The City Is Leaving Me

And it pointed, not even at the detailed map of Manchester, but at a round black speck in the centre of an island on a closed front page.

Don’t write to me any more, the city says each time I try to send it an email. My inbox is filled with these automated responses. I stare at the signatures, my gaze resting on the city’s unfaltering name.

I plead with the city and receive only this standard reply, but it does still feel something for me: it rains a little every time I press send and I go outside with my umbrella to protect the pavements from the pain.

Don’t write to me any more because that font is not recognised, you are no longer of an acceptable domain.

We are not in love, the city says.

And maybe it is right, but I need it.  Maybe I am just one to the city, but the city is everything to me.  I send the city a long email and I write to the town hall and I try to explain.

The city laid down a few rules the last time we met, as we walked from the coffee house toward the next time the city was due to appear on TV.  The city told me everything that had changed.  It detailed for me its current projects, its rising prices, how the regeneration of certain areas was more important now, how our memories would have to fade.

I told the city that I understood, of course I understood, but couldn’t we keep just one thing sacred? Couldn’t one small portion of our shared past escape time’s angry blades?  The city shook its head and quickly built a carpark between us to fill the space.

I spent a few days under the statue of Queen Victoria after that, wondering if, when the city dug up her garden, she too felt the same.

The city is leaving me, I tell my parents.  The city is not answering my calls and it refuses to say my name.  Don’t worry, my father says, and he takes me to the country where I meet all of his friends and the fields all ask me to stay.  My father seems happy but I tell him we are not compatible, the country and I.  We do not like the same things and our lives are not the same pace.

My father seems sad as I return to the city, as the city and I prepare for another ‘talk’.  My father seems sad as he finds the walls of my room lined with the framed print-outs of automated replies.  My father seems sad as he watches me at the bus stop from his window, checking my phone and the timetable for a sign.

The city doesn’t pick me up this time.

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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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