12 August 2013

Premature nostalgia


I was in line behind a couple of college-aged American guys at the Southbank Yo! Sushi in October. I was waiting to buy some takeaway dinner, as Chiara and I were meeting up at a concert. They stood in what looked like thoughtful silence for a while. Then the taller one turns to his friend and explains that he's got 'premature nostalgia'. His friend asks him to explain.

Turns out that Dan - which turns out to be his name - is leaving London the very next day, and every event in his life is now imbued with some extra significance. Each time he sits on a step, it will be the last time, he says. Each bus ride is the last time he'll be on that bus. "And this is the last time I'll be standing in line at the Southbank Yo! Sushi," he says. Dan says this last part with real emotion in his voice. I imagine I see a tear.

His friend laughs gently. He understands what Dan is getting at, and while comforting him, mentions that he too is emotionally 'fragile'. And he always has been, he says.

Then the two of them begin discussing who is more emotional, each staking a claim to the higher level of emotionality. The tension ratchets up as they approach the till. Finally Dan asks "Hey, when was the last time you cried at a movie?"

"A few months ago," his friend replies.

"What movie?"

"Where The Wild Things Are," the friend says.

Dan nods vigorously. "Good choice," he says, as if his friend could choose when and which movie to cry at. Regardless, this seems to settle the matter between them, and they paid for their sushi in what can only be described as a meaningful way.

That was the last time I saw them, that one time. And it was probably the final time they ever got sushi from Yo! Sushi on the Southbank.

I thought about it the other day, and it actually made me nostalgic for London. At the time it just seemed like a funny exchange to overhear, but in retrospect it has acquired a little glow. That moment of emotional oneupmanship.

And at the time I was just a couple of weeks from finding out that Chiara and I would be moving to Amsterdam. And I realize that that idea of premature nostalgia stuck with me, and I too went through London, in those final weeks, putting emotional tags on everything I encountered and experienced, willing significance into mundane encounters and journeys.

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