way I could stand it. And I'll await your blessing and an engraved invitation. But I've got more faith in the 'when' than the 'if.'"

"Take a good swig of the downpour on your way out then - just in case, just so you're not tempted to come back before then."

I had to laugh at the city's consistency. "I expected as much of a parting gift from you - though there was really, honestly, no need." The rain drops sounded increasingly fierce against the canvas roof. "Alright then. Chin chin and buona notte, London."

"No, not good night. Last night - that will be my only tribute to you - among all the nights that have not been good nights - I will toast to the last evening. Serata finale, my willful girl. Go back from whence you came. Go. And don't look back."