The City Is Leaving Me

By Lydia Unsworth

Location: a bus stop, Portland Street

The city has upped and folded all of its motorways; asked me to step down from off of its ring road.

We are not in love, the city says.

We have been together for nine years and now the city is leaving me. We have spent every moment together; I in its arms and it in my mind. I have flown away like that butterfly, which is always said to return if you let it. And each time, I did; I was no deserter in essence. I could not stay away.

We had our ups and downs, I and the city. Each time we met, the city had developed, was reshaped. I tried not to notice, not to give the city the ego boost it was inching for. I didn’t mention the Beetham Tower; and, when the Urbis announced it was to become a football museum, I took it to be a childish prank aimed at attracting my attention, and I looked the other way.

The city had its motives and so did I; there was a time when our desires were the same.

The city had been calling me for weeks, leaving messages in the papers and on the faces of my friends. I came home as soon as I was able. I called the council and we arranged to meet.

It was high season but the city spared me an hour. We went for a coffee. The city picked me up with a smooth breeze and set me down onto a Starbucks bench. The Starbucks was new and I stared at my latté and pretended not to notice the change.

The city expected something from me; its traffic lights were on amber, blinking. We stared at each other over the steaming cups and I knew we had lost something; it wasn’t just that I couldn’t remember the postcodes, or that the streets were vandalised with new words and new names; it was something more, something vital, the city didn’t have a place for me, it wasn’t going to rent me any more rooms or promise to keep me safe. The city and I were through. It was taking away my personal photographs and handing me a road atlas.

This is what I am to you now, said the city.

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6 Responses to “The City Is Leaving Me”

  1. August 13, 2010 at 11:45 am, Rowena said:

    I particularly enjoyed this story, very unique and touching. Well done!

  2. August 13, 2010 at 7:22 pm, Joe Waldron said:

    Good stuff Lydia, you deserved to win with this!

  3. August 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm, emma said:

    yup i liked this. read it after too much red wine and cycling home in the manchester rain- it made sense.

  4. August 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm, Joel K said:

    This is really clever, all that analogising of relationship to a city with a love affair. She really made concrete out of the abstraction, so that you could almost see someone who was not waiting for her, and other times begrudging her attention to others – Budapest, for instance.

  5. August 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm, CCT-SeeCity » “The City Is Leaving Me” said:

    […] But the news is that Rainy City Stories has recently announced the Creative Tourist’s winner of this summer’s short story competition, Rain Never Stops Play: Lydia Unsworth’s The City Is Leaving Me. […]

  6. August 31, 2010 at 10:09 pm, Harry said:

    Amazing. Thank you


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