Caught in the LA headlights

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A bony limb elbows me in the back. It’s followed by a perfunctory apology, shouted loud just like everything else in the throbbing bar. The muted colours of black and purple are uncharacteristically harsh and the lights just a little too bright.

I look at Peter. He is wide eyed, just like me. We have the same question: what now? Our friends in LA who are showing us the city have stepped out for a cigarette, leaving us momentarily alone in the trendy bar.

Neither Peter nor I have been in a place like this for six months. After leaving London, we very quickly fell to the slower pace of the Pacific and operated comfortably on island time (“maybe now, maybe later, maybe tomorrow, maybe never”).

In London I lived life on hyperspeed, a burden willingly borne and often cited by any urbanite keen to prove their worth (I’m so busy = I’m so in demand). On the road, this hyperspeed has slowed to an amble, so the bright lights of LA have been a little bit unsettling.

The change in pace has made me wonder how I’ll cope with the megacities of South America. It has also made me realise that I’m no longer what I have self identified as for the last two decades: a city girl. I planned this trip as a brief respite to working life, a mere blip before I returned to London and took another job in publishing.

For Peter, it has been a trip of possibilities; of changing countries, jobs and lives.

For the longest time, he has tried to convince me to live in a small village somewhere, if not abroad then somewhere in the English countryside. Every time, I’ve replied with the same thing: “I’d get bored.” LA changed my mind. Maybe I’d be just fine without the noise, pollution, traffic and stress.

Perhaps it’s sheer exposure: the longer you live in one environment, the more you yearn for the opposite. Perhaps five years on an island would make me crave the grey streets of London. Perhaps better weather, fresher food and nicer people would become boring after a while. I don’t know for sure.

What I do know is that, finally, I’d like to find out.

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