London: Internet Cafe

by nicolecallihan

I love the way foreign internet cafes smell like fresh baked bread, how you can get 10% off your Subway sandwich as you type alongside the jet-lagged and the desperate, the manic and the bored. No one says hello; no one smiles except to herself–maybe–while reading an email that slipped in from a quarter way around the world.

The streets are slick with rain. I ate berries then wandered from shop to shop dipping my fingers into pots of miracle creams and holding dresses up to my collarbone while I squinted into mirrors. I love the daze of travel, the waking up on airplanes as you’re thrown across the sea, the barely squeezing past sleeping strangers to go brush your teeth with lukewarm water in the too-small bathroom. Strange that it’s magic, but it is.

My brother Joe has a trick where he makes a salt shaker disappear. He has other tricks too. When you’re with him you never know if you’ll reach into your back jean pocket and pull out an eight of spades. Aha, he’ll say, and you’ll scratch your head.

It’s a little like when I was fifteen, and Sandy Greene’s brother-in-law could throw his voice. I stood in her living room. Hey, I heard. Hey you. It was the fish in the giant tank. I was certain I had lost my mind. The fish told me things (things I either don’t remember or can’t repeat), and finally I asked for a glass of water, and the whole family laughed because the brother-in-law had fooled me. He died, not too long after, sadly but not unexpectedly, of brain cancer.

It always frightens me when fish outlive humans, though, of course, it happens all the time. K. & I were talking the other day about how absurd it seems to be so shaken by death. We were sharing mussels (which my grandmother loved when she was alive), and the Brooklyn street was electric. Cheers, we kept saying, over and over.

Now here I am on the other side of the sea: the slide of a magician’s hand, a giant invisible thumb. I suppose I’ll wander around, pay for foreign things with foreign money, find Cody, finally, and then, with the familiar weight of his hand on my hip, find that dreamy deep sleep that long travel grants you.