London has an unexplainable magnetism that keeps pulling me back in, just when I think I’ve broken free of its spell. The familiar becomes ordinary after some time, even with the passage of time: Old Street, Hoxton, Holborn, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the LSE, Royal Courts of Justice, Embankment…these are the pieces of a memorable whole year (one of the best years of my life) and I know them intimately, almost like I know my own mind or heart. During these first few days back here, I was strangely unaffected by the city while I went about my business: the LSE Library to do research for the PhD proposal, waiting in the Corsham Street flat for my boxes and suitcase then unpacking and packing, going to the post office to ship my books home… It was not until today when I walked into a chocolate shop at Borough Market and inhaled the scent of cocoa, then strolled along the Thames after crossing London Bridge sipping my coffee chocolate with a clear view of Tower Bridge in the near distant, that I felt, again, the force of my attraction to this city that made me so desperate to stay those months ago. For a few seconds, I felt a sense of pure happiness that doesn’t come by often or easily: there was genuine joy in my heart, my being, and I didn’t mind the slight cold, the grey skies, the faint fog, and the usual weekend throng of tourists. It felt like magic.
I cannot explain this attraction. I try to explain it with references to London’s traits and qualities: its multiculturalism that makes an outsider feel an artificial sense of home, its literary history and associations, its historical architecture. These reasons, however, have never felt adequate enough in explaining why I love this city. It is a feeling that I can only describe, but not explain. London makes me feel like I am in the centre of the world; like I am on the top of the world; and this infatuation makes me forget, if only momentarily, the harsh truth that no, I really don’t belong here, not right now. Not yet, anyway. Not legally.
As I packed up the final evidence of my former life in London, I felt the vague presence of an unwillingness to let go. A product of sentimentality, no doubt, for there was nothing left to hold on to. And yet, there it was: 我真的好舍不得离开。