Well this is it, kids. The last few hours in Piter. Elvis has almost left the building, and Elvis isn’t happy about it right now. I’ve just spent the compulsory hour packing my suitcase (and panicking because it’s so heavy I can just about lift it, and wondering if going through Helsinki lugging this elephant was such a good idea) moping around the flat and blubbing because I’ve actually had this cliched thing when you remember all the most salient moments of a year in the space of a few minutes.
The end of the tracks.When I’ve posted this I’ll go have a last gawp at the river, and Spasa, and listen to people speaking in Cyrillic speech bubbles. Who’d have thought, after those shaky beginnings, that leaving would be so hard? Everything is against me: the weather is perfect, I’ve nothing left to do but wait for my taxi, and I’ve just had to delete the phone numbers of everyone I’ve met here from the phone I was lent. Some numbers were pleasant to remove, like the one of the clinic I had to go to when I was constantly ill back in October, some bittersweet, like that of my colleague Anna I had such an… eventful relationship with, and for a few, pressing the Delete button was almost impossible to do, it felt too final, like closing a different kind of Iron Curtain behind me. All the good stuff waiting for me at the other end, where the tracks start again, right now they don’t matter.
I’m in the limbo part of the goodbye phase, when the last drinks have been drunk, the famous last words been said by all involved, and there are still hours to kill. Leaving was always going to be tough, and it should be, or else what were you doing there? It’s supposed to be easier to be the one who leaves, caught up in the action, soon engulfed in new surroundings, and it may be once I start moving, but not now.
When I left London it was nothing like this, it was easy, because I thought I was coming back, and now I’m going to Paris instead. But London’s near and I’ll move back there if it feels right, and Russia is far. Distance isn’t the problem though, time is, this is the end of an era, that was my year of living in Russia and it’s over. Maybe travellers quit travelling because they get so sick of leaving new friends and places you’ve come to love, and part of your life history, to the point when you think, why am I doing this to myself and others? Fellow expats, let this be a dire warning to you: yes, this is how rubbish you’re going to feel when you leave. Whatever you do, never let this stop you from making journeys.
Did I mention my theory of ghosts? I don’t believe in dead souls roaming around, but I might just believe in living ones leaving a trace behind in places and near people they were attached to. So I wouldn’t be too surprised if a see-through version of me is seen mooching around Primorskaya among the Soviet blocks and in the corridors of the Kindergarten, or people-watching on Nevski Prospekt, or dipping her feet in the Neva by Dvortsovy Most, or looking at the rusty boats from the Vassilievsky Ostrov embankment.
I’m not going to carry on listing all the stuff I’m going to miss, even less all the people, I decided early on that this blog wouldn’t have anything too personal in it and I’m not going to completely break that rule now, I’ve been sentimental enough as it is, and if you were expecting my usual flippant remarks, sorry, it’s not happening today!
I have some more photos to share and will probably post them in the next few weeks, but this is my last post as your useless foreign correspondent in the East, I hope you’ve had as much fun reading as I’ve had writing. There’s every chance I will start another blog or two, so we can rendez-vous there, the new address will be up on this blog in due time, meanwhile, take care. To those I leave, fair winds an’all that, hope we meet again, and whatever you decide to do with your lives, make it good, скучаю все уже. To those I’m coming back to, can’t wait to see you! Bye for now, with another gratuitously beautiful Neva sunset. Onwards, forever onwards.